How are three characters discriminated against in Of Mice and Men?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Steinbeck demonstrates the painful reality of being discriminated against.  

Discrimination is a recurring theme in the work.  In the opening pages, George and Lennie suffer economic discrimination. They are migrant workers.  They lack a stable source of income.  As a result, Steinbeck shows at least one occasion where they experience prejudice or discrimination. The first involves a bus driver and what George perceives as unfair treatment:

We could just as well of rode clear to the ranch if that bastard bus driver knew what he was talkin’ about. ‘Jes’ a little stretch down the highway,’ he says. ‘Jes’ a little stretch.’ God damn near four miles, that’s what it was! Didn’t wanta stop at the ranch gate, that’s what. Too God damn lazy to pull up. Wonder he isn’t too damn good to stop in Soledad at all. Kicks us out and says ‘Jes’ a little stretch down the road.’ I bet it was more than four miles.

George believes that the bus driver believed himself to be "too damn good to stop in Soledad."  George perceives this to be the case because he is poor. The implication is that the bus driver would have driven them to their destination had they been wealthy.  Being poor and limited, the bus driver does not treat George and Lennie as he would a wealthy customer.  This is a form of economic discrimination and its hurt shows in George's tone.

Crooks experiences racial discrimination.  This can be seen from a physical point of view, as Crooks has to live in separate quarters than the other ranch hands.  This is segregation, a form of racial discrimination that prevents Crooks from participating in what the other men experience.  Another example of racial discrimination can be seen in a passing comment he makes to Lennie regarding why he is alone:  

“Why ain’t you wanted?” Lennie asked.

“’Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me.”

Crooks's statement reflects the hurt that is a result of example of racial discrimination.  Others judge him as someone who "stinks" because of his race.  In both instances, Crooks experiences racial discrimination. 

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Of Mice and Men

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