Please describe the main characters in Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two primary characters in John Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men are George and Lennie. The two men are nearly polar opposites in every way. While Lennie is a giant of a man who is mentally challenged, George is a small, spare man with a quick mind. George once promised Lennie's nearest relative, an aunt, that he would take care of Lennie; he has kept his promise, despite the fact that his life would have been much easier without Lennie. 

Lennie Small is an amazing worker, but because he has the mental capabilities of a child, he often gets himself (and by extension George) in trouble. He likes to pet things, like mice, puppies,and soft material, but he is unintentionally too rough and inadvertently kills things, including a woman.

George Milton, like Lennie, is an itinerant ranch hand who is forced to move more than he would like because of George. He is the "brains" of the duo and often acts like he does not like Lennie; however, the truth is that George could dump Lennie any time but does not.

“I ain't got no people. 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. They get wantin' to fight all the time. . . 'Course Lennie's a God damn nuisance most of the time, but you get used to goin' around with a guy an' you can't get rid of him.”

When Lennie kills Curley's wife, George knows that Lennie could never survive a trial and prison. Though he does not want to do it, George performs one final act of kindness for his friend and kills him.

The one thing the two men share is a dream for something more. Their wants are simple: a small plot of land on which they can plant a garden and (for Lennie) raise some rabbits. While George, at least, knows that this dream will probably never happen, he maintains hope for both of them.

These are the primary characters in the novel, but they meet several others at the ranch where the story takes place. Some are misfits (like Crooks, Candy, and Curley's wife) who connect themselves to George and Lennie in some way. The ranch owner's son, Curley, acts like he is not one of them, but he is also a misfit because of his own cowardice. Carlson is oblivious, rough, and careless about the things that matter. Slim is his opposite, observant and aware, compassionate but realistic.

This cast of characters converges on a ranch for a few days, and most of them are not the same for having met. 

Chantelm | Student
Lennie -  A large, lumbering, childlike migrant worker. Due to his mild mental disability, Lennie completely depends upon George, his friend and traveling companion, for guidance and protection. The two men share a vision of a farm that they will own together, a vision that Lennie believes in wholeheartedly. Gentle and kind, Lennie nevertheless does not understand his own strength. His love of petting soft things, such as small animals, dresses, and people’s hair, leads to disaster. 
George -  A small, wiry, quick-witted man who travels with, and cares for, Lennie. Although he frequently speaks of how much better his life would be without his caretaking responsibilities, George is obviously devoted to Lennie. George’s behavior is motivated by the desire to protect Lennie and, eventually, deliver them both to the farm of their dreams. Though George is the source of the often-told story of life on their future farm, it is Lennie’s childlike faith that enables George to actually believe his account of their future.
Candy -  An aging ranch handyman, Candy lost his hand in an accident and worries about his future on the ranch. Fearing that his age is making him useless, he seizes on George’s description of the farm he and Lennie will have, offering his life’s savings if he can join George and Lennie in owning the land. The fate of Candy’s ancient dog, which Carlson shoots in the back of the head in an alleged act of mercy, foreshadows the manner of Lennie’s death.

Curley’s wife -  The only female character in the story, Curley’s wife is never given a name and is only mentioned in reference to her husband. The men on the farm refer to her as a “tramp,” a “tart,” and a “looloo.” Dressed in fancy, feathered red shoes, she represents the temptation of female sexuality in a male-dominated world. Steinbeck depicts Curley’s wife not as a villain, but rather as a victim. Like the ranch-hands, she is desperately lonely and has broken dreams of a better life.

Crooks -  Crooks, the black stable-hand, gets his name from his crooked back. Proud, bitter, and caustically funny, he is isolated from the other men because of the color of his skin. Despite himself, Crooks becomes fond of Lennie, and though he derisively claims to have seen countless men following empty dreams of buying their own land, he asks Lennie if he can go with them and hoe in the garden.

Curley -  The boss’s son, Curley wears high-heeled boots to distinguish himself from the field hands. Rumored to be a champion prizefighter, he is a confrontational, mean-spirited, and aggressive young man who seeks to compensate for his small stature by picking fights with larger men. Recently married, Curley is plagued with jealous suspicions and is extremely possessive of his flirtatious young wife.

Slim -  A highly skilled mule driver and the acknowledged “prince” of the ranch, Slim is the only character who seems to be at peace with himself. The other characters often look to Slim for advice. For instance, only after Slim agrees that Candy should put his decrepit dog out of its misery does the old man agree to let Carlson shoot it. A quiet, insightful man, Slim alone understands the nature of the bond between George and Lennie, and comforts George at the book’s tragic ending.

amysor | Student

The main characters of "Mice and Men" are George and Lennie. They are two migrant workers, who travel around to work in different farms. George is a more cunning, clever man who has a way with words. Although, Lennie isn't the smartest, although, he is incredibuly strong, and follows orders well. This unusual pair's story is told through Steinbeck in this classic novela.