‘Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re pounding their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.’
George went on. ‘With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.’
Lennie broke in. ‘But not us! An’ why? Because…because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.’ He laughed delightedly (Steinbeck, 13-14).
Who are the mice and who are the men? Is it better to be one over the other? What does it mean to be a mouse and what does it mean to be a man? According to Steinbeck, friendship is key. Without it, a character is merely a mouse.
George is the only man among mice. Without Lennie though, George wouldn’t be a man. Slim, a fellow rancher, comments on the strange bond between Lennie and George:
“’Hardly none of the guys ever travel together. I hardly never seen two guys travel together. You know how the hands are, they just come in and get their bunk and work a month, and then they quit and go out alone. Never seem to give a damn about nobody’” (39).
The other men are like mice; afraid. (more…)