We are first introduced to the characters Lennie and George in chapter one of the novel ‘Of Mice and Men.’ The appearances of the two companions are immediately described the first time they appear in the book, although Steinbeck first presents them using similarities. ‘Both were dressed in denim trousers and in denim coats with brass buttons’. This detail highlights the era of the setting in the book, as during the depression denim was only worn by men who worked with their hands. Steinbeck also adds that ’’Both wore black, shapeless hats and both carried tight blanket rolls slung over their shoulders.’ The fact that they are both walking together, both dressed alike and both carrying all their belongings indicates that their position in life as labourers is similar. Despite the superficial similarities, the differences between them are them emphasized. Steinbeck chooses to describe George’s appearance first; this may connote to George being the head of the two of them.
George is described as being ’small and quick, dark of face with restless eyes and sharp, strong features.’’ Steinbeck’s description shows he is quite fit and suggests to the reader he is perhaps used to travelling as a migrant worker. His ‘restless eyes’ also tells the reader, that although he has been travelling for probably a long time he is eager to get to his destination. Following George’s description Lennie is then described. Through the use of Steinbeck’s vocabulary ‘huge…sloping shoulders’ the readers can tell that Lennie is a big person where as George is a small man. In the description of Lennie Steinbeck also uses similes to compare Lennie to a bear’ the way a bear drags its paws’. Through the use of the word ’drags’ it also shows that Lennie is a slow person, not just mentally but also physically, where as George are quick
Another way Steinbeck shows the differences between Lennie and George is by presenting one of the two characters as a leader and the other as a follower this is clear as right from the beginning of the book ‘even in the open one stayed behind the other’. Later, the reader then learns that it is George who leads the two of them and Lennie that follows .Steinbeck presents Lennie as a character who is childish and immature. This is shown when Lennie imitates George‘s actions: ‘he pulled his hat a little more over his eyes the way George’s hat was’. This is quite a childish action and can be compared to the way a toddler copies a parent to be playful, also from this the reader can infer that maybe Lennie looks up to George as a role model. Steinbeck, in contrast, presents George as a responsible character.
When Lennie drinks the scummy water without checking it, George responds ‘sharply’ and tells him ‘don’t drink so much.’ From this it is obvious that George is concerned about Lennie as he tries to stop him from doing things which can put him in danger. These differences that Steinbeck presents mimic the differences and also the relationship of a father and son. George takes care of Lennie whilst Lennie obeys George and idolises him the way a boy might idolize his father. Also with a father and son the father can act as a role model to the son, which relating to George and Lennie is seen by the way Steinbeck presents Lennie as follower of George. There are many differences of the characteristics between a father and his son.
Through presenting them with different characteristics, there are many differences between Lennie and George. George, being similar to a father figure is confident, caring and also loyal but relating back to their physical appearances, this is not expected as Lennie is physically bigger than George. Steinbeck presents Lennie with association to words such playful, naïve and also devious, like a little boy. Steinbeck does with the effective use of adverbs; Lennie’s actions are described using words such as ‘softly’, ‘apologetically’ and ‘timidly’. Whilst, on the other hand, Steinbeck choses adverbs like ‘sharply’ and ‘imperiously’ in association with George in the first section of ‘Of Mice and Men’.
Throughout the first section of ‘Of Mice and Men’ I think that the significance of Steinbeck presenting the differences between Lennie and George is to emphasise the theme of friendship later on in the book. Because of the fact that there are many differences in appearance and personality the reader would not expect two people like Lennie and George to be friends. The way Steinbeck has crafted their friendship sets them apart from other pairs of friends as well as other ranch men. Ranch men, as Steinbeck stresses are’ the loneliest guys on earth’ and Lennie and George are the only ones who travel together. Despite of this, there pairing ends up as heart-breaking and through presenting the differences, showing the unlikeliness of them being friends and the uniqueness of their friendship Steinbeck makes this impact even stronger.