Discuss the ways in which characters communicate with each other in Of Mice and Men.
Characters often speak to each other in terms of power plays or manipulations. They mimic how they are treated by the bosses or how they have learned to communicate with the bosses.
George, for example, uses fear to control Lennie, telling him he would be happier and better off without him (which, of course, is not true) to get Lennie to do what George wants. Lennie, in turn, uses manipulation to influence George, telling George he will go off without him:
Lennie avoided the bait. He had sensed his advantage. "If you don't want me, you only jus' got to say so, and I'll go off in those hills right there"
Curley's wife uses her racial privilege to triumph over Crooks, knowing that in her society she, as a white person, has all the power:
Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny.
Curley, the owner's son, knows he can boss the ranch hands around, and he does, strutting around and showing his power over them. For instance, he says to Lennie:
"Well, nex' time you answer when you're spoke to." He turned toward the door and walked out, and his elbows were still bent out a little.
Even when George weaves stories about owning his own farm, the other hands speak to him as supplicants, not equals, trying to show how useful they would be to him and how little trouble.
Steinbeck uses the way characters speak to each other to show how deeply they have internalized a system based on power and privilege.
Characters in this novel speak directly with each other, give insinuations, and use gestures.
For example, to illustrate that George and Lennie have gestures that provide meaning to each other, when George was talking to the boss for the first time and Lennie spoke when he wasn't supposed to, the narration reads:
George scowled at him, and Lennie dropped his head in shame at having forgotten.
Gesture also occurs between Curley's wife and all the men as she makes efforts to use her ability to flirt to just earn the friendship of the men.
To demonstrate the use of direct language, George often gives Lennie directions that Lennie is supposed to remember. Lennie is often asked to rehearse these directions:
What you gonna say tomorrow when the boss asks you questions?
I... I ain't gonna ... say a word.
Finally, George insinuates there is a time to come, during which, Lennie will be rewarded for good behaviors. Whenever he needs to communicate to get Lennie to behave in a certain manner, he references "livin off the fatta the lan'" and Lennie chimes in with correct behaviors.