Explore the ways in which Steinbeck presents characters in disadvantageous positions in Of Mice and Men.
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The novel is about characters on the fringe of society. This was Steinbeck's favorite type. George and Lennie are migrant workers, which means they travel from ranch to ranch and act as hands temporarily. They never have enough money and certainly not job security. On top of that, Lennie is mentally challenged, and George as his caretaker is also enfringed.
Not all of Steinbeck's disadvantaged characters react in the same ways to their disadvantage. By portraying them in this way, Steinbeck explores the different ways that people might react to adversity.
For example, Lennie reacts to his disadvantage by relying on George. Crooks reacts to his disadvantage by making the best of it. He has carved out this space for himself and is very protective of that space even if it is not all that physically great. Curley's wife reacts by lashing out in a way against the constraints imposed by her husband.
So, all of the characters who are disadvantaged react, but they do so in different ways.
The entire novel is about characters who are placed in disadvantageous positions, either socially or personally. Ironically enough, I don't see Lennie and George as being extremely representative of this. They might have been dealt challenges, and the ending is one of them, but I when I consider "disadvantageous positions," I consider a sate of sadness surrounding the character, a description that I don't think fully applies to George and Lennie. I would say that Candy is one of those characters placed in such a situation. He is old, one handed, and like is dog, his usefulness around the ranch is dwindling. The fact that he cannot speak out to save his dog is representative of much in way of "disadvantage." The first is that his voice is silenced and he has become silent in speaking out for someone like him, his dog. Additionally, he fully acknowledges that he has no social merit or weight in that no one speaks for him in protecting the life of his dog, something he comes to regret later on in the novella. Crooks is another example of someone who is in a disadvantageous situation. His condition of being Black in a time where being White was tough enough adds to his social isolation, a condition that he can only articulate, but do little regarding in the novel. His discussion with Lennie in chapter 4 reveals this stunningly powerful state of self- perception matched with an equally powerful impotence to do anything about it. Finally, Curley's wife is someone that is fairly disadvantaged in that she dreams of a life that will never come to her and cannot make do with the life she has. In the end, the collision between both conditions is her undoing. I think it's interesting that the three of these forces meet in the end of chapter 4 in a brutal exchange where their pathetic states are revealed with venomous cruelty.
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