English Literature AQA: 'Of Mice and Men'

English Literature revision Cards. Main Characters, Themes, Dramatic Effect, Context.

January English Literature Unit 1 exam 09/01/2013.

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  • Created by: Hyder
  • Created on: 05-01-13 18:01

Main Characters

George Milton

  • He is a small man, but has brains and a quick wit.
  • He has been a good friend to Lennie, ever since he promised Lennie's Aunt Clara that he would care for him. He looks after all Lennie's affairs, such as carrying his work card, and tries to steer him out of potential trouble.
  • He needs Lennie as a friend, not only because Lennie's strength helps to get them both jobs, but so as not to be lonely. His threats to leave Lennie are not really serious. He is genuinely proud of Lennie.
  • He shares a dream with Lennie to own a piece of land and is prepared to work hard to build up the money needed to buy it.
  • "...with us it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don't have to sit in no bar room blowin' in our jack 'jus because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us."
  • He is honest with people he trusts. For example, he tells Slim that he used to play tricks on Lennie when they were young, but now feels guilty about it as Lennie nearly drowned.
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Main Characters

Lennie Small

  • He is a big man, in contrast to his name.
  • He has limited intelligence, so he relies on George to look after him. He copies George in everything George does and trusts George completely.
  • "Behind him (George) walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely."
  • He shares a dream with George to own a piece of land. Lennie's special job would be to tend the rabbits.
  • He likes to pet soft things, like puppies and dead mice. We know this got him into trouble in Weed when he tried to feel a girl's soft red dress: she thought he was going to attack her.
  • He can be forgetful - George continually has to remind him about important things.
  • He is very gentle and kind, and would never harm anyone or anything deliberately.
  • He is extremely strong: he can work as well as two men at bucking barley.
  • He is often described as a child or an animal - he drinks from the pool like a horse and his huge hands are described as paws.
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Main Characters


  • Slim is the jerkline skinner (lead mule-team driver) at the ranch. He is excellent at his job.
  • He is the natural leader at the ranch. Everyone respects his views and looks up to him.
  • He has a quiet dignity: he doesn't need to assert himself to have authority.
  • "there was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talked stopped when he spoke. His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love."
  • He understands the relationship between George and Lennie. He helps George at the end and reassures George that he did the right thing.
  • We know little else about him, which gives him a slightly mysterious quality. Do you think he is too good to be true?
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Main Characters

Curley's wife

  • She is newly married to Curley.
  • We never know her name - she is merely Curley's 'property' with no individual identity.
  • She is young, pretty, wears attractive clothes and curls her hair.
  • She seems flirtatious and is always hanging around the bunk-house.
  • She is lonely - there are no other women to talk to and Curley is not really interested in her.
  • "What kinda harm am I doin' to you? Seems like they ain't none of them cares how I gotta live. I tell you I ain't used to livin' like this. I coulda made somethin' of myself."
  • She doesn't like Curley - she tells Lennie that she only married him when she didn't receive a letter she'd been promised to get into Hollywood.
  • She is naive.
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Main Characters


  • Crooks is the black stable hand or buck.
  • He is the only permanent employee at the ranch, since he injured his back in an accident. His back gives him constant pain.
  • He is the only black man around and is made to be isolated by his colour - he can't go into the bunk-house or socialise with the men.
  • He is always called the '******' by the men, which shows how racism is taken for granted. The men don't mean to insult Crooks every time they call him this, but they never think to use his name
  • All this has made him proud and aloof.
  • He is lonely.
  • "S'pose you didn't have nobody. S'pose you couldn't go into the bunk house and play rummy 'cause you were black... A guy needs somebody - to be near him... I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick."
  • The only time he mixes with the ranch hands socially is when they pitch horseshoes - and then he beats everyone!
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Main Characters


He has his own room near the stables and has a few possessions. He has books, which show he is intelligent and an old copy of the California Civil Code, which suggests he is concerned about his rights.

  • He has seen many men come and go, all dreaming of buying a piece of land, but is now cynical, as no one has ever achieved it.
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Main Characters

  • Candy

  • Candy is the oldest ranch hand. He lost his right hand in an accident at work.
  • He is the 'swamper' - the man who cleans the bunkhouse. He knows he will be thrown out and put 'on the county' when he is too old to work.
  • Because of this, he accepts what goes on and doesn't challenge anything: he can't afford to lose his job.
  • He has a very old dog, which he has had from a pup. It is his only friend and companion.
  • "The old man came slowly into the room. He had his broom in his hand. And at his heels there walked a drag-footed sheep dog, gray of muzzle, and with pale, blind old eyes."
  • Carlson insists on shooting the dog because he claims it is too old and ill to be of any use. Candy is devastated.
  • He is lonely and isolated, but makes friends with George and Lennie and offers his compensation money to help them all to buy a ranch together and achieve their dream.
  • When he finds Curley's wife dead, he is furious, as he knows instantly that Lennie was involved and that they have lost their chance of achieving their dream.
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The Depression

On October 29 1929, millions of dollars were wiped out in an event that became known as the Wall Street Crash. It led to the Depression in America which crippled the country from 1930 - 1936. People lost their life savings when firms and banks went bust, and 12 - 15 million men and women - one third of America's population - were unemployed.

There was then no dole to fall back on, so food was short and the unemployed in cities couldn't pay their rent. Some ended up in settlements called 'Hoovervilles' (after the US president of the time, Herbert C Hoover), in shanties made from old packing cases and corrugated iron.

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Migrant farmers

Added to the man-made financial problems were natural ones. A series of droughts in southern mid-western states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas led to failed harvests and dried-up land. Farmers were forced to move off their land: they couldn't repay the bank-loans which had helped buy the farms and had to sell what they owned to pay their debts.

Many economic migrants headed west to 'Golden' California, thinking there would be land going spare, but the Californians turned many back, fearing they would be over-run. The refuges had nowhere to go back to, so they set up home in huge camps in the California valleys - living in shacks of cardboard and old metal - and sought work as casual farmhands.

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Ranch hands

Against this background, ranch hands like George and Lennie were lucky to have work. Ranch hands were grateful for at least a bunk-house to live in and to have food provided, even though the pay was low.

Think about how the men agree to hush-up the fight between Curley and Lennie and claim that Curley got his hand caught in a machine: they know that Lennie and George would be fired if the boss came to hear of it, and then Lennie and George could be left with nothing.

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The Four Themes

  • Loneliness and Isolation.
  • 'American Dream' (Dreams).
  • Death and Inevitibility. 
  • Plight of Minority Groups.
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