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A hero is defined by Collins Dictionary as, “the main male character, who usually has good qualities.” A few good qualities found in many heroic figures include fighting for a noble cause, reflecting upon the ideals of society, and preforming courageous deeds. As one of the main characters of the novel, George Milton possesses these characteristics. He displays these traits throughout the time he spends with Lennie. George is the hero of the novel Of Mice and Men written by John Steinbeck.
One characteristic of a hero George exemplifies is fighting for a noble cause. He fights to give Lennie a better life although it makes his own life worse. George sacrifices his time and well being to give Lennie the best life he can offer. He is always finding himself protecting Lennie. George says, “Well, look. Lennie-if you jus’ happen to get in trouble like you always done before, I want you to come right here an’ hide in the brush… hide in the brush till I come for you” (Steinbeck 15). This quote shows how George wants to make sure Lennie is safe when something goes wrong. When George mentions how Lennie has caused trouble in the past, we can see how his life has been affected. George is constantly trying to pick up after Lennie’s mistakes which makes his life harder than it already is. In addition, George fights for Lennie’s life when Lennie killed Curley’s wife. George says, “Couldn’ we maybe bring him in an’ they’ll lock him up? He’s nuts, Slim. He never done this to be mean” (Steinbeck 97). In this quote, George uses Lennie’s mental disability to lighten the penalty for killing Curley’s wife rather than being killed by Curley himself. George fights for Lennie’s life as he tries to convince the other ranch workers to find another alternative for punishing Lennie for his unintentional actions. By fighting for Lennie’s life in various occasions, George demonstrates the characteristics of a hero.
Another characteristic of a hero George exemplifies is reflecting on the ideals of society. George and Lennie are constantly trying to discover where they fit in society and life itself. George states, “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place” (Steinbeck 13). In this quote, George reflects upon the stereotypes of ranch workers during The Great Depression. He describes the model of society in which workers like George and Lennie have nothing to live for. George compares this to the lives of both himself and Lennie. George continues saying, “With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go” (Steinbeck 14). This quote describes how George sees himself and Lennie differently than how society might see them. They try to alter the way of life for poor ranch workers during The Great Depression. George displays how him and Lennie have a purpose to live and a bright future ahead of them. By reflecting upon the ideals of society to his own life, George demonstrates the characteristics of a hero.
Finally, another characteristic of a hero George exemplifies is preforming courageous deeds. Towards the beginning of the novel, it is mentioned how Lennie had previously been under the care of his Aunt Clara. George’s bravery is shown as he takes Lennie in when his Aunt Clara had died. George explains, “I knowed his Aunt Clara. She took him when he was a baby and raised him up. When his Aunt Clara died, Lennie just come along with me out workin’. Got kinda used to each other after a while” (Steinbeck 40). George knew that Lennie would be a setback in his own life, but he also knew no one else would take on something like this. He stayed with Lennie throughout most of the novel while knowing the risks that came along with it. Furthermore, George’s courage is also exhibited when he saves Lennie from a far more painful death. When Lennie kills Curley’s wife, Curley becomes furious and wants nothing else but to kill him. Curley wanted Lennie to die a painful death to pay back for all the pain he caused him. George knew Lennie’s actions weren’t intentional and knew the only solution was to kill Lennie himself. George says, “No, Lennie. Look down there across the river, like you can almost see the place” (Steinbeck 106). The ‘place’ in this quote is referring to the place in Lennie and George’s dream. George tries to calm Lennie down by reminding him about their dream that kept them motivated before pulling the trigger. By making Lennie’s last thought a portrayal of their dream and future land, George spares Lennie from a far more traumatic and unpleasant death. George’s courageous efforts are an element of what makes him the hero of the novel.
Over the course of the novel, George is a hero because of his ability to preform courageous deeds, reflect upon the ideals of society, and fight for a noble cause. George exemplifies these characteristics through the time he spends with Lennie. By fighting for Lennie’s life in several occasions, George’s true heroism is revealed. It is also shown as he compares his life and Lennie’s life to the archetype of society during The Great Depression. True heroism is presented when someone does something for the benefit of others and not for themselves.
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