Of Mice and Men/Characters

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Lennie Small

Lennie is a huge man. He is mentally challenged and travels with George. Lennie acts like a kid but he respects George and counts on him. Lennie does not like to get involved in fights, except when he perceives that someone might be threatening George. Lennie is very slow to understand what's going on and can't remember anything for very long. But, with George's tutoring, Lennie is starting to be able to learn better. Lennie likes to pet soft things, such as furry animals or strips of velvet cloth. This leads to his downfall, when Curley's wife offers him her hair to pet. He is attracted to women for their softness; he will be unaware of any attraction that he will have for women. He creates trouble often. He shared the dream of having a farm with George and growing their own crops and pets and being their own bosses.

George Milton

George is Lennie's one and only best friend. He is "small and quickwitted, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features." Every part of him is defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose. A man who keeps to himself, he is slow to trust others but quick to read them. It doesn't take long for him to see that Curley is trouble or that Curley's wife is even more trouble. George seems to be the kind of man whom other men take a quick liking to, and this likability makes it possible for the other ranch-hands to accept Lennie. George harbors dreams of owning his own property and being his own boss, but wonders if he believes in his own "best-laid plans." He hates to see his friend in pain so he shoots Lennie after Lennie kills Curley's wife and runs. His surname "Milton" refers to the author John Milton who wrote the epic poem "Paradise Lost". This shows that his dreams and paradises are lost and his best laid plans will never become reality.

Candy

Candy, a "tall, stoop-shouldered man," is an old swamper who has made a permanent residence on the ranch. He knows that it is only a matter of time before he is fired from the ranch because of both his age and his handicap; his right hand was cut off in an accident some time before. He seeks refuge in the idea of living on the farm George and Lennie plan to buy, even offering to pay for more than half of the necessary price. His constant companion is a very old dog he's "had from a pup," an almost lame pet whose awful smell the other ranch-hands regularly complain about.

Curley

The son of the ranch owner, Curley is a "thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair." He is a small man who likes to pick fights with big men. George's take on Curley is that fighting big men makes Curley feel more macho and controlling. Curley is frequently looking for his flirtatious wife, and seems not to trust his father's employees around her. The workers necessarily listen to him, but are not shy about their dislike for him, which seems to feed his need to prove himself. He picks a fight with Lennie, much to his misfortune. Curley is also a conceited man - he wears leather boots to show his power over the other men at the ranch, and boasts of the hand he keeps soft in vaseline.

Curley's Wife

Her early dream was to become an actress, the achievement of which was thwarted by the objections of her mother. She is presented as and remains an unnamed character, and her degraded status personifies the inferior role to which women were relegated in early-twentieth century American society. She was reared in a childhood environment characterized by violence and suspicion, the influences of which culminated in her marrying Curley. She longs for attention, and displays her sexual attractiveness to obtain it. This became all she could identify with, and was most likely what attracted Curley, but it was this that intimidated the ranchers and caused them to ostracize her. While many may believe Curley's wife is a "tart" one must remember that Curley's wife is most likely only 15, 16 or 17 at the oldest. Curley's wife is lonely and tries her best to have a friend. She tries to make companionship with anyone who will just exchange just a few words with her. She is so drawn to Lennie because as most young children are accepting to new friendships so is Lennie. Lennie isn't judgemental like all the other ranch workers who base what they think about her by what others tell them. She does many things to get others to look at her. Curley's wife wanted to be in "pitchers," which modernly we would call the movies. The quotes I get lonely, and You can talk to people, but I can't talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. How'd you like not to talk to anybody?(pg 85) show that her only true goal is to find someone to talk to and befriend. But when she takes it too far, it leads to her ultimate destruction.

Slim

Tall, thin and quiet, Slim is both respected and admired. Everyone seeks his approval, even Curley; he seems to be content, reasoning, and understanding. He cares about and listens to what others have to say. Slim is the kind of man that many men would want to develop into - a natural, charismatic leader. Also toward the beginning when they meet, Slim was able - almost just by being with him - to encourage George to open up about what happened in Weed.

Carlson

Carlson is presented as a nice enough person in the novel, but lacks concern for other people's feelings in that he doesn't take time to understand them. His sole drive is practicality — he represents the lack of sentiment among men of this time period. This lack of sentiment means that while his actions may not be outwardly hostile, they still create tension. Carlson's character is meant to be brutally honest, not idealistic. This is why it was he who shot Candy's dog.

Crooks

Crooks is a lively, sharp-witted, black stable-hand, who takes his name from his crooked back. Like most of the characters in the novel, he admits that he is extremely lonely. When Lennie visits him in his room, his reaction reveals this fact. At first, he turns Lennie away, hoping to prove a point that if he, as a black man, is not allowed in white men's houses, then whites are not allowed in his, but his desire for company ultimately wins out and he invites Lennie to sit with him. Like Curley's wife, Crooks is a disempowered character who turns his vulnerability into a weapon to attack those who are even weaker. He plays a cruel game with Lennie, suggesting to him that George is gone for good. Only when Lennie threatens him with physical violence does he relent. Crooks exhibits the corrosive effects that loneliness can have on a person; his character evokes sympathy as the origins of his cruel behavior are made evident. Perhaps what Crooks wants more than anything else is a sense of belonging—to enjoy simple pleasures such as the right to enter the bunkhouse or to play cards with the other men. This desire would explain why, even though he has reason to doubt George and Lennie's talk about the farm that they want to own, Crooks cannot help but ask if there might be room for him to come along and hoe in the garden.