Simple character with a powerful impact. (a big man in contrast with his name).
Lennie is big and strong which is conveyed through animalisation, along with having no control over his actions. He evidently has a learning difficulty of some kind, leading to his apparent younger mental age and lack of awareness of the world around him.
He has a love of feeling soft materials, such as the dress of the girl back in Weed, mice, puppies, Curley's wife's hair and of course, rabbits. His american dream is basically to 'tend the rabbits'.
He is, however, extremely physically strong, and is not aware of it, which is why he accidentally kills mice while stroking them, accidentallly kills the puppy and then Curley's wife.
When he is unsure of what to do and he knows he may be in trouble, he just freezes.
He earns the readers sympathy because of his utter helplessness in the face of the events that unfold. Lennie is totally defenceless. He cannot avoid the dangers presented by Curley, Curleys wife, or the world at large.
Embodies the ideal of the noble working man, self-sacrificing and honest, co-dependent with Lennie.
Other characters are puzzled by George's travelling with Lennie. 'Say - What you sellin'? I said what stake you got in this guy? You takin' his pay away from him?' (A43, P24)
George is an intelligent man and has practical foresight, as he tells Lennie to come and hide by the pool if he ever gets into trouble. Another characteristic, is his quick-wittedness.
George is the story's main protagonist, a small, quick man with well-defined features. A migrant ranch worker, George dreams of one day saving enough money to buy his own place and be his own boss, living off of the land.
The hindrance to his objective is his mentally handicapped companion, Lennie. The majority of George's energy is devoted to looking after Lennie, whose blunders prevent George from working toward his dream, or even living the life of a normal rancher.
George complains that he could have an easy time without Lennie. However, you might ask yourself if he stays with Lennie purely out of a sense of moral duty. Although he says that Lennie is 'dumb as hell' (A65, P43) & 'a hell of a good worker, strong as a bull'.
Candy is an elderly man, a 'lousy ol' sheep', who has a permanent job- keeping the bunkhouse clean. 'a tall, stoop-shouldered old man' (A38, P19). His stooping body language suggests hopelessness as well as age. He has lost his hand in an accident on the ranch, which is why his job is permanent. Candy received some compensation, shows that Steinbeck is being fair to ranch owners, not just portraying them as selfish exploiters. Candy lost his hand suggests that health and safety standards were poor, as well as Candy being a victim of a life of work.
Candy has already lost his hand and during the story he loses his dog and dream.
Candy is also a gossip. For example, he tells George about Curley keeping one hand 'soft for his wife' (A49, P30). Candy calls Curley 'scrappy' and his wife 'a tart'. Candys gossipy nature, is a narrative device by which Steinbeck can quickly reveal information about the characters.
The old, one-handed swamper who is the first to befriend George and Lennie at Soledad. Humble and weary, Candy seems to be at the end of his line after Carlson shoots his last possession and companion, his old, blind dog.
The boss is 'a little stocky man' who wears jeans like a working man but also 'high-heeled boots and spurs to prove he was not a laboring man' (A41, P22).
The boss gives his men whisky to get drunk on at Christmas. He is said to take his anger out on Crooks, the black stable buck, at times, but at least he keeps him on at the ranch.
the boss suspects George of exploiting Lennie, but this suggests that he has a sense of justice. 'What stake you got in this guy? You taking his pay away from him'. (P24).
The boxer, the son of the boss, the angry and hot-headed obstacle to George's attempt to keep Lennie out of trouble at Soledad. The insecurity of his size and over-protective of his wife makes him aggressive and he picks fights with the wrong men, as Lennie who is strong.
Curley is eager to fight anyone he perceives as a threat to his self-image. From the outset, Lennie unwittingly incurs Curley's antagonism simply because of his size, and the reader immediately braces for future confrontation.
He makes the most of being the boss's son, ordering George and Lennie around. Candy says that Curley keeps one hand in a glove full of vaseline in order to keep it soft for his wife. If this is true, it suggests that Curley likes to think of himself as a good lover. However, he does not seem to be loving towards his wife.
He is jealously suspicious that she might take an interest in other men.
When she dies, his reaction is not grief at losing her but anger and a desire for revenge: 'He worked himself into a fury. "I'm gonna get him. I'm going for my shotgun. I'll kill the big son-of-a-***** myself"' (A133, P105) He seems to see his wife as a possession that has been stolen from him.
Lonely, naive and dissapointed woman; represents the situation of poor, uneducated women in 1930s America.
Nameless and flirtatious, Curley's wife is perceived by Candy to be the cause of all that goes wrong at Soledad: "Ever'body knowed you'd mess things up. You wasn't no good" (104-105), he says to her dead body in his grief. Curley's wife adds complexity to her own characterization, confessing to Lennie that she dislikes Curley because he is angry all the time and saying that she comes around because she is lonely and just wants someone with whom to talk. Like George and Lennie, she once had a dream of becoming an actress and living in Hollywood, but it went unrealized, leaving her full of self-pity, married to an angry man, living on a ranch without friends, and viewed as a trouble-maker by everyone.
She is never called anything else, except 'Curley's Wife', never given a proper name. The ranch hands see her as something belonging to Curley (a possesion like a piece of furniture). This is partly because they do not want to risk their jobs by being friendly to her and upsetting Curley.
Never actually see Curley and his wife together except when she is dead. They make occasional appearances looking for each other, but they never find each other. Curley's jealous suspicion makes him look for her, and she probably looks for him out of boredom.
The tall, jerkline skinner whom Steinbeck describes as something of a living legend: "he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen. He was a jerkline skinner, the prince of the ranch, capable of driving ten, sixteen, even twenty mules with a single line to the leaders. He was capable of killing a fly on the wheeler's **** with a bull whip without touching the mule. There was gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke. . . His hatchet face was ageless. He might have been thirty-fice or fifty. HIs ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought" (37). Slim lingers in the shadow of his overwhelming description throughout the novel. He serves as the fearless, decision-maker when conflicts arise among the workers and wins the confidence of George, offering advice, comfort, and quiet words of wisdom.
Slim is the only worker who is not intimidated by Curley's wife. He comments on her appearance to give her the attention she is so desperate for. This also shows he is not scared of Curley.
'Big, tall skinner.' Slim is described as 'the prince of the ranch' as he is respected and 'his word was taken on any subject'. When he speaks, a hush falls on the room. Even when he stands up, he does so 'slowly and with dignity' (A58, P39).
'Proud and aloof man' who would like to have human contact but would rather reject it than be rejected.
Called Crooks because of a crooked spine, Steinbeck does not develop Crooks, the Negro stable buck, until the fourth chapter, describing him as a "proud, aloof man. He kept his distance and demanded that other people keep theirs" (74). He creates this person to hide his loneliness and people who try to come into his room get a frosty reception. Privacy is one of the few rights he has.
Crooks is bitter, indignant, angry, and ultimately frustrated by his helplessness as a black man in a racist culture. Although tempted by Candy, Lennie, and George's plan to buy their own place, Crooks is constantly reminded (in this case by Curley's wife) that he is inferior to whites and, out of pride, he refuses to take part in their future farm.
Crooks is a stable buck - he looks after the horses and mules.
'a powerful, big-stomached man'
He is sensitive to Candy's feelings about the dog, being mostly concerned about its smell. However, he does suggest to Slim that he should give Cnady one of his puppies, and he does argue tht it would be a kindness to shoot the old dog.
'Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys?' (A149, P118). He fails to understand that George, and even Slim, could be upset by Lennie's death. Carlson is insensitive, he sees Lennies death as practical and therefore he doesn't feel any emotions - Lennie had to be killed so he was.
George Milton (2)
There is 'foreshadowing' of Steinbeck preparing us for George's mercy killing of Lennie by Candy's comment 'I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog' (A89, P67). -George doesn't let a stranger shoot Lennie.
Being disliked makes him as isolated as other characters nobody likes him, even his wife doesn't. Curley is an outsider who craves respect and attention.
The boxer, the son of the boss, the angry and hot-headed obstacle to George's attempt to keep Lennie out of trouble at Soledad. Insecure of his size and over-protective of his wife, Curley is eager to fight anyone he perceives as a threat to his self-image. From the outset, Lennie unwittingly incurs Curley's antagonism simply because of his size, and the reader immediately braces for future confrontation. Curley remains undeveloped, forever little and forever mean, poking his head in at various points in the novel, either to look for his wife or to stir up trouble on account of her.
Curley's Wife (2)
Before we meet her in person, we hear about her from Candy. He tells George that he has seen her 'give Slim the eye', and that she is 'a tart' (A49-50,P30-31). Slim is the only person who will talk to Curley's wife. The others know that Curley will want to fight them and they will lose their job.
When we meet Curley's wife in person, Steinbeck reinforces the negative image created by Candy.
'She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eye, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages'.
Her body language seems sexually provocative: 'She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward.'
Steinbeck's portrayal of Curley's Wife is at its most sympathetic just before she dies, in the scene in the barn with Lennie.
'A pigeon flew in through the open hay door and circled and flew out again.' This represents Curley's wife's short life, due to the circle of life.
Crooks' shotgun and alarm show he is practical and active, furthermore his clock shows he had to get up early. His room is basic and hen sleeps on straw, like a horse. He has a room of his own because he is a relatively permanent skilled worker on the ranch, and because, being black, he is not allowed in the bunk house.
Through the character Crooks, Steinbeck is showing how black people were treated in America in 1930s. Crooks is the focus of the fourth section of the novel.
His books and magazines, however, have nothing do with work. They mark him out as an intelligent and literature man. His copy of the 'California civil code' suggests that he has an interest in justice even if he is unlikely to get it. He has lots of possessions shows he is permanent as they only have the possessions they can carry on their back.