Of fur and skin
It’s funny how the friendship between George Milton and Lennie Small is viewed maliciously at first sight. I was discussing “Fraternity and Ideal Male Friendship” as one of the themes of the novel, Of mice and Men this afternoon, when one student blurted out “bromance”.
This isn’t the first time that idea came out in the introduction of this literary masterpiece, and I had to rigorously point out that their relationship boarders the thin line between a family and a friend, it’s beyond an imaginary dependence of one to the other as they bridge out the gap of whatever is lacking with one another. Although it’s so easy to dismiss Lennie’s obsession with soft things as something so gay: fur of mouse, fur of puppies, fur of rabbits, soft dresses, and soft hair, we really cannot prove anything about how he sees George (well maybe a brother, a father, or quite possibly a partner, but never a romantic partner). But then again, this fancy may be attributed to his child-like penchant for soft objects.
As for George of course, his sexuality is never questionable. He goes to a cat house, and he swears like a straight macho man. What is questionable however are his intentions towards Lennie. Was it obligation or authentic concern? He started the dream about farm to console Lennie, to give him hope, or to console himself with hope. And in the end, George just lost everything, and decided he wanted to go on with the journey alone. It must have been a really tough decision and he didn’t have the luxury of time to evaluate the consequences.
In the clear fields of Salinas, where one can actually hear the streams of water, the rustling sounds of the leaves, the readers, my students in particular, will answer the questions Steinbeck carefully weaved for a critical literary journey.