‘Of Mice and Men’ unites some of the most socially vulnerable but adventurous personalities – from characters like George to Lennie, Candy to Slim, Crooks to Curley’s, and all the others.
Mostly referred to as George in the book ‘Of Mice and Men’, he is one of the two most prominent characters in the book. He is described as being short, smart, and having well-defined physical features.
George proves himself a great friend and companion to Lennie to the point that he informally adopts him and becomes something close to a primary caregiver to Lennie after Lennie loses his aunt, Clara.
George, who works as a laborer at a ranch with his friend Lennie and the others, is dream-oriented and confident and has plans in place to coown a small farm with Lennie someday.
But, this dream keeps getting delayed because both men haven’t quite got the financial means to make it happen. However, the dream starts to look more likely to happen when Candy declares interest in the plan with the much-needed financial support.
Next to George, Lennie is the other principal character in the book. He is the complete opposite of George – both physically and mentally. He is introduced as being tall and large and with a mental disability that makes him forget things easily, anxious, and unable to control his own strength.
Lennie becomes close friends with George from when they were still little after he loses his aunt, Clara, prompting George to start taking responsibility for his well-being. Aside from his intermittent mental issue and an overly weird dependence on George, Lennie is quite a nice man who often minds his business and is reserved.
Lennie is arguably the biggest reason why George can’t actualize his dream of owning a farm because he keeps getting them in trouble every time they’re distracted from working to save up money for the project to find themselves on the move to save their lives.
From the start of the book, readers find they’re on the move away from Weed mainly because Lennie had carelessly touched a women’s dress in a way society considers inappropriate and sexually abusive.
The big man finally shatters his and George’s dreams when he accidentally kills Curley’s wife after she allows him the pleasure of stroking her hair, but things quickly turn bad, and Lennie mistakenly breaks her neck in the process of trying to prevent her from screaming.
Old Candy is the first person that George and Lennie meet on arrival at the Soledad ranch. He is, as his name implies – old and has an equally old dog that is shabby and smells, as Carlson tells us.
For the most part of the book, Old Candy feels lonely, more so when his dog is killed by Carlson with his permission. Other times he feels isolated despite joining in conversations and hanging out with the guys at the ranch.
Old Candy comes close to achieving a more fulfilling dream which would see him pair with George and Lennie on their dream farm project, where he gets the chance to hoe the ground and wash dishes – for his dignity lies in having a job to keep busy.
This dream is destroyed, however, after Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife, and readers can feel his frustration at the scene where he pours out his heart over the cold, lifeless body of Curley’s wife.
Described as violent, aggressive, and insensitive, Curley is the son of the ranch owner or the boss. He is an amateur boxer who has reputation for beating up large opponents who are at least two times his size, and readers see this come to a place in the fact that he would always like to single out and challenge Lennie to a fight.
Curley has a wife who also stays with the guys at the ranch. Although his wife is described as a tart who enjoys flirting with the guys, Curley doesn’t show her the kind of love and attention that she needs as she always complains of being lonely.
She never gets a real name in the book and is just referred to as Curley’s wife. She is the only woman at the ranch and poses a great threat to the men as she often engages in tough talks with them and once threatened to get Crooks lynched. Her biggest dream is to become a movie star but getting married to Curley crushes that reality.
Slim is the guy the boss puts in charge of George and Lennie. In ‘Of Mice and Men’, he is perhaps the smartest man at the ranch and well respected by the others naturally.
He has some great leadership skills, such as empathy, and knows how to resolve conflicts and prevent them from exacerbating. Readers get a feel of this at the scene where he settles Lennie and Curley’s brawl and convinces the latter not to tell his dad, the boss, or he might get George and Lennie fired.
Next to Curley’s wife, Crooks is perhaps the next most mentally tortured character in ‘Of Mice and Men’. He is a cripple and the only black man at the ranch who gets racially discriminated against and often banned from entering the house of the other white guys at the ranch.
Through this treatment and other unpleasant life experiences, he becomes a very bitter man who is mean, unfriendly, and antisocial. That notwithstanding, Crooks later starts to open himself up to mingle with Lennie and actually enjoys it for a moment.
Carlson is one of the minor characters who appear here and there across scenes in ‘Of Mice and Men’. He owns the gun to which Lennie dies and is also the one who shoots Candy’s dog after he complains the dog is old and needs to be put out of its misery.
The Ranch Owner
Often referred to as the boss, the ranch owner. Also, Curley’s father is the man who owns the ranch on which George and Lennie work. Readers don’t get to see his face, but he is talked about or made reference to by the men who are always full of respect and honor towards him.
Clara is Lennie’s aunt, who passed away many years ago when Lennie was very little. Her character appears in scenes only when Lennie or George are nostalgic and reminiscent. Her clear physical appearance comes to life about the time before Lennie is shot, and he sees her appear before him, standing with a giant rabbit.
Whit is perhaps the less featured of all the characters in ‘Of Mice and Men’. Like all the others, he is a ranch hand and laborer but has very little role to play in the whole story.
John Steinbeck formula for picking characters for ‘Of Mice and Men’ is similar to that of Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’ in the fact that they are not many. Still, the short character list does not take anything away from the book, given that the ones featured are rich and sufficient for what is portrayed.
Who are the major characters in ‘Of Mice and Men’?
In the order of major roles played, the most important characters should include; George, Lennie, Slim, Curley, and his wife.
What dream do George and Lennie have?
The two main characters, George and Lennie, have a shared dream of co-owner a farm together where the former gets to plant vegetation, and the latter tend rabbits.
Why was Lennie chased by a lynch party?
Curley organized a lynch party made up of himself and the other ranch hands in search of Lennie for accidentally murdering his wife in cold blood.