what caused george to play mean jokes on lennie
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George tells Slim that he realised that it was not appropriate to tease Lennie any more when he almost loses his friend.
George told Lennie to jump in a river. Lennie followed George's instruction because he trusted him. George was betraying that trust, and Lennie nearly drowned as a result-
'He damn near drowned before we could get him. An' he was so damn nice to me for pullin' him out. Clean forgot I told him to jump in.'
George realised that he was abusing their friendship and was not showing the loyalty to Lennie that Lennie showed him-
'Well, I ain't done nothing like that no more.'
'Of Mice and Men' - J Steinbeck