Of Mice and Men - Character Summaries
George, a ranch hand, is primarily Lennie's caretaker. He is normally good natured, but angers easily, especially if someone is threatening Lennie. George seeks the American Dream in the form of a piece of land where he and Lennie can live without having to answer to anyone. Though George's life is unduly complicated by his having to care for Lennie, he accepts his responsibility.
Described as a big man with "wide slopping shoulders," the text implies that Lennie is mentally handicapped (2). Lennie relies completely on George for his care. Due to his childlike nature, Lennie, though he has no intention of hurting anyone, at times inadvertently harms animals and people because of his enormous size and strength.
One of the oldest workers on the ranch, Candy lost one of his hands in a work related accident. Candy's biggest fear is that when he outlives his usefulness he will be kicked off the ranch and have no place to go. After hearing about the piece of land that George and Lennie plan to buy, Candy offers to give them all of the money in his savings if they will let him live with them. While things do not go as planned, having a piece of land where he could not be kicked off momentarily gave Candy something for which to hope.
A former sheep dog, Candy's dog is described as being incredibly old with no teeth and advanced rheumatism. Told that he is being cruel for keeping his dog alive, Candy allows Carlson to take his dog outside the bunk house and shoot him in the back of the head. Besides being commentary on the position of the old and infirm in society, the death of Candy's dog is a significant foreshadowing of other events that eventually transpire in the story.
Curley is one of the main antagonists in the novel. As the Boss's son, Curley treats the ranch hands in a very condescending manner. A short man, Curley is angered and provoked by those who happen to be bigger than him, as though he has something to prove. Recently married, he likes to brag about wearing a glove full of Vaseline to keep his hand soft for his wife. He is disliked by nearly all of the workers, who poke fun at him behind his back. Curley purposely attacks Lennie because he is jealous of Lennie's enormous stature, but he ends up having his hand crushed after Lennie squeezes it too hard. To save himself the embarrassment of his humiliating defeat, Curley agrees to hide the truth and says that he got his hand caught in a machine.
The only female character that physically appears in the story, the unnamed wife of Curley is viewed with lightly veiled disgust by the workers. Despite only being married a few weeks, she already has what the workers call "the eye" and they refer to her as a "tart" (26). It is implied that she constantly seeks out male attention to relieve her loneliness. Like the men who are plagued by loneliness in the story, Curley's wife is both lonely and regretful and says that she could have been in movies or magazines if she had not married Curley. It seems that she only married Curley to escape her mother, who was domineering and did not let her go to Hollywood.
A quiet, observant man, Slim is portrayed as wise and the true authority figure on the ranch. While the other workers listen to the boss and Curley because they have to, they listen to Slim because they respect him as a worker and as a person. He gently convinces Candy that it is time to give up his dog, and may be partially responsible for George's action at the end of the story. Slim is the only character on the ranch who understands the bond between Lennie and George.
Crooks has two things working against him in Steinbeck's story; he is the only African-American on the ranch and he has a deformed spine. Due to his race and physical deformity, Crooks lives by himself in the ranch's barn. He is described as proud and aloof, but readers get the sense that Crooks acts aloof due to aching loneliness. Crooks is secretly happy when Candy and Lennie come to visit him, and even allows himself to momentarily believe that he too will live on their little piece of land. After an altercation with Curley's wife, Crooks realizes that even if George, Lennie, and Candy let him live with them, it would never really work out the way he wanted because of his extreme ostracism.
The ranch hand who suggests the killing of Candy's dog, Carlson comes across as a bitter and self-centered man. He expresses society's view that the old and "crippled" are of no practical use and can easily be eliminated.
While Aunt Clara is not a physical character in the story, she serves as a powerful memory for both George and Lennie. She took Lennie in as a child, and on her deathbed asked George to look after Lennie for her.
The boss plays a very minor part in the story, only appearing in the first part of the book to interrogate George and Lennie when they arrive for their first day of work. He is curious about George always answering for Lennie and thinks that something suspicious is going on.
A ranch hand who had a minor part in the story.