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John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a story about the “little guys” in Depression-era America. Almost all of the characters are people trying to survive in an inhospitable world. Many of the challenges the characters face are economic, but some are the result of prejudicial attitudes. Below are three key minor characters from the book, along with examples of how they are discriminated against.
Candy is the old “swamper” who maintains the bunkhouse. He is missing part of an arm from an old farm-machinery accident:
1. As an older and disabled worker, he is given only menial chores to do, such as sweeping out the bunkhouse.
2. He has an old dog that he loves. However, another character named Carlson can’t stand the smell of the dog and talks Candy into letting him shoot the dog. Carlson does not take Candy’s feelings into account, most likely because he does not deem him to be an important part of the ranch anymore.
3. He knows that because of his age and disability, he will soon be let go by the boss. He tells George and Lennie,
“They’ll can me purty soon. Jus’ as soon as I can’t swamp out no bunkhouses they’ll put me on the county.”
That’s why he wants to join George and Lennie when they plan to buy their own place.
Crooks is the black stable-buck:
1. He is separated from the white workers. Not allowed to live in the bunkhouse, he has a room in the stable with the horses.
2. When the white men play horseshoes and get together on Sunday, he is not welcome to join them.
3. In the key scene in his room, with George, Lenny, and Candy present, Curley’s wife threatens him,
“Well, you keep your place then, nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.”
Curley’s wife is married to the boss’s son. She is unhappily stuck on the ranch with a bunch of men she doesn’t particularly care for, and she feels that she has lost her chance to “be somebody":
1. Her husband Curley wants her to stay put on the ranch and avoid talking to the men, but they are all there is to socialize with. It is cruel to set such limits on a young woman who wants to see the world.
2. Other characters assume that she is going to cause trouble. George says,
“She’s gonna make a mess. They’s gonna be a bad mess about her. She’s a jail bail all set on the trigger.”
3. When she confronts Lennie in the barn about the bruises on his face, the other men refuse to speak to her, making her feel like an outcast.
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