The novel Of Mice and Men presents the idea of the ‘American Dream’, in which America is in a period of economic depression, resulting in people such as George and Lennie travelling around looking for work in order to survive. The theme of friendship is especially significant in the novel as the story is set in the time where everyone struggled for themselves; the environment of America in depression was hostile, and the social situation reflected upon this hostility.
The opening of the novel presents two characters, with completely contrasting characteristics which represent the flawed nature of humans, in which the two characters are juxtaposed in order to compromise for each other’s flaws; George is the weaker of the two characters, albeit smarter, while Lennie demonstrates an amazing level of strength, although his mental capacity is extremely limited and has a child-like nature.
The concept of friendship between George and Lennie is significant in the opening of the text as it shows how with friendship, it is possible to make up for flaws by relying on each other, in a time where the typical man would work for his own benefit, in order to make his own profit and live by himself.
This viewpoint of all other people can be first seen by when George accuses the bus driver of making them walk a lot longer than necessary, where George angrily resents the bus driver, saying ‘We could just as well…if that bastard bus driver knew what he was talkin’ about’, despite the fact that the bus driver may not have done so intentionally. The friendship between George and Lennie extends to looking out for one another, as can be seen by the fact that George warns Lennie of the dangers of drinking water from a place that ‘ain’t running’, and we can see that Lennie looks up to George when he copies every one of George’s moves:
“He…pushed himself back, drew up his knees…Lennie, who had been watching…imitated George exactly… [looking] over at George to see whether he had it just right” Friendship is significant in the novel as we can see that from the start of the text, the two characters already rely heavily on each other, with George refusing to allow Lennie to leave as he realises that he himself needs Lennie as much as Lennie requires him in order to survive, and the contrast between the friendship between George and Lennie and the harsh life of depression America begins to be shown.
The first verbal reference to their friendship comes from George’s own description of the conditions that ranch workers faced: “Guys like us, that work on ranches…They don’t belong no place”, suggesting that due to the depression America faced, people had become isolated and did not have a place to call their own. George describes ranch workers as having ‘no family’, as well as being the ‘loneliest guys in the world’, who roam around ‘[blowing] their stake’, with ‘nothing to look ahead to’.
George’s description of the typical ranch worker highlights the nature of life in depression America; people had nothing to look forward to and were simply working in order to survive, with nothing to enjoy in life. However, despite the hostile nature of society in America, the concept of friendship is introduced in the novel with Lennie asking George to ‘Tell how it is with us’, suggesting that with George and Lennie there is something different, and this is their friendship: “We got a future.