Of Mice and Men

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Themes and Colors
Broken Plans Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Male Friendship Theme Icon
The Weak and the Strong Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Of Mice and Men, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Male Friendship Theme Icon

Of Mice and Men explores the dynamics of male friendship. When Lennie asks George to tell him why they're not like other ranchers, George explains that they're different because they have each other. Usually ranchers have no family, no friends, and, therefore, no future. George and Lennie's friendship strikes the other ranch workers as odd: their dependence on each other makes the boss and Curley suspicious; and Slim observes that ranch workers rarely travel together because they're scared of each other. Although most of the men in the novel are entirely alone, they all crave true companionship. As Crooks, perhaps the novel's most solitary character because of his black skin, puts it, "A guy needs somebody—to be near him."

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Male Friendship ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Male Friendship appears in each chapter of Of Mice and Men. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Male Friendship Quotes in Of Mice and Men

Below you will find the important quotes in Of Mice and Men related to the theme of Male Friendship.
Part 1 Quotes
Well, we ain't got any,' George exploded. 'Whatever we ain't got, that's what you want. God a'mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an' work, an' no trouble....An' whatta I got,' George went on furiously. 'I got you! You can't keep a job and you lose me ever' job I get. Jus' keep me shovin' all over the country all the time. An' that ain't the worst. You get in trouble. You do bad things and I got to get you out.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

While eating a dinner of canned beans, Lennie complains about the lack of ketchup to spice up the meal. In this quote, George complains about Lennie's attitude in retaliation. Though Lennie is large, strong, and a good worker, he is mentally disabled and often misbehaves, getting the two of them into trouble and often causing them to lose their jobs. However, though George here complains that he would be better off if he were not stuck with Lennie, the fact that he is still with Lennie after so many mishaps is a testament to his loyalty to his friend—and it also suggests that George is dependent on Lennie just as much as Lennie depends on George.

George is all talk, and for him, venting his frustration is Lennie's punishment for being ungrateful about the meal. George would never actually act on any of these claims. Though he acknowledges that Lennie does "bad things" that he must then bail him out of, the fact remains that he does, consistently, bail Lennie out, again and again. His irritation with Lennie is sincere, but his statements that he will abandon him never are. While the two men differ in many significant ways, they are bound by their unyielding loyalty towards one another. 


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Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place....With us it ain't like that. We got a future.... An' why? Because...because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

After George finishes complaining about Lennie as a burden, Lennie offers to leave George and run away into the woods. George tells him to stop, and that he wants him to stay. In this quote, George repeats a refrain about his and Lennie's friendship that he often uses to calm Lennie down when they get into an altercation like this one.

Here, George explains that though ranching is a lonely line of work, he and Lennie are special because they have each other. Though they live a nomadic life, working from farm to farm like other ranchers, they look out for each other, and have a future planned together: they want to buy a ranch of their own some day. George sticks with Lennie because he knows Lennie would never make it alone in the world, and he reciprocates Lennie's undying loyalty towards him. Lennie trusts George without question, since George has been his only support system since his Aunt Clara passed away. Though other ranchers might be technically richer since they aren't constantly running away from their jobs, like George and Lennie have to do when Lennie gets in trouble, they are rich in something other ranchers don't have: a friendship that functions like a family. 

"Well," said George, "we'll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we'll just say the hell with goin' to work, and we'll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an' listen to the rain comin' down on the roof."
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker)
Related Symbols: George and Lennie's Farm, Rabbits
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

When George repeats his refrain about why they, as two traveling friends, are different than other ranchers, Lennie asks George to tell him about the farm that they are going to have together. Lennie often asks George to repeat this story, as a sort of verbal security blanket that calms him when he is upset.

In this quote, George repeats yet another refrain about a piece of land that he and Lennie will own, with their own livestock and crops. As ranchers, they are constantly doing backbreaking labor to harvest the crops that someone else owns, for meager pay. If they were to own their own land, they could "live off tha fatta the lan'," as Lennie is fond of saying--they can be sustained entirely by the food they grow. They would effectively be their own bosses, and therefore "say the hell with goin' to work" whenever they please, rather than risk being fired by an employer. The repetition of this dream keeps both men going even when times are hard. The belief that their future will be better than their current situation is one that they must furtively believe if they are to continue to endure the repercussions of Lennie's antics on various ranches across California. 

Part 2 Quotes
"Ain't many guys travel around together," he mused. "I don't know why. Maybe ever'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other."
Related Characters: Slim (speaker), George Milton, Lennie Small
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

On the ranch, George and Lennie are introduced to Slim, a skinner whom everybody respects. In this quote, Slim, like many of the other ranchers, expresses his surprise that two men like Lennie and George travel around together. Ranchers in that region tended to be nomadic workers, moving from ranch to ranch whenever and wherever they could find work. It was seen as lonely, individual work, and men rarely traveled together. Therefore, a pair like Lennie and George was seldom seen at these ranches. Slim, as an experienced rancher, has seen many men come and go, and in this quote, he observes that these men are usually alone--perhaps, he reasons, "the whole damn world is scared of each other." The lonely life of a rancher perpetuates feelings of animosity against other ranchers who could be potential competition for jobs and can often inspire meanness, creating a circle of loneliness. What George and Lennie have, particularly in their line of work, is a rarity. 

Part 3 Quotes
S'pose they was a carnival or a circus come to town, or a ball game, or any damn thing." Old Candy nodded in appreciation of the idea. "We'd just go to her," George said. "We wouldn't ask nobody if we could. Jus' say, 'We'll go to her,' an' we would. Jus' milk the cow and sling some grain to the chickens an' go to her
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Candy (speaker)
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Candy overhears Lennie and George talking about the farm they one day want to own and pipes up that he, too, would love to get in on the deal. He says that he has money saved up from the settlement when he was injured, and that he would work on the land for no pay. In this quote, George and Candy both relish the idea that if they owned their own farm, they would not have to answer to anyone--if there was something they wanted to do, they wouldn't have to worry about losing their jobs if they left the ranch for a day. Both men are tired of working to harvest crops that they don't own for very little money, and are seduced by the idea of being their own bosses and owning the fruits of their own land. To finally have a place to call home is an especially tantalizing proposition. 

I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog.
Related Characters: Candy (speaker), George Milton
Related Symbols: Candy's Dog
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
Overpowered by the collective agreement of the men that his dog needed to be shot, Candy reluctantly consents to letting Carlson shoot it outside. In this quote, Candy tells George that he regrets not shooting the dog himself. Of course, Candy would have never even thought to kill the dog due to old age if he hadn't been egged on by the other men. Candy reared the dog since it was a pup, and was very attached to it. He feels residual guilt for not killing the dog himself due to this attachment, even though he would never have had the courage to put a gun to the old dog's head. Much of this guilt and regret is related to the fact that Candy feels that he has little control over his life on the ranch. Due to his age and disability, he has no other job prospects, and worries that his employment will abruptly end one day when the boss decides he is a financial burden. Even though it would have been incredibly painful for him to kill his own dog, it would have at least given him a degree of control in his life. 
Part 4 Quotes
I seen it over an' over-a guy talkin' to another guy and it don't make no difference if he don't hear or understand. The thing is, they're talkin', or they're settin' still not talkin'. It don't make no difference, no difference....It's just the talking.
Related Characters: Crooks (speaker)
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

One day while the men are in town, Lennie wanders over to Crooks' room in search of puppies to pet. As the only black man on the farm, Crooks is excluded from every aspect of ranch life besides his work. At first, he is angry at having his own space invaded, but he soon warms to Lennie's affable demeanor and allows him to sit in his room. Crooks attempts to engage with Lennie, but soon realizes that Lennie has a mental disability and cannot fully reciprocate in the conversation.  

In this quote, Crooks acknowledges that he has actually seen most men engage in this way: talking at each other, instead of to each other. As the only black man on the ranch, Crooks can only say that he has seen this happen, rather than experience it himself, since he is largely ignored by all of the men and constantly feels lonely. He is grateful for Lennie's presence so that he, too, can enjoy "the talking," no matter how one-sided the conversation is. 

A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin' books or thinkin' or stuff like that. Sometimes he gets thinkin', an' he got nothing to tell him what's so an' what ain't so. Maybe if he sees somethin', he don't know whether it's right or not. He can't turn to some other guy and ast him if he sees it too. He can't tell. He got nothing to measure by. I seen things out here. I wasn't drunk. I don't know if I was asleep. If some guy was with me, he could tell me I was asleep, an' then it would be all right. But I jus' don't know.
Related Characters: Crooks (speaker)
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Crooks' isolation on the farm stems from the deeply entrenched racism of society. Because he is black, none of the ranchers will speak to him or let him play their games. As a result, he is given his own room while the other men sleep in bunks, but he feels incredibly lonely all the time. 

In this quote, Crooks' acknowledges that he has seen many strange things on the ranch, but never knows if he has truly seen these things because he has no one to bounce ideas off of. Crooks is so isolated that he does not know whether his conceptions about the world are real or not because he is so cut off from human contact. Crooks longs for someone, anyone at all to speak to, and is happy to have Lennie visit him. His line of thinking underscores why George and Lennie stick together: in the lonely life of a rancher, having a friend who is always by your side is a precious thing. Even though Crooks has his own living space, and a number of possessions that he has accumulated in his room, he would likely trade it all for companionship--similar to the reason why George travels with Lennie, even though he believes he could make more money alone. 

'A guy needs somebody-to be near him.' He whined, 'A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody.'
Related Characters: Crooks (speaker)
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

In an attempt to make Lennie understand how lonely he is, Crooks asks Lennie what he would do if George did not return from town that day. Not understanding the thought experiment, Lennie flies into a rage and demands to know what happened to George. Crooks finally calms him down, and in this quote, he further tries to impress upon Lennie how difficult it is to be as isolated as he has been on the ranch. As a black man, Crooks has been shunned in this part of California, which is largely white, his whole life. He longs for a companion, the way Lennie and George have each other. This sentiment further reinforces how lucky the two men are to have such a strong friendship and attachment to each other. 

Part 5 Quotes
I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker)
Related Symbols: George and Lennie's Farm
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

When George realizes that Lennie has killed Curley's wife, he immediately knows that his dream of owning his own farm, too, has died. The farm was the collective dream of both George and Lennie, and it would never be the same without Lennie.

In this quote, George painfully recalls how much Lennie loved to daydream about having the farm. The story, he now knows, has become one of myth rather than of a future reality. Here, George attempts to convince himself that he had never really believed it would happen--that he had only started to believe it because Lennie made him recite the story so many times, since it delighted him to imagine their own farm (particularly, the rabbits). Like with his fake scorn of Lennie, to make his friend feel badly when he misbehaves, George tells himself it would have never really happened, so he feels less disappointed about no longer holding onto the dream of the farm. Even though he could still potentially buy the farm on his own with Candy, and even with Crooks, he knows he could never bring himself to do it without Lennie. Rather than bringing the peace and freedom he hoped it would, it would only carry with it memories of pain and sadness. 

Part 6 Quotes
No, Lennie. I ain't mad. I never been mad, an' I ain't now. That's a thing I want ya to know.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

After killing Curley's wife, Lennie goes and hides out in the brush, just like George told him to if he ever got in trouble. George accompanies the murderous search party, but sneaks away to find Lennie in their chosen spot. Lennie tells George he knows he is probably angry over what he has done, and in this quote, George tells Lennie he is not mad at him--nor has he ever been mad at him. Though Lennie frequently misbehaves and gets both himself and George in trouble, and George acts as if he is very angry and on the verge of abandoning Lennie, George is never truly furious with his friend. He understands that Lennie has a disability and simply does not comprehend his own physical strengths, mental weaknesses, or the actions that result from the dangerous combinations of the two. It is in this heartbreaking final goodbye that George tells Lennie he has never been really mad at him. Rather, this statement implies that he has been truly grateful to have Lennie, who is faithful to a fault, by his side for so many years.

"Never you mind," said Slim. "A guy got to sometimes."
Related Characters: Slim (speaker), George Milton
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

With Curley's armed and murderous party approaching, George asks Lennie to look out at the water as he describes, for one last time, the dream of their shared farm. Before the party can find them in the brush, George shoots Lennie in the back of his head, killing him before the other men have a chance to. In this quote, Slim finds George and Lennie and realizes what has happened. He attempts to console George by telling him he had no choice--had the men found Lennie first, there was no telling what they might do to him, but it was certain to end in death. Similar to the way Candy wishes he shot his dog instead of Carlson, George wanted to be the one who killed Lennie because he knew he was the only person who could do it in the most merciful way possible, even though it was an act that surely would haunt him for the rest of his life.