What does the lack of dreams say about the character of Curley and Carlson?We already know that Curley and Carlson have no dreams, but please discuss their lack of insight and sensitivity toward...

What does the lack of dreams say about the character of Curley and Carlson?

We already know that Curley and Carlson have no dreams, but please discuss their lack of insight and sensitivity toward others.

many thanks


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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to the question regarding the character of Curley and Carlson may, perhaps, be resolved with a statement which George makes in the exposition of the novella, "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck --a reflection on the condition of men that he has known.  These words he repeats to Lennie:

Buys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world.  They got no family.  They don't belong no place.  They come to a ranch an' work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they're poundin' their tail on some other ranch.  They ain't got nothing to look ahead to.

Crooks, the segregated stabler, underscores George's thoughts:

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.

So, because they have each other, George tells Lennie that things are different for them.  They have someone with whom to share joys and hopes; they are friends.  But, unlike George and Lennie, Curley has no friends; he is isolated by his social position of being the son of the ranch boss.  In addition, because his wife is a temptress, any association with Curley can be dangerous for the men regarding their job.  Under these conditions, the isolated and short Curley projects himself as a "tough guy" who is willing to prove his machismo.  However, his bravado hides an empty man; certainly, his wife expresses her disappointment in her hopes that she had when they married.

Convinced of the propensity of man for cruelty, Steinbeck's portrayal of Carlson is of the callous and insensitive man in nature.  Brutal and violent, this character represents the destructiveness that comes when men are alienated and have no roots, and are powerless against life's unpredictable nature. For, human dignity is an integral part of the dream that George and Lennie share; when old Candy is included, he become optimistic about his life whereas before he felt that his fate would be a similar one to the fate of his dog.  The dream--the sense of brotherhood in which they can protect one another.  Slim, with his "god-like eyes," is perceptive and realizes the dangers of man's aloneness:

I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone.  That ain't no good.  They don't have no fun.  After a long time, they get mean.

Clearly, the role of the characters Curley and Carlson is to portray the side of man that is predatory and cruel. Albeit helpless in their isolation, man at his weakest seeks to destroy since, as Steinbeck felt, the strength to oppress others is itself born of weakness. During the Depression, with the itinerant workers who were parted from family and friends, there was a terrible distrust of others. According to enotes, "this distrust in the modern world in which people live in alienation from one another" is a theme of Steinbeck's novella, and characters such as Curley and Carlson further this theme.


mkcapen1 | Student

In the short story "Of Mice and Men" the two characters Curley and Carlton are the antagonists.  Curley has had the upbringing that had allowed him to be in a position of social stature placing him "above" the other workers.  He is the bosses’ son.  He tends to relish the power.  However, he has also not been treated kindly by his father which he takes out on the weaker men.  His behavior toward Lennie and weaker males as well as his demeaning behavior towards his own wife, demonstrates his lack of sensitivity towards others in the book.  Curley's relationship with his wife is one of control and jealously.

Carlson has no concern for how people feel.  He demonstrates lack of concern by taking the gun and killing Candy's dog.  He does not care to put it out of its misery; he just encourageS that the dog is killed.

Neither of the men have dreams because neither man has the insight nor wisdom that dreams require.  They are brutes and that is their role.  They are devoid of compassion and ideals.