John Steinbeck was a compassionate man. That was the one thing that made him such a great writer. He had sympathy for all of his characters in this story and sympathy for the millions of others they represent. His famous contemporaries F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway did not display much sympathy for the little people. Of the foremost American writers, only William Faulkner, in addition to Steinbeck, exhibited sympathy for the poor and downtrodden characters he wrote about. In England there was the great Charles Dickens, and in France there was the great Victor Hugo. In Russia there were Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov.
In Of Mice and Men, I would have to agree with mwestwood and scarletpimpernel who found Crooks the most sympathetic character. He is completely alone and despised by everyone. He is painfully lonely and has no chance of improving his existence in any way because of his physical handicap and his race. The other workers get paid fifty dollars a month, but Crooks probably only gets a small fraction of that amount, if anything. His bunk is a long box filled with straw. Not only that but he suffers pain all the time--and nobody cares.
The character which I particularly have most sympathy for is George, even more so than Lennie. George inspires sympathy because, he had to take the burden for both himself and Lennie. Living with a person who cannot take full responsibility for themselves like Lennie, is hard enough. Having to stay with them and see how they actually are a danger *in Lennie's case a criminal danger* to self and others against one's will is basically (in summary) a day in the life of George.
Yet, despite the amazing burden that Lennie was in George's life, George still manages to bring some hopes to the surface by making plans with Lennnie himself to own a farm together, and to stick together until things get better. Yet, when Lennie commits his last act of ill-thinking and accidentally kills Curly's wife, we discover that everything George (not Lennie) had planned fell appart again. As if that wasn't enough, the only way out of the problem was to kill Lennie before the others lynched him. At least a merciful death kept Lennie in a higher and luckier place than George, whose end will now be spent in jail, and with shattered dreams.
My sympathy lies with Curley's wife. As she has no name, she has no identity other than that of her husband. There are no other women on the ranch for her to identify with. She is unable to converse with the men on the ranch because of her husband's jealousy and her own inability to communicate without using her sexuality. There are no friends for her amongst the men: she is referred to as 'jail bait', and 'a tart'. Her cruel husband Curley joins the other men on the trip to the brothel, telling us there relationship is not a solid one. In fact, we find out from her final conversation with Lennie that she finds him 'mean'.
None of Curley's wife's dreams come to fruition. She 'coulda been in pitchers' if the claims of the man in the Riverside dance hall were true, and her mother hadn't hidden her letters, but we get the impression that there was never a hope for Curley's wife, and she dies without seeing her future. Lennie at least believes he will reach his, and George has the opportunity to carry on and start afresh. Curley's wife dies unloved, unknown and unmourned.
Total isolation is one of the worst conditions anyone can suffer. For, as Crooks explains to Lennie, it causes a person to lose his mind:
"I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick."
As he speaks with Lennie, Crooks expresses one of the reasons loneliness and isolation are so distrubing,
"Maybe if he sees somethin', he don't know whether it's right or not. He can't turn to some other guy and ast him if he sees it too. He can't tell. He got nothing to measure by."
While all the other characters suffer the terrible condition of alienation, Crooks suffers the most deprivation of all the men.
I agree with Post 3 most of all. I think that Curley's wife is the most pitiable figure. Post 5 argues that she has made the choice that has led to her isolation. However, I am not sure she really had more of a choice than Crooks. Crooks could surely have chosen to live and work somewhere where there were other African-Americans. At the same time, women in this time and place did not exactly have lots of options for what they could become.
Crooks at least has his dignity and his space. Curley's wife has none of that. No one respects her at all and she must feel so trapped on that ranch. I feel more sorry for her than for any of the other characters.
I agree with Post 4 that Crooks deserves the most sympathy. Unlike George and Curley's Wife, Crooks has not made a choice which led to his isolation and loneliness--this does not mean that George and Curley's Wife do not deserve sympathy, but they are more in control of their destinies than is Crooks as a black man living in 1930s America.
Additionally, while George and Candy have a hope that things will be better in the future, life and others have treated Crooks in such a way that it is impossible for him to hope for something better. Moreover, Crooks must deal with physical suffering on top of his disillusionment and solitary existence.
Most people feel immediate sympathy for Lennie. But I, like a few others, sympathize with Curley's wife. I find her character the most unbarable emotionally. First, as stated in post 3, she has no name. She is known as nothing but Curley's wife. Second, her dreams have been crushed. She no longer has anything to look forward to but a mundane life on the ranch. She has no friends. As lonely as she is, she finds it impossible to find companionship on the ranch. All of the ranchers stay away from her because of her husband. Lastly, because, just as she was finding a friend in Lennie, he kills her. She basically dies lost and utterly alone.
Curley's wife seems to have the least control over her life of all the characters in the book, so I feel sympathy for her. My greatest sympathy for a character has to go to George though, because he gave up so much for Lennie. He gave up his freedom first and finally gave up a significant and maybe even profound innocence when he shot Lennie in the end.
I am sure everyone sympathizes with George, but I have to put my stake in there. George is trying desperately to make a life for Lennie and himself. No matter what happens, he tries to protect Lennie. When things get bad enough that he can't protect Lennie from himself, he is the one left suffering.
I have to say, I feel equal sympathy for all of the above.
Candy is old, has lost the one or two last hopes in his life (his dog and the dream).
Curley's wife is mistreated by her husband and everyone shuns her. She's lost her dream. She has no name and no-one cares what it is.
George has to carry the burden of killing his best friend. I mean, no matter how much of a challenge he was, we all know they would do anything for each other.
Lennie has a mental disability, and if anyone knew this, no matter how well he worked, he'd be isolated and locked in an asylum. There would be lots of social prejudice against him. I have to say, I feel uncomfortable when people say he is a "danger", because if he had had the right kind of support (i.e. more medical understanding and social acceptance) both he and Curley's wife may have survived. I'm not trying to completely justify his actions, because nobody's perfect and Lennie has some bad qualities. I'm just saying it could have happened.
I feel the greatest sympathy for Curley because he only behaves the way he does to feel important, have a place in his society, be accepted, because he has to. Everybody forgets Curly because they are busy painting him as the villain and feeling sorry for everybody else. For those who feel sorry for the characters whose dreams are shattered - how much worse to not have dreams and to make yourself something you want others to fear because you have no dreams - that is Curley! Granted he has segregated himself by his actions but he is still lonely - the writer does not say so - does he need to explain the glove full of vaseline or are we as reader so repulsed that we forget to think of Curley as a human being? No, let us remember to feel sympathy for the bully who is only the bully because his life has dictated the path.The path that means he has to challenge others, he has to be the dominant one in his relationship, he has to not care about the fact that many men are wandering through his life, possibly challenging his standing as the alpha male and challenging his relationship through his wife's actions. He is the villain of the piece because the writer has not allowed us to see the sympathy that we could feel for him. Nevertheless this is the character who also has no friends and suffers.
I would have to say George, with Candy at a close second. Both have to accept the harsh reality that their american dream which keeps them going is not sumountable.
I cant feel any sympathy for Curleys wife, mainly due to the fact she is so self obsessed. She doesnt care for anyone but herself, and repeatedly changes the topic of conversation of how she 'could' have been an actor, or 'would' have been famous if it wasnt for her mother. Her denial is at most pitiful. Any sympathy i did have for her was lost when in crooks barn, she uses her social position in the farm to talk down to Crooks, George, and Curley; including threatening to have Crooks hanged.