, Research Paper
Friday October 8, 1999
Identities in Of Mice and Men
Every author has a variety of different characters in his or her novels. Every character displays a certain identity that makes the story more complete. Each one of John Steinbeck’s characters in Of Mice and Men develops a different identity. By analyzing some of the characters’ identities, one can understand the story a lot better. In Of Mice and Men Crooks displays the identity of a handicapped, Lennie displays the identity of a child, and Slim displays the identity of a leader.
In Of Mice and Men, Crooks develops the identity of a handicapped. He has two main reasons to be considered handicapped. First of all, he is black. Back then, black people did not have the same rights as white people did. Many whites treated black people like animals. Crooks has also suffered an accident and he has a crooked back. In that time, people with physical impediments were often made fun of. He is not allowed to sleep in the bunkhouse with all the other men. He has to sleep by himself in a room at the stable. This is exemplified in the following:
“Well, I got a right to have a light. You go on get outta my room. I ain’t wanted in the bunk house, and you ain’t wanted in my room”
“Why ain’t you wanted?” Lennie asked.
“‘Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me (Steinbeck 68).”
Another example of discrimination towards Crooks is exemplified in the following lines:
She turned to him in scorn. “Listen, Nigger,” she said. “You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?”
Crooks stared hopelessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk and drew into himself.
She closed on him. “You know what I could do?”
Crooks seemed to grow smaller and he pressed himself against the wall. “Yes ma’am.”
“Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny (Steinbeck 80-81).”
Reading the above, it becomes very clear that Crooks is discriminated and handicapped mostly because of his skin color. The way Curley’s wife talks to him is very depreciative, and she is not the only one who talks to him in that way. Therefore, Crooks develops the identity of a discriminated, handicapped man.
In this novel, Lennie displays the identity of a small child. He is not independent, and he cannot take care of himself. He is always thinking about petting mice, puppies, or rabbits. This is something many small children do. In many situations he displays some very childish, immature attitudes. The following lines exemplify these immature attitudes very clearly:
Lennie held his closed hand away from George’s direction. “It’s on’y a mouse, George.”
“A mouse? A live mouse?”
“Uh-uh. Jus’ a dead mouse George. I didn’t kill it. Honest! I found it. I found it dead.”
“Give it here!” said George
“Aw, leave me have it, George.”
“Give it here!”
Lennie’s closed hand slowly obeyed. George took the mouse and threw it across the pool to the other side, among the brush. “What you want of a dead mouse anyways?”
“I could pet it with my thumb while we walked along,” said Lennie.
“Well you ain’t petting no mice while you walk with me. You remember where we’re goin’ now (Steinbeck 5-6)?”
Lennie’s behavior in this situation is clearly immature. He does not want a dead mouse to be taken from him because he wants to pet it. Any adult knows that dead
animals are unclean, and should not be kept. Henceforth, in the novel, Lennie displays the identity of an immature child inside a grown-up’s body.
In Of Mice and Men, Slim displays the identity of a leader for all the workers. He is very admired and respected by all of the workers. He is even feared by Curley, the Boss’s son. Steinbeck makes a very positive description of him. The following exert is part of Slim’s description:
A tall man stood in the doorway. He held a crushed Stetson hat under his arm while he combed his long, black, damp hair straight back. Like the others he wore blue jeans and a short denim jacket. When he had finished combing his hair he moved into the room, and he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen. He was a jerkline skinner, the prince of the ranch, capable of driving ten, sixteen, even twenty mules with a single line to the leaders. He was capable of killing a fly on the wheeler’s butt with a bull whip without touching the mule. There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke. His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love (Steinbeck 33).
Slim is the character that has the longest, most positive description. Slim seems to be described as a god-like being. All the guys take advice from him in any subject. A clear example of this is when Candy is trying to decide whether to kill his dog or not. Candy decides to kill it, after listening to Slim’s opinion. Consequently, Slim displays the identity of a leader for all the other workers and the identity of a heroic figure.
Crook’s, Lennie’s, and Slim’s identities are all very important to the plot of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Crook’s identity is that of a discriminated handicapped, Lennie’s identity is that of an immature child, and Slim’s identity is that of a leader and a heroic figure. These three identities give variety to the story and make it more interesting. Like Steinbeck, all authors give more diversity to their stories through their characters’ identities.