Friendship and relationships are the core of John Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men. Throughout the novella, there is one relationship in particular that is strong. It survives trials and tribulations despite the strains against it. It isn't until a major outside force threatens the relationship that it finally caves. I think that Steinbeck may exaggerate this relationship a bit, as I find it hard to imagine a relationship based on the same principles in today's society. However, I believe Steinbeck is critiquing relationships in general and making them out to be codependant.
In Of Mice and Men, the main relationship is that of George Milton and Lennie Small. Lennie is a somewhat gentle giant. He is mentally handicapped, and is too stong for his own good. He loves petting soft things, whether it be a dress, puppies, or even dead mice. George is similar to that of an older brother for Lennie. He is responsible and patient. He takes on the role of Lennie's guardian and only friend in this novella. Lennie obey's George's rules and instructions and will help George in any way that he can. Lennie has this mentality that George will always be there for him no matter what. When he does something that he knows is wrong, his first thoughts are about how George will react to it and if he will disapprove. He even offers to go off and find a cave to live in just to George can be happier. If he didn't really care about George, he wouldn't offer to do that. George, although patient, angers quickly and is constantly frustrated with Lennie. He is forced to pack up and run with Lennie anytime Lennie inadvertently does something wrong. In these situations, he is running to prevent any consequences that will befall upon Lennie for his seemingly harmless actions rather than trying to escape the trouble Lennie has caused. George often talks of how easy life would be if Lennie wasn't around anymore, but is still devoted to taking care of Lennie and making sure nothing bad happens to him.
George and Lennie have a dream together, as well. The two men plan to work and save up money so that they can buy a few acres of land. They want to have their own farm and not have to work for someone else and just "life off the fatta the lan'." George is particularly excited because they will tend rabbits. Lennie frequently asks George to talk about the farm they hope to one day have. At this time in the book, many people are broke because of the Great Depression, so this dream of owning land and tending to it themselves is a little farfatched. I think deep down George knows that their dream, although seemingly realistic, is undoubtedly unattainable. On the other hand, Lennie has complete faith that this dream will come true. That faith is what keeps George going. It is what makes him actually think that they might be able to pull it off.
In other words, George and Lennie are codependant upon one another. Lennie needs George because without someone he would have no idea what to do. He is almost childlike, and depends on George for so many things. In return, George is dependant upon Lennie in the sense that Lennie allows him to believe that they can achieve happiness together. WIthout Lennie, he cannot achieve this dream.
Candy, upon hearing a few sentences about this dream, immediately wants in on it. He offers up the money he has saved working on the ranch and from when he lost his hand. Crooks even asks if he could help. If the four of them actually could have made it work, then it would have shown a sense of brotherhood. The four of them could help each other and live with each other's best interests in mind. Because of this dream, Candy and Crooks are dependant on Lennie and George. In return, Lennie and George are dependant on Candy because he is willing to provide over half of the amount it would take to acquire the house and land he overhears them talking about. The dream of owning this land is only attainable through joint effort. It is not solid, or set in stone, and they cannot make it happen alone. They need each other, which makes them codependant.
Lennie and George's friendship is not the only relationship in the book, of course. Candy has his dog, who served as his only source of happiness until he learned of the George and Lennie's plan. Lennie also develops a small friendship with Crooks. Both are a sort of outcast from the rest of the ranch-hands. Curley's wife confides in George just a bit, but he is reluctant to talk to her because Curley is an extremely jealous person. She not only confides in George, but Lennie as well. She talks about being lonely all the time and just needing someone to talk to. In a way, that makes her dependant on the ranch-hands because she obviously isn't getting the interaction she needs from her marriage.
It seems that everyone is in search of a relationship. Candy, Crooks, and Curley's wife are all in need of someone. Crooks and Curley's wife find a friendship in Lennie, and Candy find friendship with both Lennie and George. Every relstionship is fragile as well, especially to outside forces. This can be seen where Carlson talks Candy into letting him shoot his dog. It can also be seen in George and Lennie's whole relationship. Everytime Lennie does something wrong they have to pack up and head somewhere else, which frustrates George beyond belief. He wants to have a happy life and not have to worry about anyone else but he just cares about Lennie so much.
When Curley wants to kill Lennie for what he did to his wife, George realizes there is no saving Lennie this time. George takes matters into his own hands and shoots Lennie himself. He does this to protect Lennie from what Curley or anyone else could do to him. No matter how good a relationship is, it usually ends badly. In this scenario, it doesn't just end badly for Lennie who lost his life and George who lost his companion, but it ends badly for everyone. Curley lost his wife and reason to be jealous and hateful to the ranch-hands. George tells Candy that the only reason he believed that their dream could actually come true was because Lennie made him tell the story so many times, and tells him now that it will not happen. Crooks will still remain a solitary outcast in his barn. George, in killing Lennie, realizes that the dream will never come true. He will now be just as lonely as everyone else because he doesn't have Lennie anymore. Everyone was so codependant upon one another for this dream of having land, that when one of them died, the dream became a thing of the past.
Steinbeck certainly told the truth about relationships in Of Mice and Men. It seems everyone is codependant, and fragile. Nothing last forever, and dreams seldom come true. Relationships are subject to scrutiny and are vulnerable to outside sources. Nothing ends well.