Of mice and men


Lennie 1

Lennie's obsession with "soft things" - (mice, woman in weed, his puppy)

  • Foreshadows future events - Curley's Wife is killed when Lennie breaks her neck after stroking her hair
  • When he pets the mouse, he's doing something that makes him feel safe and secure - but also something which would be looked down upon in society

Lennie's Strength/Violence

  • Lennie's aggression is innocent, unlike the others on the ranch he doesn't always intend for events to result the way they do.
  • He doesn't want to cause pain, e.g when he crushed Curley's hand he says he "didn't wanna hurt him" - but George encourages him saying "Get im' Lennie", because of their relationship, Lennie is more likely to follow his orders and obey.
  • When he accidently killed Curley's wife, he was more worried that he done another "bad thing" (killing the puppy, then Curley's Wife) and that George would be disappointed in him. His lack of sympathy towards Curley's Wife's death adds to the sadness of the event, and highlights how Lennie is more concerned for the well-being of animals then humans - it's as if he isn't able to identify a difference between the two. 
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Lennie 2

Lennie & The American Dream/Dreams

  • America is supposed to be about 'the land of the free' - built on promise and opportunity
  • George says "I got to thinking maybe we would", demonstrating how Lennie's enthusiasm toward the dream gave him hope, even though in reality he knew the dream wouldn't actually be possible to fulfil
  • The American Dream itself is impossible, and the death of Lennie is symbolic of that
  • Lennie's death is symbolic that all good things coming to an end
  • George uses the dream to give them both hope for the future, once word spread the other ranch workers wanted in too - demonstrates the importance of dreams on a whole in the novella, and for those who lived in the 1930s Great Depression era in a similar situation to the characters
  • Lennie just wanted to "tend the rabbits" - nothing more - it was George who thought the whole dream up so Lennie is not entirely to blame
  • The dream was told to Lennie like a story, linking to his child like innocence
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Lennie 3

Lennie & Other Stuff

  • Relashionship with Curley's wife lands him in trouble, he tries to listen to what George said about ignoring her - but his curiosity got the better of him, and the consequences of her death show how one of his innocent mistakes once again lands him in unxpected trouble
  • Lennie's character is always associated with death - he uses it for comfort? Is life important to Lennie? Or is it that friendship, comfort, and things that he can pet take more of an active role
  • When people are of no use to society, they are either experience discrimination (Lennie's mental disability) or get mixed up in events that lead them to become killed (like Lennie) because of in some cases, their 'helplessness'
  • Lennie Small - he's described as "shapeless" and a "bear"
  • Write about his anamilistic features/actions
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Curley's Wife 1

Curley's Wife & Dreams - "I ain't used to livin like this. I coulda made something of myself"

  • Lost potential – she could have been a Hollywood star
  • Every character had a dream, because none of them were achieved it resulted in a loss of hope
  • Chance of stardom was taken from her mother who felt she was too young
  • Takes every chance she can to talk about her lost dream
  • Her shattered dream of being an actress caused her to rush into her marriage with Curley
  • Forced to realise the reality that running away from your problems usually isn't the best course of action

Curley's Wife & Identity

  • No name
  • "Curley's Wife" demonstrates that she is Curley's property
  • She's not an actual person, more so an 'object'
  • Microcosmic of women and their roles in 1930's America - links to stereotypes?
  • Only women on the ranch
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Curley's Wife 2

Curley's Wife & Appearance

  • Steinbecks introduction of her builds misconceptions - "full rouged lips and wide spaced eyes, heavily made up" - he deliberately made us think that she was a "tart"
  • Curley's Wife teaches us not to judge a book by it's cover
  • Ranch hands refer to her as a "floozy", "tramp", "*****"
  • Curley's Wife uses her sexuality to get the attention of others, "she had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton housedress and red mules, on the steps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers"
  • Feels as if dressing the way she does is the only way that she can get people to notice her
  • She's on a farm - it's unnecessary for her to be so dressed up
  • Inappropriate dress sense reflects inappropriate, flirtatious ways
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Curley's Wife 3

Curley's Wife & Loneliness

  • Curley's wife has become virtually another person because of loneliness
  • The men on the ranch avoid her because of flirtatious personality to keep out of trouble - they don't want to be under threat by Curley
  • All the characters are effected by loneliness, but no-one on the ranch is able to understand why she is so badly effected by it
  • Her insecurity is shown through her choice of clothing and make-up
  • Curley does not give his wife to love and affection that she desires - it makes her seek it from other people
  • Acting in flirtatious ways is the only way Curley's Wife thinks she can deal with her loneliness
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Curley's Wife 4

Curley's Wife & Other Stuff

  • - Her coyness is obvious when she, "..put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward"
  • - She's unhappily married to Curley - he cares very little for her - more interested in himself?
  • - She can be petty, cruel and at times almost as self obsessed as her husband
  • - Craves attention from anyone who will give it to her - uses Lennie's vunerabilty to create and obsession
  • - Seeks the greater weakness in everyone - uses Lennie's mental handicap, Candy's age and Crooks' race against them just like they use the fact that she's a 'women' and therefore 'not capable'
  • - Steinbeck uses light symbolically to show that she can be imposing when he writes, "The rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off" - also brings darkness to situations
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Slim 1

Slim & Power/Status

  • Steinbeck described him as "prince of the ranch"
  • When first introduced he was described as a (respectable) leader "when he had finished combing his hair he moved into the room, and he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen"
  • From the beginning he was portrayed as royal and noble
  • Everyone on the ranch knew that Slim had power
  • Even Curley followed Slim's orders
  • "he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty." his mere manner makes him seem almost like a king
  • When George and Lennie first see Slim - "…There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke. His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love…" he was well respected because of his authority on the ranch
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Slim 2

Slim & Curley's Wife

  • Slim's fit and healthy, meaning he attracts the attention of Curley's Wife - she addresses him by name, and he calls her "good lookin'"
  • Unlike the rest of the ranch workers, he's not afraid of Curleys Wife - he gives her the attention she so desperately wants, demonstrating that he's not afraid of Curley too

Slim & Other Stuff

  • He was a brave and noble character
  • Always there at every key event in the novella - he helps make sure that what is done is merciful or right 
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Curley 1

Curley & Relationships

  • Husband to ‘Curley’s Wife’
  • Bosses son
  • Arguably one of the loneliest characters in the novella
  • He gets no respect from anyone
  • Slim and Carlson threaten him, and they order him to lie about how his hand got crushed
  • He has no control over his bored, flirtatious wife – he’s picked the wrong wife
  • We only see him with his wife in the final section when she’s dead – her death is as disastrous as their sham of a marriage
  • Lennie feels a sense of menace when Curley first comes into the bunkhouse 
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Curley 2

Curley and his wife:

  • Curley’s Wife says “I don’t like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella.” – demonstrates how the person who she theoretically is supposed to love him the most in actual fact thinks he’s a vile creature
  • He’s unhappily married; his wife flirts with the other the bunkhouse men and never knows where he is, just like she never knows where he is
  • He doesn’t care when his wife is killed; he’s more interested in getting revenge on Lennie for taking away something that belonged to him – highlighting Curley’s Wife’s objectivity and how little she really meant to Curley
  • Humiliated by his wife’s apparent dissatisfaction and unhappiness, Curley needs to boost his self esteem and confidence
  • Obviously can’t satisfy his wife and is mean to her
  • Refuses to let his wife talk to anyone on the ranch (she disobeys), and is left to feel very isolated in a place which is meant to be home for her
  • When he appears with his dead wife, he doesn’t even touch her – Slim is the one who checks if she’s really dead – shows the extent of their unloving relationship, he can’t even touch her
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Curley 3

Curley & Violence

  • Fighting is the one thing he’s good at – and like us, when we’re good at something we like to show it off which is what he tries to do by picking fights
  • Candy says he’s “handy”, which means he fights well
  • Whit says he was in the final for the “Golden Gloves” – a boxing compition
  • Was a professional fighter, boxer, but fights unfairly
  • Unaware of the danger he is in when he picks a fight with Lennie – once George gives Lennie permission to fight back he breaks every bone in his hand
  • Wimpers like a baby and cries hopelessly with pain
  • Picks fights with the wrong men – those who are bigger, and stronger than him – Lennie, and those who have more respect and authority then him – Slim, to try and prove a point that size supposedly doesn’t matter
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Curley 4

Curley & Dreams

  • Curley’s dream is to be the boss – but he’s not, at the moment he’s the son
  • Just as trapped in his life on the ranch as the other characters – being the bosses son, he’s destined to be running the ranch himself one day
  • Craves attention and respect, wants to be admired and accepted
  • Hates anyone who challenges his dreams

Curley & Appearence

  • Described as a “thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair.” – tight curls could represent how restricted he is
  • He wears “high heeled boots” like the boss – also giving him height because he’s “little” – made clear to everyone that he’s “not a labouring man”
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Curley 5

Curley & Other Stuff

  • Tries to prove his masculinity by picking fights/marrying a physically attractive woman
  • Whit says he’s got “yella-jackets in his drawers” – meaning he’s restless
  • He’s an outsider – not being one of the bunkhouse men
  • Takes advantage of those whom he thinks are weak, and tries to avoid those who are match for him
  • Evil character in Steinbeck’s world
  • Sizes up George and Lennie, and picks on Lennie because he’s big – Candy says he “hates big guys” and is “alla time picking scraps with big guys”
  • Makes a big deal about his “glove fulla’ vasaline” – he’s keeping one hand soft to be able to caress her – yet patronizes the local whore house on a Saturday night. He’s just as ‘dirty’ as the other bunkhouse men
  • In his meanness, he tells Carlson to aim for Lennie’s gut so he’ll suffer – this makes George realise that he should be the one to kill him mercifully
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Candy 1

Candy & His Dog

  • Candy and his dog are parallel to the relationship of George and Lennie
  • Like his dog, he has lived past his usefulness
  • Candy gives Carlson the responsibility of shooting his dog – yet he later reveals to George that he should have been the one to shoot the dog himself, foreshadowing Georges decision to take responsibility for Lennie’s death and so to speak, put him out of his misery
  • Lennie depends on George the way Candy’s dog depends on Candy – liking the two by animalism
  • Candy, like George is different from the other ranch workers - he has his dog as constant companionship, as George has Lennie

Candy & His Job

  • He has no right hand – was lost in a ranch accident - victim of a life of work
  • Candy’s greatest fear is that once he’s unable to help with the cleaning he’ll be “disposed of”
  • Has the least respected job of all the bunkhouse guys – he’s the “swamper”
  • The owners of the ranch keep him on as long as he can “swamp” out or clean the bunkhouse
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Candy 2

Candy & Relationships

  • Curley’s Wife calls him a “lousy ol’ sheep” because he’s becoming old and slow – somewhat useless
  • Befriends George and Lennie
  • Calls Lennie a “poor *******” when he kills Curley’s Wife, he identifies Lennie’s actions as being a mistake and feels sorry for him
  • Welcomes George and Lennie to the farm
  • Admires Curley for fighting, but nothing else
  • He likes the boss for the whisky he gave the men at Christmas – but he says he “gets pretty mad sometimes”
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Candy 3

Candy & Other Stuff

  • Ironic name, his life is anything but sweet (like candy)
  • Candy’s character gives Steinbeck the opportunity to discuss social discrimination based on age/handicaps
  • Candy is described as “a tall stoop-shouldered old man... He was dressed in blue jeans and carried a big push broom in his left hand”
  • Representation of what happened to everyone who gets old in American society – they are let go, thrown out and used up
  • He’s always left behind – workdays he stays to clean up, when the other men go to town on a Saturday night, and when they go to kill Lennie
  • At the end he’s left behind with Curley’s dead Wife, his dead dream and memories of his dead dog
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Curley 4

Candy & Dreams

  • He’s a desperate man – he’s quick to offer George and Lennie money, and he says he’ll put them in his will even though he’s only known them a day
  • Because of Candy the dream almost comes true – his down payment causes George to believe that perhaps the dream can happen

Candy & Hands

  • Missing one, a huge drawback as most of the work is physical labour
  • The only reason he has a job at all is because he lost his hand “right here on the ranch”
  • If he got fired, he’d be homeless and useless – one of the reasons why he so desperately wants to be in on George and Lennie’s dream
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The great depression

In 1929 millions of dollars was wiped out in an event known as the wall street crash, This led to the economic depression AKA the great depression that included poverty and unemployment. This relates to the of mice and men characters as everyone working on the ranch is in poverty and is working to survive and overcome the great depression in order to acquire their dream.

This is seen here George:

  • ' We got ten bucks between us ' And spits on the floor. ' I aint spending two and a half on that '
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Migrant workers

The troubles of the drought led to dead harvests and dry land, this led to workers moving in order to find jobs, and California was known as ' the land of plenty' - This relates to characters as ' why they just quit like any man would '

'We're not like the others we have a future' Workers were constantly moving around in order to get away from a dead end job that was leading to no where. It could also refer to the defeat of the characters American Dreams

There were no trade unions in the 1930s, So bosses could treat there employers how ever they wanted - Candy says ' They'll call me purty soon ' 

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American Dream and the FDR

The American Dream

Prosperity and success through hard-work, This relates to the characters as all of them believe in an American dream - GEORGE, LENNIE and CANDY want a world of independence ' No one can tell us to get out '. CURLEYS WIFE ' I wanted to be in the pictures '


Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 and had aims of Reform/Recovery/Relief. He was hope for the americans. This relates to the characters of Lennie/Crooks/Candy as it shows even disabled people had hope. (FDR WAS DISABLED)

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Racism and the Role of Women


in 1896 segregation laws were passed which meant that white and black people had separate utilities, black people normally had the lesser quality goods. - Crooks' Segregation.

Common use of Racist language ' Take that N*****s shotgun '

There were also groups such as KKK That suppressed violence towards the blacks by attacking them and lynching them, KKK would also attack anyone who associate's with black people this is why no one associate's with crooks as they are afraid. 'Candy stops at the door and takes a step back' (when going to crooks' room)

Role of women

Women had limited roles and were seen to be a Husbands possession. Curleys wife was Curleys possession as her name suggests therefore she is seen as '*********' and a liability as you had to respect a mans possession. She is also owned by curly ' I am sick and tired of being told what to do '. Curleys wife does not fit the role of how a married women should be so is labeled a 'TART'

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