If one is to understand the complexity and far reaching implications of the story, it is important to understand the supporting cast in John Steinbeck’s famous novel, Of Mice and Men.
Candy is a one-handed worker who lost his hand in a ranch accident. The ranch provides him a poor living as a swamper in compensation for the loss of his hand. He overhears Lennie and George talking about their dream of owning a little farm and he begins to hope he can join them on their farm some day. He offers to help them purchase the farm by saying that he will donate his $350 dollar stake.
Candy’s dog resembles his owner. Old, blind, and crippled, the dog smells bad and is disliked by many of the other hands. Candy continues to care for him and love him because of what he once was, a talented herding dog and loyal companion. The others don’t care. Ultimately Carlson, kills the dog with his Luger (a gun) in an incident that foreshadows the death of Lennie. In the death of his dog, Candy sees his own future; a future where, he too, is discarded because he can no longer offer anything to the community in which he lives.
Curley, the son of the boss, is a slight man with a belligerent attitude. He used to fight as a semi-professional boxer and still looks for a good fight. He often picks a fight when he can’t find one. He dislikes big guys and especially enjoys picking fights with them. He is the only man on the ranch with a wife, he is proud of his status and wears a glove full of Vaseline on his hand to keep it soft for his wife.
His wife is a flirt, which only increases Curley’s jealousy and belligerence. When he picks a fight with Lennie, George gives Lennie permission to fight back. Lennie crushes Curley’s hand in his fist. When his wife is discovered dead, Curley organizes the vigilante group to find Lennie and kill him.
Curley’s wife is a pretty, flirtatious young woman who is labeled a ‘tart’ by the hired hands on the ranch. She is an ambitious girl with plans to be in the movies, which are never fulfilled.
She is the only character whose name is never disclosed during the course of the story. As a result, she has no individual identity, which causes her character to function as a symbol rather than a human in the story. Lennie thinks she is pretty but George tries to warn him off by telling Lennie that she is ‘jailbait’ and ‘poison.’ However, Lennie is still attracted to her. When she flirts with Lennie he can’t resist her offer to feel her hair. However, Lennie frightens her when he strokes her hair and won’t stop when she tells him too. He in turn becomes frightened by her yelling and tries to quiet her. While trying to make her be quiet, Lennie breaks her neck.
Slim is is the main driver for the ranch’s mule team. Slim has a quiet but authoritative presence that causes the others on the ranch to respect him and turn to him for advice. He is the only person on the ranch that Curley treats with respect and he is the only character who seems to understand George and Lennie’s relationship. Slim’s eyes are described as God-like and his ear “heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.” When George kills Lennie, Slim is the one who understands and tries to offer comfort.
John Steinbeck and His Works
American writer John Steinbeck is famous his compassionate treatment of his characters. Aside from his best known novel The Grapes of Wrath, also considered a classic book is Of Mice and Men. He was awarded Pulitzer Prize, 1940, and Nobel Prize for Literature, 1962.
Early Life of John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas, California. He attended Stanford University and studied marine biology, but he never got a degree. He wanted to be a writer and worked his way to New York seeking for literary fortune. Soon after, he returned, unsuccessful.
In 1928, he was 26, Steinbeck moved to San Francisco to be with his girlfriend, who he married two years later. Eventually, he settled in California and was married three times.
Steinbeck’s first novel, Cup of Gold, came out in 1929 when he was 27. It was not a great success, but at least the income from its sales allowed him to write. It was his fourth novel, Tortilla Flat, about Mexican-American farmhands that claimed him success. However, his most famous book is The Grapes of Wrath.
The Grapes of Wrath is a portrait of poor Oklahoma farmers forced off their land and onto the road by drought, a frequent occurrence during the Great Depression of the 1930s. This novel, a strong voice of social protest, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. One of Steinbeck’s best works, Of Mice and Men, is a tragic story that demonstrates simple human values. It explores the close bond between George, a physically strong but mentally impaired farmhand, and his friend and guardian Lennie. It is heart-warming.
He also wrote some history books including The Sea of Cortez and Once There Was a War. Steinbeck died at the age of 66, December 20, 1968.
“Tell you what – I use to get the people jumpin’ and talkin’ in tongues an’ glory shoutin’ till they just fell down an’ passed out… An’ then – you know what I’d do? I’d take one of them girls out in the grass an’ I’d lay with her… Come the nex’ time, them an’ me was full of the spirit, I’d do it again.” ~ Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.
Major Books by John Steinbeck
- Cup of Gold, 1929
- The Pastures of Heaven, 1932
- Tortilla Flat, 1935
- In Dubious Battle, 1936
- Of Mice and Men, 1937
- The Long Valley, 1938
- The Grapes of Wrath, 1939
- The Seas of Cortez, 1941, History
- The Moon is Down, 1942
- The Wayward Bus, 1942
- Cannery Row, 1945
- The Pearl, 1947, Novella
- Burning Bright, 1950
- East of Eden, 1952
- Once There Was a War, 1958, History
- The Winter of Our Discontent, 1961