‘Of Mice & Men’ – Character Analysis Essay
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During chapter two of the novel ‘Of Mice and Men,’ we are introduced to another six different characters as George and Lennie begin work on a farm. These characters are the boss, his son, Curley and Curley’s wife, and the other itinerants Candy, Slim and Carlson.
The first of these characters that we meet is Candy. Candy Is introduced as an old man with a physical disability. “Out of the sleeve came a round stick-like wrist, but no hand.” His physical description shows that he cannot work on a farm, and we find out later that he has been demoted to a cleaner.
Candy’s behaviour and the way he speaks links to each other. At first he seems a bit hostile towards George and Lennie as he doesn’t really welcome them. He then starts to talk to them properly and tells them about the ranch.
Candy doesn’t really have any moral values. When he talks about the way the black stable buck is beaten up by the boss, instead of expressing concern he laughs and jokes about it. This shows that he is very biased. George and Lennie and Candy get on right from the start, but George is very angry after the interview when Candy eavesdrops on a conversation between George and Lennie. Candy is a very lonely man with no family. The only thing of significance to him is his dog, who is very much in parallel to him. The dog is very old and half-blind. Both are disabled and near the end of their working life.
We learn a few things about the boss when Candy is telling George and Lennie about him. The first thing that Candy says about the boss is that he was very angry about them being late. “Where’s the hell them new men?” He always takes all of his anger out on the “nigger”, showing that he is racist. The stable buck, Crooks, even has a crooked back which he got from being kicked by a horse. Despite all of this anger, Candy goes on say how nice the boss is and about the Christmas where he bought a gallon of whiskey for the workers. “He’s a pretty nice fellow”, but he also “Gets pretty mad sometimes.” We then meet the boss who “stepped into the room”. As expected the boss is already angry about George and Lennie being late, but he is already suspicious. This is because George doesn’t let Lennie speak and the boss assumes that there is something dodgy going on. The boss accuses George of stealing Lennie’s wages. “You taking his pay away from him?” The boss is paranoid and doesn’t really believe in friendship. He is very suspicious about them and asks George questions, forcing him to lie, “He’s my…cousin.” The tone of voice that is used throughout the interview is angry and suspicious. He is angry at George and Lennie for being late and suspicious about George’s behaviour.
The next character is the boss’s son, Curley. Curley is described as “A little stocky man.” The clothes that he wears remind us of a typical cowboy. “…blue jean trousers, a flannel shirt, a black, unbuttoned vest and a black coat. His thumbs were stuck in his belt, on each side of a square steel buckle.” This shows us that he is not a labouring man and has a higher status. This is also shown by the fact that he stands confidently and arrogantly. He is broad, short and stocky, but also powerful. When George and Lennie meet Curley for the first time they immediately make an enemy. Right from the beginning Curley gives them a hostile reception when he walks him. “He glanced coldly at George and then at Lennie.” For some reason he seems to be looking for a fight, “his hands closed into fists.”
Curley seems to have a problem with Lennie. Curley is very small and not like a normal man and is jealous of Lennie – he sees Lennie as a threat. Lennie is huge and muscular, but Curley is small and stocky. Even though he symbolises a higher status he is morally and physically stunted. Curley is very violent for a small man and can be compared to George, as he is a worse version of George (George is tamed my Lennie.” Of all the characters we have met so far most of them are physically or mentally disabled. Curley is very small and unman-like, Crooks has a crooked back, Candy only has one hand and Lennie is mentally disabled. Steinbeck is trying to show that even though America is the land of dreams, these people have been damaged by America. Crooks is also the target of racism. Even George is damaged by America as he has failed in life.
Candy is the first person to talk about Curley’s wife, who describes her as “a tart”. George and Lennie meet her for the first time when she is supposedly looking for Curley in the bunkhouse. We cannot say that this is the real reason because Curley would not be there and she would have seen Curley go home. This shows that she may be a lonely person, or may have gone there to flirt with some of the men. However, her behaviour doesn’t seem flirtatious.
“I’m trying to find Curley, Slim”, shows us that she is not coming on to Slim, but her physical appearance says that she is. The use of “red” imagery symbolises danger, and Curley’s wife is full of make-up that is red, “rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made-up. Her finger nails were red.” Not only is her make-up red, but so are her clothes, “…red mules…little bouquets of red ostrich feathers.” She is a ‘scarlet’ and loose. She likes showing herself off and is not used to farm life, so she dresses quite provocatively. She is a ‘femme fatale’ because Lennie is attracted to red. This links back to the woman in Weed who had a red dress. This woman is a danger to Lennie, and also to George and Lennie’s jobs. “Lennie watched her, fascinated.”
Slim is the most respected man on the farm. He is described as “a tall man” who was well-built and strong. He is not crippled in any way like some of the other characters. Slim is a “master-craftsmen” He was well respected and revered by everyone on the farm and everyone would look up to him and follow him, giving him authority over everyone else. Slim is very serious and intelligent and “the prince of the ranch.” This shows that everyone looks to him for guidance. “His voice was very gentle.” Slim doesn’t need to shout to get attention and respect, unlike Curley, who needs to fight and threaten. Slim can even hear things before people say something.
Slim seems God-like and unrealistic because Steinbeck shows him as too perfect. He is an omnipotent who is idealised and no one is like him. Slim is used as a moral yardstick to measure everyone else. He welcomes George and Lennie to the ranch. He does this in a friendly and gentle way. “His tone was friendly. It invited confidence without demanding it.” He is not suspicious like the boss and believes in friends travelling together. He doesn’t seem hostile and gives George and Lennie a welcoming atmosphere and understands that George and Lennie look out for each other. George is also given the confidence to open up to George and reveal his true feelings about Lennie. George is able to trust Slim and knows that he will understand and not tell anyone.
Carlson seems like a nice person from the start and by the way he welcomes George and Lennie. “Glad to meet ya.” Like Slim, he Carlson is described as a “powerful, big-stomached man”. He shows his respect to Slim and lets Slim go first. “Carlson stepped back to let Slim precede him”. However, we then find out that he is very insensitive. He begins a conversation about Slim’s dog and then talks about wanting to kill Candy’s dog. “That dog of Candy’s is so God-damn old he can’t hardly walk.” Stinks like hell, too…Why’n’t you get Candy to shoot his old dog.” Carlson wants to kill Candy’s dog because he is too old and smells and is a nuisance. This is very insensitive.