chapter one. * both are separate questions.
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The rabbits symbolize the future; they are a part of George and Lennie's plan to have their own place. Lennie loves to touch soft things (he's gotten into a lot of trouble trying to touch soft things), thus the rabbits are important to him. George is even able to use the rabbits as a bribe in order to get Lennue to listen to him....... a type of reward or maybe more a control technique.
The author mentions them so that the reader can get a good look as to what George and Lenny are like not only characteristically......... but also emotionally. Their likes and dislikes....... their wants and emotional/ intelligence levels.
Of Mice and Men
The rabbits represents when Lennie is in trouble. Whenever Lennie feels he's in trouble he makes sure to ask George if he'll be able to tend the rabbits. The rabbits also represents their future,wants, and dreams. The author mentions them so we, he readers, get to know what the two men want in life.