Which characters in Of Mice and Men do not show cruelty?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is here where I think that Steinbeck is probably at his best.  He gives no easy answers, no false saints and transcendent hope that could enable an easy solution to such a complex issue.  To a certain extent, all of the characters demonstrate their capacity for cruelty in different contexts.  It is here where Steinbeck wants to make clear that the condition of cruelty, deliberate and/ or unintentional, is part of the process of being human.  Recognizing its presence and seeking to reduce it becomes one of the essential elements of being in the world.  Naturally, Lennie would be seen as one of the most loyal and incapable of "mean," as George would put it.  Yet, he shows an intensity of violence, a capacity for malevolence when Crooks torments him with George's potential for disappearance and towards Candy's wife when she won't be silent.  When he says, "George'll get angry," there is an intensity present that reveals the intensity of a potential for cruelty, something fatal in this case for Curley's wife.  George's shooting of Lennie might have been done out of love, but its cruelty is evident as Slim reassures him as needing to have done it, something he "hadda do."  Candy's cruelty is a sin of silence, the very same silence that permeates the room when his dog is taken out to be killed.  Slim's silence in allowing this to happen is an example of how his sin of silent complicity resulted in the death of another.  Probably the only character free of cruelty, unintentional or not, would be Aunt Clara, who was made out to be this saintly figure because of death.  For Steinbeck and the characters in the novella, being in the world is defined by the navigation of cruelty, a realistic and yet inescapable element in what it means to be a human bring