lmost every character in the novel is disadvantaged in some way. The most obviously disadvantaged character is Lennie; he is mentally handicapped and it prevents him from being able to live as an independent adult. He relies on George, which is evident from their very first interaction. In chapter one, Lennie mimics George and walks behind him, indicating that he is the follower in the relationship ("....even in the open one stayed behind the other..." pg 2). Lennie is so forgetful, he mistakenly thinks he has lost his bus ticket when he never even had it to begin with! (" 'George, I ain't got mine, I musta lost it.' He looked down at the ground with despair..."pg 5). There are instances of the disadvantages Lennie faces in each chapter.
Although the fact that Crooks is the only African American seems like an obvious sign of his disadvantage, the racism and isolation he faces is more subtle, and not expressed by Crooks until Chapter 4. Candy introduces the character of Crooks to the readers by telling George and Lennie in Chapter 2 that, "the stable buck is a nigger." He sleeps in a separate bunk, and is not always included in their recreational activities. Finally in Chapter 4, Crooks openly vents his frustrations to Lennie, knowing Lennie is incapable of understanding.
"S'pose you didn't have nobody. S'pose you couldn't go into the bunk house and play rummy 'cause you was black. How'd you like that? S'pose you had to sit out here an' read books. Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books ain't no good. A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick."
Curely’s Wife is defined by her relationship. She has no name! (I am always surprised at how long it takes my students to realize this, and they often like to name her after they find out). Her obvious disadvantage is being the only woman on a farm full of men, but she is also young, not very wise, and in an unhappy marriage. Like Crooks, Curley’s Wife confides in Lennie. In chapter 5, she confronts Lennie when he tries to ignore her attempts at conversation, and in that conversation, she reveals her sadness. She says, “Why can’t I talk to you? Don’t I get to talk to anyone? I get awful lonely.” In other parts of the work, she reveals that Curely doesn’t like it when she talks to other men and that he has a bad temper, even breaking some of her records.
Finally, Candy is disabled, and incapable of working well. He is a swamper, a man who does odd jobs. It seems that, in Candy’s eyes, he is doing this job because he is old, disabled, and no longer valuable to his employers. This is symbolized by his dying dog. Candy’s dog was once a fine dog, but now he is old, smelly and unable to do much. Candy knows the other men want to shoot the dog, but he feels the dog has been a lifelong friend and does not deserve to die. Candy suggests to George that perhaps when he is old, someone will shoot him (Chapter 3). Candy recognizes that, like the dog, he is incapable of giving back in the ways he once could and is sometimes seen as a hindrance rather than a help. He fears he too will soon be “dead,” to the men; not in the sense that he will be killed, but in the sense that his services will no longer be required, and he will not be able to find new work.