Y9 – 10/01/17

Due: 12/01 (Issued: 10/01)

Title: Differences between Lennie and George

Task: How does Steinbeck use language to present the different characters of George and Lennie in the opening chapter?

In your answer you must:

  • Make reference to the power dynamic between the two men
  • Include quotations which help support your argument/point (one for each character)
  • Include the effect on the reader – what perception you have of each character?
  • Link your discussion of these characters to the historical context of the novella
  •  If you have time, include WHY you think the author presented the characters in this way

Extract A

They had walked in single file down the path, and even in the open one stayed behind the other. Both were dressed in denim trousers and in denim coats with brass buttons. Both wore black, shapeless hats and both carried tight blanket rolls slung over their shoulders. The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features. Every part of him was defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose. Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, and wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely.

The first man stopped short in the clearing, and the follower nearly ran over him. He took off his hat and wiped the sweat-band with his forefinger and snapped the moisture off. His huge companion dropped his blankets and flung himself down and drank from the surface of the green pool; drank with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse. The small man stepped nervously beside him.

“Lennie!” he said sharply. “Lennie, for God’ sakes don’t drink so much.” Lennie continued to snort into the pool. The small man leaned over and shook him by the shoulder. “Lennie. You gonna be sick like you was last night.”

Lennie dipped his whole head under, hat and all, and then he sat up on the bank and his hat dripped down on his blue coat and ran down his back. “That’s good,” he said. “You drink some, George. You take a good big drink.” He smiled happily.

George unslung his bindle and dropped it gently on the bank. “I ain’t sure it’s good water,” he said. “Looks kinda scummy.”

Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers so the water arose in little splashes; rings widened across the pool to the other side and came back again. Lennie watched them go. “Look, George. Look what I done.”

George knelt beside the pool and drank from his hand with quick scoops. “Tastes all right,” he admitted. “Don’t really seem to be running, though. You never oughta drink water when it ain’t running, Lennie,” he said hopelessly. “You’d drink out of a gutter if you was thirsty.” He threw a scoop of water into his face and rubbed it about with his hand, under his chin and around the back of his neck.

Then he replaced his hat, pushed himself back from the river, drew up his knees and embraced them. Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly. He pushed himself back, drew up his knees, embraced them, looked over to George to see whether he had it just right. He pulled his hat down a little more over his eyes, the way George’s hat was.

George stared morosely at the water. The rims of his eyes were red with sun glare. He said angrily, “We could just as well of rode clear to the ranch if that bastard bus driver knew what he was talkin’ about. ‘Jes’ a little stretch down the highway,’ he says. ‘Jes’ a little stretch.’ God damn near four miles, that’s what it was! Didn’t wanta stop at the ranch gate, that’s what. Too God damn lazy to pull up. Wonder he isn’t too damn good to stop in Soledad at all.

Kicks us out and says ‘Jes’ a little stretch down the road.’ I bet it was more than four miles. Damn hot day.”

Lennie looked timidly over to him. “George?”

“Yeah, what ya want?”

“Where we goin’, George?”

The little man jerked down the brim of his hat and scowled over at Lennie. “So you forgot that awready, did you? I gotta tell you again, do I? Jesus Christ, you’re a crazy bastard!”

“I forgot,” Lennie said softly. “I tried not to forget. Honest to God I did, George.”

“O.K.- O.K. I’ll tell ya again. I ain’t got nothing to do. Might jus’ as well spen’ all my time tellin’ you things and then you forget ’em, and I tell you again.”

“Tried and tried,” said Lennie, “but it didn’t do no good. I remember about the rabbits, George.”

“The hell with the rabbits. That’s all you ever can remember is them rabbits. O.K.! Now you listen and this time you got to remember so we don’t get in no trouble. You remember settin’ in that gutter on Howard Street and watchin’ that blackboard?”

Lennie’s face broke into a delighted smile. “Why sure, George. I remember that… but… what’d we do then? I remember some girls come by and you says… you says…”

“The hell with what I says. You remember about us goin’ in to Murray and Ready’s, and they give us work cards and bus tickets?”

“Oh, sure, George. I remember that now.” His hands went quickly into his side coat pockets. He said gently, “George… I ain’t got mine.

I musta lost it.” He looked down at the ground in despair.

“You never had none, you crazy bastard. I got both of ’em here.

Think I’d let you carry your own work card?”

Lennie grinned with relief. “I… I thought I put it in my side pocket.” His hand went into the pocket again.

George looked sharply at him. “What’d you take outa that pocket?”

“Ain’t a thing in my pocket,” Lennie said cleverly.

“I know there ain’t. You got it in your hand. What you got in your hand- hidin’ it?”

“I ain’t got nothin’, George. Honest.”

“Come on, give it here.”

Lennie held his closed hand away from George’s direction. “It’s on’y a mouse, George.”

“A mouse? A live mouse?”

“Uh-uh. Jus’ a dead mouse, George. I didn’t kill it. Honest! I found it. I found it dead.”

“Give it here!” said George.

“Aw, leave me have it, George.”

“Give it here!”

Lennie’s closed hand slowly obeyed. George took the mouse and threw it across the pool to the other side, among the brush. “What you want of a dead mouse, anyways?”

“I could pet it with my thumb while we walked along,” said Lennie.

“Well, you ain’t petting no mice while you walk with me. You remember where we’re goin’ now?”

Lennie looked startled and then in embarrassment hid his face against his knees. “I forgot again.”

“Jesus Christ,” George said resignedly. “Well- look, we’re gonna work on a ranch like the one we come from up north.”

“Up north?”

“In Weed.”

“Oh, sure. I remember. In Weed.”

“That ranch we’re goin’ to is right down there about a quarter mile.

We’re gonna go in an’ see the boss. Now, look- I’ll give him the work tickets, but you ain’t gonna say a word. You jus’ stand there and don’t say nothing. If he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won’t get no job, but if he sees ya work before he hears ya talk, we’re set. Ya got that?”

“Sure, George. Sure I got it.”

“O.K. Now when we go in to see the boss, what you gonna do?”

“I… I…” Lennie thought. His face grew tight with thought.