The two main characters in Of Mice and Men are George and Lennie, but George pulls the strings. He is the dominant one in the relationship.
George is a ranch hand and dresses coarsely.
Physical traits describe what a character looks like. Here is some direct characterization of George’s physical traits.
George is directly described in the beginning of chapter 1 as “small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features” and like Lennie, “dressed in denim trousers and in denim coats with brass buttons” (ch 1).
Notice that words like “sharp” and “strong” impress upon the reader that although George is the smaller of the two, he is in charge.
George looks out for Lennie.
Personality traits describe what a character acts like. There is some indirect characterization in George’s interaction with Lennie when Lennie stops to drink.
The small man stepped nervously beside him.
“Lennie!” he said sharply. “Lennie, for God’ sakes don’t drink so much.” (ch 1)
In just a few short sentences we learn that though Lennie is much bigger, George is looking out for him. We also learn that George is nervous. This is further reinforced in his angry diatribe at the bus driver dropping them off too soon as his snapping at Lennie when he asks yet again where they are going. He is frustrated that Lennie only remembers the rabbit farm he promised him. Yet George is kind to Lennie also, weaving the dream of their own rabbit farm to keep them going.
Another telling example of George’s character is how he treats the situation with the boss in chapter 2. He makes sure Lennie knows not to talk, because once the boss sees him work he won’t question them. George is cautious about meeting the boss, and asks what he is like and is impressed that the boss gave his workers liquor for Christmas.
George has survival skills.
George is polite and deferential to the boss. When the boss asks him why they are late, he looks at his feet. When the boss gets suspicious that George is answering for Lennie, George is clearly concerned that they will lose the job.
In a panic, Lennie looked at George for help. “He can do anything you tell him,” said George. “He’s a good skinner. He can rassel grain bags, drive a cultivator. He can do anything. Just give him a try.”
The boss turned on George. “Then why don’t you let him answer? What you trying to put over?” (ch 2)
Lennie is panicked, but George remains calm and gives a quick answer.
George likes to stick to himself (with Lennie).
George’s conversation with Candy shows he wants to stick to himself and avoid trouble. He looks out for Lennie and avoids conflict with others. When he catches Candy listening to his conversation with Lennie, he gets angry.
“You was pokin’ your big ears into our business,” George said. “I don’t like nobody to get nosey.” (ch 2)
George comments that a man shouldn’t be nosey if he wants to stay working. He is also tense when they meet the other ranch hands, waiting to see how they will take Lennie. George worries that a fight will break out.
“Sure,” said George. “I seen plenty tough little guys. But this Curley better not make no mistakes about Lennie. Lennie ain’t handy, but this Curley punk is gonna get hurt if he messes around with Lennie.” (ch 2)
George worries about getting into a fight with Curley, or Lennie getting into trouble messing with Curley’s flirtatious wife.