Of Mice and Men


I was a bindlestiff myself for quite a spell. I worked in the same country that the story is laid in. The characters are composites to a certain extent. Lennie was a real person. He's in an insane asylum in California right now. I worked alongside him for many weeks. He didn't kill a girl. He killed a ranch foreman. Got sore because the boss had fired his pal and stuck a pitchfork right through his stomach. I hate to tell you how many times I saw him do it. We couldn't stop him until it was too late.

John Steinbeck, interview by The New York Times, 1937[5][6]
  • George Milton: A quick-witted man who is Lennie's guardian and best friend. His friendship with Lennie helps sustain his dream of a better future.
  • Lennie Small: A mentally disabled, but physically strong man who travels with George and is his constant companion.[6] He dreams of "living off the fatta' the lan'" and being able to tend to rabbits. His love for soft things conspires against him, mostly because he does not know his own strength, and eventually becomes his undoing.
  • Candy: An aging ranch handyman, Candy lost his hand in an accident and worries about his future on the ranch. Fearing that his age is making him useless, he seizes on George’s description of the farm he and Lennie will have, offering his life’s savings if he can join George and Lennie in owning the land. The fate of Candy’s ancient dog, which Carlson shoots in the back of the head in an alleged act of mercy, foreshadows the manner of Lennie’s death.
  • Slim: A "jerkline skinner," the main driver of a mule team and the "prince of the ranch". Slim is greatly respected by many of the characters and is the only character whom Curley treats with respect. His insight, intuition, kindness and natural authority draw the other ranch hands automatically towards him, and he is significantly the only character to fully understand the bond between George and Lennie.
  • Curley: The Boss' son, a young, pugnacious character, once a semi-professional boxer. He is described by others, with some irony, as "handy", partly because he likes to keep a glove filled with vaseline on his left hand, and partly because of Steinbeck's use of foreshadowing. He is very jealous and protective of his wife and immediately develops a dislike toward Lennie. At one point, Curley loses his temper after he sees Lennie appear to laugh at him, and ends up with his hand horribly damaged after Lennie fights back against him.
  • Curley's wife: A young, pretty woman, who is mistrusted by her husband. The other characters refer to her only as "Curley's wife". This lack of personal definition underscores this character's purpose in the story: Steinbeck explained that she is "not a person, she's a symbol. She has no function, except to be a foil – and a danger to Lennie."[6] Curley's wife's preoccupation with her own beauty eventually helps precipitate her death: She allows Lennie to stroke her hair as an apparently harmless indulgence, only for her to upset Lennie when she yells at him to stop him 'mussing it'. Lennie tries to stop her yelling and eventually, and accidentally, kills her by recklessly breaking her neck.
  • Crooks: Crooks, the black stable-hand, gets his name from his crooked back. Proud, bitter, and cynical, he is isolated from the other men because of the color of his skin. Despite himself, Crooks becomes fond of Lennie, and though he claims to have seen countless men following empty dreams of buying their own land, he asks Lennie if he can go with them and hoe in the garden.
  • Candy's dog: A blind dog who is described as "old", "stinky", and "crippled", and is killed by Carlson.
  • Carlson: A "thick bodied" ranch hand, he kills Candy's dog with little sympathy.
  • Whit: A "young laboring man" who works on the ranch.
  • Whitey: A blacksmith; "hell of a nice fella and as clean a guy as you want to meet". He has left the ranch prior to the start of the action, and does not otherwise enter into the story.
  • The Boss: Curley's father, the superintendent of the ranch. The ranch is owned by "a big land company" according to Candy.
  • Aunt Clara: Lennie's Aunt, who raised Lennie; she is recently deceased. She appears in Lennie's head after he kills Curley's wife, scolding him.
  • The Girl in Weed: Since Lennie likes patting soft things, he patted her dress a little too hard and she screamed, declaring it as rape. George and Lennie then ran out of Weed to Soledad in search of a new job.

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