John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men has various characters. The Of Mice and Men Characters have unique personalities and backgrounds.
They teach us about different perspectives of life in the Great Depression.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at each of the main characters in the novel.
Of Mice and Men Characters
- Lennie Small
- George Milton
- Curley’s Wife
- The Boss
- Aunt Clara
Lennie Small Character Description
Lennie Small, the gentle-hearted, oversized migrant worker in “Of Mice and Men,” is distinguished by a mental disability. He forms a significant and reliance-driven relationship with his companion, George Milton.
Lennie often defers to George for guidance and protection, and sometimes innocently reveals information he’s been told to keep secret, like their shared dream of owning a farm one day.
He is infatuated with anything soft to the touch, including fabrics, small furry animals, and even women’s hair. Although seemingly innocent, this trait leads to numerous accidental harm due to Lennie’s inability to control his physical strength.
This dream of buying a farm is central to the narrative, fueling both men’s hopes for freedom and self-sufficiency. However, it becomes clear that Lennie’s true intrigue with farming life lies within his wish to tend to soft animals, like rabbits.
Despite his gentle nature, his size, strength, and insurmountable love for soft things cause inadvertent destruction, making him a tragic figure in the face of a society not quite ready to understand him.
George Milton Character Description
George Milton is a small, wiry man known for his quick wit and crafty survival skills. Despite his small stature, he has a monumental responsibility, caring for his simple-minded childhood companion, Lennie Small.
Over time, George perceives Lennie as a burden, witnessing how his association with Lennie restricts his potential opportunities in life, such as being solitary, experiencing love, and maybe even settling with a life partner.
Nevertheless, his profound humanity refrains him from deserting Lennie to the relentless world. He shares and even nurtures Lennie’s dream of owning a farm, symbolizing their desire for freedom. This demonstrates his commitment and care towards Lennie.
However, the convergence of cruel circumstances and Lennie’s unintentional harm to others leads George to the painful decision of sparing Lennie from a disgraceful death, thus surrendering their shared dreams to harsh reality.
Candy Character Description
Candy is an old ranch hand who lost a hand in a farm accident. Aged and physically diminished, he works at the ranch where George Milton and Lennie Small work.
Candy initially views George and Lennie’s dream of owning their own land with skepticism. But he soon warms up to it and offers his life savings to join them. This reveals his desperation and longing for companionship and security.
He owns an elderly dog, a parallel to his circumstances of old age and disability. He doesn’t dare to put down his dog to spare its suffering.
Candy agrees to let Carlson shoot the dog in the back of the head, foreshadowing Lennie Small’s fate. The event deeply affects Candy and reflects on the harsh reality of age and usefulness in a ranch.
Upon finding Curley’s wife dead, Candy’s dreams shatter, knowing their plan will never succeed, symbolizing crushed dreams and lost hopes.
Curley’s Wife Character Description
Curley’s Wife is a compelling exploration of femininity and loneliness in a male-dominated environment.
As the only woman in the story, she suffers an inherent alienation, further amplified by the anonymity of her character as she is referred to only as “Curley’s wife.”
The men at the ranch derogatorily label her as a “tramp,” a “tart,” and a “looloo,” reducing her to a notion of promiscuity and flirtatiousness.
Yet, Steinbeck carefully constructs her character as more of a victim than a villain. She’s trapped in a loveless, isolating marriage and burdened with shattered dreams of a far-off better life.
Despite her dramatic outward appearance, accentuated by her feathered red shoes and abundant makeup, her interactions, particularly with Lennie, hint at an underlying depth and tragedy.
Her failed aspirations of becoming a movie star reflect the common theme of broken dreams prevalent among other characters in the narrative.
Despite a fleeting demonstration of a sensitive dream-chasing side, her primary function appears to be inciting reactions from others, including her pivotal encounter with Lennie.
Her tragic death at Lennie’s hands, precipitated by an innocent invitation to stroke her hair, triggers the novel’s climax and underscores her vulnerability.
Her death highlights her isolation and desperation and is a turning point in the narrative that leads to a series of consequential events, amplifying her role beyond just a prop character.
Crooks Character Description
Crooks is an African-American stable hand who earns his name from his crooked back. Ostracized due to racial prejudice, he is a proud, bitter, and caustically sarcastic character who seeks solace in maintaining distance.
Despite his supposed aloofness, Crooks craves companionship and hides his discontentment with segregation behind a façade of pride.
His friendship with Lennie, despite initially mocking his intellectual disability, shows a soft spot for genuine companionship and an unconsciousness of racial biases.
Crooks also embodies ambition and intellect, investing a significant part of his life in reading, which was uncommon for black people during the Great Depression.
His possession of a worn-out copy of the California Civil Code of 1905, showcases his advocacy for equality and keenness to uphold his rights.
Although he appears as a minor character, Steinbeck uses Crooks to effectively project themes of loneliness, racial prejudice, and the pursuit of the American dream.
Curley Character Description
Curley is the boss’s son on the ranch where the story takes place. An embodiment of the land-owning class, he embodies insecurity and exudes dominance.
With a confrontational nature, he frequently picks fights with the ranch workers to exert his authority, often targeting men larger than him, as he is small.
This insecurity is likely a reflection of the vulnerability of the land-owning class and a measure to maintain their dominance by promoting fear and isolation among the workers.
Curley’s volatile temperament makes him unpredictable – he alternates between cold calculation and angry violence. His failed marriage to his wife further highlights his insecurity.
Curley fights Lennie to show his dominance over the biggest worker. Lennie crushes Curley’s hand. Obsessively vengeful, Curley develops an unhealthy fixation on revenge against Lennie. When he believes Lennie killed his wife, he leads a party to seek revenge.
Slim Character Description
Slim carries an air of natural authority as a seasoned mule driver on the ranch, commanding admiration and respect.
His character personifies calmness, intelligence, kindness, and fearlessness. His attributes vastly differ from those of Curley.
Slim emanates a profound peace and intelligence that inspires awe, drawing silence among his peers whenever he speaks.
He also demonstrates a profound understanding of personalities, as evidenced by his empathy towards George for caring for Lennie, and his non-judgmental approach towards Crooks.
When Curley’s wife is disrespected, Slim treats her with the dignity she craves.
His thoughtful nature and perceptiveness can be seen when he discerns George’s act of killing Lennie as one of mercy, offering him comfort in the aftermath.
These qualities make Slim a beacon of moral authority, aligning perfectly with the notion that he is the “prince” of the ranch.
He’s the character by which all others are measured, and often found wanting, highlighting that intrinsic qualities carry more weight than wealth or status in gaining true respect.
Carlson Character Description
Carlson is a ranch hand and an all-around gruff individual. Notorious for his complaints about Candy’s old, smelly dog, he persistently convinces Candy to decide to euthanize the dog.
With a promise to Candy that the dog would not suffer in the process, he executes the task, embodying a pragmatic and utterly unsentimental approach. This signifies his practical and blunt view of life on the ranch.
His qualities are reflected in his inability to comprehend the distressing emotions George experiences after shooting Lennie, showcasing his lack of empathy.
George steals Carlson’s pistol, which he uses to put Candy’s dog to rest. Ironically it becomes the instrument of Lennie’s tragic end. But Carlson believes that Lennie stole it and joins the party to hunt Lennie.
Carlson’s pragmatic and unemotional worldview is apparent when he can’t understand why George is devasted after shooting Lennie.
The Boss Character Description
“The Boss” in John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” symbolizes authority and respect on the ranch.
Being the father of Curley and the head of the ranch, his appearance exudes power and control; he is described as a stocky and well-dressed man who wears high-heeled boots and spurs, distinctively different from a laboring man.
Although he appears only once and remains unnamed throughout the novel, his impact is undeniable.
He is known to possess strong values and is viewed as honorable by the men working on the ranch. This is evident when Candy recounts him generously gifting a gallon of whiskey to the ranch hands on Christmas day.
Initially, he appears suspicious of the newcomer duo Lennie and George, finding it strange that Lennie barely speaks during their job interview and querying about the nature of their friendship.
His perplexity is summed up in his remark, “Well, I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy. I just like to know what your interest is.”
Despite his benevolence, there are instances of his easily flared temper, especially towards Crooks, as narrated by Slim.
Although not physically present in most of the novel, The Boss’s influential aura permeates the narrative, setting a concrete backdrop for the unfolding story.
Aunt Clara Character Description
Aunt Clara is a profoundly significant, albeit unseen, character. Being Lennie Small’s adoptive mother,
Aunt Clara cared for him from infancy until her death, nurturing his affinity for soft things, epitomized in his fondness for petting mice.
Despite her demise before the story’s timeline, her influence lives on profoundly through Lennie’s recollections and her final appearance as a hallucinatory vision in the climax.
Often cited as a symbol of the maternal figure in the book, Aunt Clara epitomizes the traditional, motherly woman, in sharp contrast to other female figures in the narrative, such as Curley’s wife.
Decked in “thick bull’s-eye glasses” and a “huge gingham apron,” her homely attire further solidifies her humble, nurturer image.
She entrusted Lennie’s care to his friend George Milton, ensuring he did not wander off into life’s hardships unguarded. Thus, Aunt Clara is a vital pivot in the narrative, embodying consistent love and care against the harsh backdrop of their ranch life.
Whit Character Description
Whit is a minor character, another ranch hand characterized by his age-worn appearance, bent posture, and aspiration for a better future.
Despite his limited role, his character contributes to the novella’s overall theme, exemplifying the desperation and unattainable dreams of the men working the ranch.
Of Mice and Men Setting
The book “Of Mice and Men” is set during the Great Depression era of the 1930s. It’s restricted to four primary settings in and around Soledad, California.
The story begins beside a stream close to the Salinas River with plenty of vegetation and wildlife, representing a prelude to men’s isolated and toilsome life.
The narrative then shifts to a lonely ranch, where the bulk of the story unfolds. The ranch comprises a bunkhouse, where the characters dwell, a barn, a harness room adjacent to the barn, and the ranch house.
Each setting symbolizes the wearisome reality of hard work and solitary life. Furthermore, the depressed economic situation amplifies the characters’ suspicions and insecurities, fostering isolation.
The story comes full circle to the stream. It may mean a new beginning for George Milton despite losing his best friend, Lennie.
Altogether, these specific settings convey a vivid picture of life during the era, the ruggedness of the landscape, and the harsh reality of ranch life during the Depression.
Who is the 3 main characters Of Mice and Men?
The three main characters in “Of Mice and Men” are George Milton, Lennie Small, and Curley’s wife.
What kind of disability does Lennie have?
In the book, “Of Mice and Men,” Lennie Small shows signs of an intellectual or developmental disability. Some of the distinct signs of his disability are forgetfulness, slow learning, reliance on his friend George for care, and his struggle with understanding the strength of his actions.
What race is George and Lennie?
In “Of Mice and Men,” the two main characters, George Milton and Lennie Small, are depicted as white men. This is evidenced by their living arrangements in the main bunkhouse, a privilege not granted to black workers during the story’s social context.
This racial discrepancy reflects the societal norms and discrimination prevalent in southern California during the 1930s.
What does each character in Of Mice and Men represent?
“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck contains several intriguing characters, each carrying a symbolic representation. They portray different aspects of life during the Great Depression.
- George and Lennie are the novel’s main characters, representing friendship and the power of dreams. George is the pragmatic one, into realistic plans, and Lennie embodies childlike innocence, strength, and joy due to his diminished mental capacity.
- Other significant characters include Curley’s wife, Candy, and Crooks. They provide a vivid picture of the harshness and despair experienced by those considered feeble in a working-class backdrop during the Great Depression.
- Curley, a portrayed antagonist, symbolizes the violence among men working on the ranch, where fear and survival are the underlying themes.
- On the other hand, Slim stands out as the embodiment of understanding, representing a figure who can empathize, especially with George.
- Carlson and Whit also play important roles, reflecting co-workers in an industrial time. Carlson, who kills Candy’s dog, signifies the harsh actions taken to survive such tough times.
- Aunt Clara, who never appears directly in the novel but appears in Lennie’s hallucination, represents the longing for familial ties and care.
- Lennie’s representation is notably more layered. His animal-like behavior, joy at owning a ranch, and unwavering trust in George express his childlike innocence. However, his impulsive, uncontrolled strength portrays the potential danger he can pose. Hence, Lennie symbolizes the charm of childlike innocence and is a significant cautionary emblem of the threat of unchecked power.
Why is Curley’s wife not named?
Curley’s wife is not given a name to symbolize her status on the ranch and in society. Being referred to only as ‘Curley’s wife’ distinctly diminishes her individuality, reducing her to a mere possession of her husband’s.
The lack of a name also underscores her profound loneliness, reinforcing her isolation from the other characters in the novel.