Companionship in Of Mice and Men is primarily demonstrated through the friendship of George and Lennie, as there are no other meaningful relationships between people in the book. The unusualness of their bond is emphasised throughout the novel, particularly through the contrast with the other characters who are isolated and lonely. Apart from Slim, the men on the ranch find it difficult to understand why George and Lennie stick together.
Many of the other characters are searching for companionship but are unable to find it. By the end of the book, all of the characters are lonely in some way, even George, who has now lost his friendship with Lennie because Lennie is dead. George and Lennie’s friendship was the only friendship evident in the text.
How is the theme of companionship shown in the book?
In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck explores companionship through:
George and Lennie recognise that they are different because they have each other and understand that this is very important for them.
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.
The way that Lennie repeats this sentence to George demonstrates that he has learnt it through saying it many times, as he cuts George off to complete this mantra. Even though George sometimes gets annoyed with Lennie, their friendship is the most important thing in both of their lives and it means that they protect each other. George takes this to an extreme length by killing Lennie at the end of the book in order to shield him from Curley.
The other men on the ranch are suspicious of George and Lennie’s relationship and do not seem able to understand that it is a straightforward friendship.
I said what stake you got in this guy? You takin’ his pay away from him?
No, ’course I ain’t. Why ya think I’m sellin’ him out?
Well, I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy. I just like to know what your interest is. (Boss speaking to George about Lennie)
The Boss is immediately suspicious that George answers for Lennie and cannot understand why they are travelling together. This demonstrates the way in which the men on the ranch are unable to fully appreciate the benefits of companionship as they have been isolated for so long. Men like Curley and Carlson do not recognise the value of forming relationships and cannot empathise with who that do.
The loneliest characters on the ranch are Candy, Crooks and Curley’s wife. All of them seek out companionship but are unable to find it.
George can tell you screwy things, and it don’t matter. It’s just the talking. It’s just bein’ with another guy. That’s all. (Crooks to Lennie)
Due to him being so isolated on the ranch, Crooks understands the need for human relationships. He explains the need to have contact with others, no matter how meaningless it may be. This emphasises the damage that loneliness causes and how important friendships can be in such a harsh environment.