A coon dog and a tick, an oak tree with moss on the north side, a termite and its internal bacteria, and a shark with tiny fish that eat the extra meat chunks in between the teeth all have one thing in common: symbiosis. Defined as the interdependence of organisms, symbiosis is the basis of the relationship between George and Lennie in “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. One type of symbiosis helps both parties while another type involves one organism being hurt by the exchange. The dog is hurt by the tick while the termites and the bacteria benefit from each other’s presence. These types of symbiosis can occur in humans and are evident in “Of Mice and Men.” Both types of symbiosis exist between George and Lennie in the novel.
The physical symbiosis of George and Lennie is beneficial to Lennie but detrimental to George. Although George used to hurt Lennie, Lennie now needs George to bail him out of trouble. Lennie also profits because he needs a person to tell him what to do. “He can’t think of nothing to do himself, but he sure can take orders” (39). Lennie is “a hell of a good worker”(22) and able to “put up a four-hundred pound bale” (22) but is likely to get himself in trouble without George’s protective influence. George likes Lennie but would be better off without him because “you (Lennie) can’t keep a job and you lose me ever’ job I get” (11). Lennie hinders George while George helps Lennie.
The emotional symbiosis between George and Lennie helps each man. Lennie’s attachment to George is most strongly visible when Crooks suggests George is not coming back. Lennie is almost moved to hysterics and his fear does not quickly abate. George prefers to feign dislike for Lennie to Lennie’s face: “I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn’t have you on my tail” (7). When pressed, George reveals his true feelings for Lennie. “I want you to stay with me Lennie” (13). They stay together because “It’s a lot easier to go around with a guy you know” (35). Both men need and value their strong emotional relationship.
George and Lennie need each other to achieve their dream of their own farm with rabbits to tend. Lennie could not take care of his rabbits or even survive without George.