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Which characters' names have symbolic importance in Of Mice and Men?

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Elleespi | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:56 PM via web

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Which characters' names have symbolic importance in Of Mice and Men?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 31, 2013 at 5:26 AM (Answer #1)

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As in most literary works, the names of characters are significant; indeed, they are often indicative of personality or physical traits.

1. Crooks - The "negro stable buck" who is relegated to the barn, has suffered injury to his back;
consequently, he is somewhat crooked when he stands, for he cannot completely straighten up. More
significantly, he is marginalized and "in line" with the other workers because he is subjected to being
segregated and demeaned by them.

2. George Milton - With a surname denotative of the great metaphysical poet, George is constantly aware
of the forces at work against him and Lennie in their alienation and aloneness in the world. For instance,
after their first encounter with Curley, George expresses his distrust and worry,
"Ya, know, Lennie, I'm scared I'm gonna tangle with that bastard myself. I hate his guts...."

At the end of the narrative, George certainly makes an existential decision as he shoots Lennie rather
than see him condemned to live like a caged animal, a life that would be torturous for the simple man.

3. Curley's wife - Called only a genitive of her husband's name, the only woman in the narrative has no real identity except as the wife of the son of the boss and as a temptress and an interference in the fraternity of the men as exemplified in the scene in the barn. Throughout the narrative, she strives for attention and recognition in an effort to attain some identity. "I coulda made somethin; of myself....Maybe I will yet."

4. Lennie Small - This large man, who drags his feet in the manner of a bear dragging his paws, has the ironic name "Small" that suggests his mental capacity rather than his physical size. Also significant is his first name which is spelled with -ie rather than -y, suggesting childishness and dependence.

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