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The protagonists of the novella are George and Lennie. Their friendship sets them apart from the other characters, all of whom are lonely and isolated to varying degrees. George and Lennie’s friendship is seen most vividly in their shared dream of owning a farm together. In the opening section, we see that George’s recitation of their dream (and Lennie’s excited prompting) is almost a ritual, a ceremony which strengthens and confirms their friendship. With Candy’s help, George and Lennie seem to be on the brink of realizing their dream, but the reality of life on the ranch begins to undermine it. The power of the land-owning class, embodied in Curley, immerses George and Lennie in an atmosphere of isolation and fear, which their dream cannot survive. Curley’s bullying thrusts Lennie and Curley’s wife together, and George’s rule against Lennie talking to Curley’s wife—which is also a result of Curley’s bullying—causes Lennie to panic and accidentally kill her. Curley’s continued aggression forces George to be the person to kill his friend. The protagonists’ friendship is destroyed and George becomes like any other Depression-era worker—alone and afraid.
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