"Although literary critics have tended to praise unique in literary characterizations, many authors have employed the stereotyped character successfully."
Considering Of Mice and Men, how do the conventional or stereotyped characters function to achieve the author's purpose?
A poignant novella about the dispossessed and lonely men of the Great Depression who were forced to leave their homes and family, Of Mice and Men depicts many of the different types of men alienated during the 1930s. This men represent certain traits and/or needs of men during this time:
In Steinbeck's own words,
Lennie was not to represent insanity at all but the inarticulate and powerful yearning of all men.
Lennie desires companionship, someone to love, and a home of his own. Repeatedly, he asks George to describe their own dream of having a small farm,
"An live off the fatta the lan',...An have rabbits....Because...I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why."
Lennie, who cannot survive on his own, is representative also of the need for the fraternity of men to work together and aid one another.
Crooks, the black stable worker, is marginalized even further than the other men because he is segregated from the other men, being made to sleep and reside in the stable rather than the bunkhouse. He depicts the terrible loneliness of the men and the alienation of blacks under the Jim Crow Laws.
A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin' books or thinkin' or stuff like that. sometimes he gets thinkin', an' he got nothing to tell him what's so an' what ain't so. Maybe if he sees somethin', he don't know whether it's right or not. He can't turn to some other guy ast him if he sees it too. He can't tell. He got nothing to measure by.
The old swamper, who has lost his hand and then his old dog, is anxious about his own fate, worried that he will be fired if he can no longer do his job. His fears of being alone with nowhere to live in his old age terrify Candy. When he hears of George and Lennie's plan to own a farm, he offers to put in money and join them; then, his dream of contentment is shattered when Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife.
Candy is representative of the fears of the old men who are itinerant workers with no plans for the future and their aging years. They worry that they will starve and be alone.
Carlson is an expert mechanic, who is more confident about finding work than the other men; consequently, he is arrogant and insensitive. He represents the prevalent lack of feeling that the alienated men have for one another after being separated from families. His cruel remark, "Now, what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys?" about George and Slim after Lennie has been shot demonstrates his complete insensitivity.