These are characters that appear in John Steinbeck's famous novel Of Mice & Men as well as its many film adaptations.
George MiltonOne of the main characters and Lennie's caretaker
- The Atoner: Part of why he's so protective of Lennie is because, when they were younger, he made fun of Lennie's simplemindedness like everyone else until it caused an accident where Lennie nearly drowned.
- Butt-Monkey: Lennie's cost him every job he's tried to hold down so far and keep him further from reaching his American dream of having his own land and farm with animals on it.
- Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them: As much trouble Lennie unintentionally causes for him, having Lennie around did make him feel special.
- The Caretaker: George serves as this to Lennie; being smarter than him, George comes up with all the plans for getting money, tries to keep him out of trouble, "translates" for him to others, and generally does whatever it takes to keep him alive. Played for Drama in that, ultimately, the best thing George can do for Lennie is shoot him in the head.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: He's always working to keep Lennie out of trouble,
- Grumpy Bear: He's become short-tempered, gloomy and pessimistic as a result of all the trouble Lennie's put him through.
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: One scene exclusively made for the 1992 film adaptation had George being pestered by Curley's wife for attention but he remains unresponsive, only aggravating her.
- Parental Substitute: George treats Lennie like a brother and a son.
Lennie SmallsAn intellectually disabled person who means well, is particularly strong (perhaps too strong) and loves to tend to soft things, especially living ones. His stupidity often puts him and George in hot water.
- Ambiguous Disorder: The exact nature and name of Lennie's disability are unspecified. The important parts are that he's got the mental state of a child, likes to hold soft things, and he has strength beyond a regular man. Due to his child-like state, Lennie is unaware of what he's actually capable of and what damage he can do. Lennie has to rely on a carer to protect him from the outside world, as well as, reign him in when he gets agitated or scared. Some of this trope might be justified, as the setting is in the 30s.
- And Call Him "George"!: He loves to pet things but animals don't last long with him. Earlier in the story, he had a mouse and, quote, "pinched it's head" so it'd stop biting him and we see how that went.
- Beware the Nice Ones: As nice as a guy he can be, he's also very strong so getting him upset wouldn't be anyone's best interest.
- Chronic Pet Killer: Played for Drama. He's this because he 1) doesn't really know or understand better and 2), is very strong. In one conversation with George, we find out his Aunt Clara stopped giving him mice because he kept killing them and, later, in the story, he plays with his new puppy a bit too hard, accidentally killing him.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: He's a deconstruction of this. He means well but he doesn't know how to control his strength and is prone to holding on tight to things when he gets scared.
- Dumb Muscle: While he's not "dumb" in the usual sense, he's a deconstruction of this trope, with almost all the death in the book is caused by Lennie accidentally killing something, due to his strength, and not realizing this until it is too late.
- The Ditz: Due to being mentally disabled.
- Gentle Giant: He's a huge Nice Guy and loves cuddly animals and soft things. The problem is that because of his inability to control his strength, he frequently kills pets when cuddling them.
- Hidden Depths: While he's implied to intellectually disabled, he does have some understanding of some of the trouble he causes.
- Nice Guy: He's a really nice guy and a lot of what he does is because he doesn't know any better, not out of malice.
- Rule of Symbolism: Steinbeck uses animal similes to show how different Lennie is to other human beings and how unique he is compared to the other characters.
- Tempting Fate: Right at the end while Curley is looking to kill him, Lennie and George reunite in the same forest they were in where they promised to meet if things go badly (again). Lennie asks George, "Ain't you gonna give me hell?"
On the farm
CurleyA short-tempered and rather short man who is the ranch owner's son.
- Asshole Victim: Curley gets his hand broken by Lennie after he tries to assert dominance over him and the bunkhouse. Everyone was clearly on Lennie's side since he had no interest or desire in fighting Curley, they were also more astounded by the act than sympathetic to Curley. Slim quickly blackmails Curley to lie about the source of his injury by threatening to tell everyone about how he broke his hand in a fight he started against a simpleton with herculean strength. Curley's wife had no sympathy for him either and revelled in finding out about the fight.
- Big Bad: The main antagonist of the novel.
- Body Motifs: Curley has a hand motif: His glove full of Vaseline, his status as a prized fighter, and how he's emasculated after his hand gets broken by Lennie.
- Boisterous Weakling: As Candy put it best:"S'pose Curley jumps a big guy an' licks him. Ever'body says what a game guy Curley is. And s'pose he does the same thing and gets licked. Then ever'body says the big guy oughtta pick on somebody his own size, and maybe they gang up on the big guy."
- The Bully: To the workers on the farm, who can't really do anything because he's the Boss' son. He especially pounces on Lennie because of Lennie being too nice to fight back.
- Bullying a Dragon: He tried this three times. He tried to pick on Slim and gets intimidated into submission. He does this to Carlson and gets laughed at. Then he turns on Lennie...and, well, we see how that went.
- Conspicuous Gloves: He wears a glove full of Vaseline on one hand, supposedly because he's keeping that hand soft for his wife. This has no plot-relevant reason, but does make the theatrical adaptation easier to stage when his hand gets crushed.
- Crusading Widower: Subverted, his planning to lynch Lennie comes more from still being sore about the latter breaking his hand in fight than avenging his wife.
- Domestic Abuser: Implied, however, while he isn't mentioned to hit or yell at her, he does isolate his Wife.
- It's All About Me: When he finds his dead wife, it's clear that he's using the situation to get revenge on Lennie for crippling him than for killing his wife.
- Jerkass: He's accusatory, belligerent, and arrogant and his personality (and antics) gets on everyone's nerves.
- Morton's Fork: Slim blackmails Curley with this dilemma. Either live with a crushed hand and emasculated ego or they'll tell everyone how he provoked a kind-hearted, mentally disabled, herculean simpleton into a brawl, lost, an then got him and his carer fired, in order to salvage the remains of his dignity and masculinity.
- The Napoleon: He's small in stature, a trained boxer, and willing to fight almost anyone at the drop of a hat.
- Playing the Victim Card: According to Slim, one reason Curly picks fights is to exploit people's sympathy. Because he's a trained boxer he often beats guys bigger than him, but if he picks a fight and loses, there's no glory in it for his opponent, and the guy who beat him often gets ostracized for beating up a small guy like Curley. Ultimately subverted when Curley picks a fight with Lennie. Lennie is a childlike Gentle Giant with no stomach for fighting, and when he crushes Curley's hand it's in self-defense, and only because George told him to. Although Curley comes out of the fight physically disabled, possibly permanently, the sympathy of the workers rests solely with Lennie.
- Prince Charmless: He's the boss's son and regularly uses his position to abuse the ranchers. Either goading them into fights or jealously abusing them for looking at his wife.
- Revenge Before Reason: He tries to beat up Lennie for laughing at him but fails to remember Lennie's reputation for being the strongest man on ranch, despite his childlike intelligence.
- Stay in the Kitchen: He expects his wife to always be inside their house. She doesn't listen, and supposedly spends as much time and distance out of the house or hides somewhere in the ranch that both the reader and Curley doesn't know about.
CandyAn elderly farm worker with one hand
- Department of Redundancy Department: 'Candy's been sharpening his pencil and sharpening and thinking.'
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: A non-lethal or villanous version. He worries about his place on the farm or any farm because he's elderly and only has one hand.
- Shoot the Dog: Literally! Roughly midway through the story, Carlson bullies him into letting him shoot his worn-out old dog, simply because the former thinks the dog is too old and too smelly. He later agrees that it was necessary but believes that he should have been the one pulling the trigger.
SlimOne of the more experienced farm workers. The narration dubs him the "prince of the farm"
- The Ace: He's handsome, fair-minded, hard-working, loyal, reasonable and just all around a nice guy. Even when Lennie accidentally murders Curley's wife, he agrees that Lennie doesn't really deserve to die for it or, at least not die the sort of death Curley will give him.
- Kneel Before Frodo: The narration gives him a theme of royalty, using similes to portray how the ranchers have more respect and admiration for him than Curly, the boss's son.
CarlsonA mean farm worker
- Everyone Has Standards: He selfishly pressured Candy into euthanizing his dog for being too old and smelly. When Curley starts beating up Lennie, Carlson jumps to Lennie's aid and agrees to keep quiet about the actual source of Curley's injury.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Though he didn't go about it in the nicest or sympathetic way, he did have a point that putting down Candy's dog is the most reasonable thing to do, as the dog was elderly and toothless.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's prickly, gruff, and a bit mean but he's not wholly unlikable, as, somehow, he gets along with the other characters. He also sides with Lennie when Curley goads him into a fight since Lennie didn't want to fight and was tearfully guilty about having to defend himself.
- No Sympathy: When he puts down Candy's dog, he's not all that sympathetic. His convincing Candy to let him euthanize the dog is really him bullying the latter into it, nor is he understanding towards Candy's feelings. His final lines in the story is him failing to comprehend George's grief about having to kill his best friend.
Curley's WifeAs the title would suggest, she's Curley's wife.
- Accidental Murder: How she dies. At the climax of the book in chapter 5, Lennie kills her. He didn't mean to, he was just trying to stop her from screaming and getting him into trouble, which is lampshaded when George finds the body and talks to Candy and Slim.
- Adaptational Nice Girl: She is far more sympathetic in the 1992 film. For example, the scene where she threatens to have Crooks lynched is omitted.
- Asshole Victim: She's not a nice person, not that she deserved to die.
- Attention Whore: She's lonely but it's no doubt that a lot of what she does gets her attention. Unfortunately, when she does get attention, it's not the kind she'd like, as seen in the Too Dumb to Live entry below.
- Attractiveness Isolation: With the central theme of loneliness to the story, Curley's Wife's loneliness is a result of her beauty. She admits she married Curley for the wrong reasons and that she only did it to spite her mother for denying her chance at fame. She only wants someone to talk to but everyone else is just so afraid of Curley's reaction that they consider her "jailbait" because they see her as more trouble than she's worth. Her name is also a reflection of this, she was objectified for her beauty and men are too scared of Curley to even talk to her.
- Forgotten Fallen Friend: Curley used her death to get murderous revenge on Lennie for breaking his hand. Their marriage was lifeless and Curley didn't take too long to assume the role as a Crusading Widower.
- Have a Gay Old Time: She's referred to as "jail bait" a number of times, but she is not underage, it is used to mean that the workers are worried that she would accuse them of rape if they crossed her, and end up in prison.
- I Coulda Been a Contender!: She claims this during her Motive Rant to Lennie in chapter 5, claiming she could have gone away and become a star in Hollywood, but instead she's stuck out in the middle of nowhere as the bored and lonely Trophy Wife of a preening, arrogant rooster of a ranch-owner.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Or, at least, someone to talk to. She only wants to talk to the workers but they avoid her because they don't want to have trouble with her fiery-tempered bully of a husband or getting accused of rape if they upset her.
- I Never Got Any Letters: Invoked as part of her Motive Rant in chapter 5; she wrote letters to the man who promised he could get her a role in Hollywood, but she never got any back, and she's convinced that her mother was stealing and hiding them.
- Kick the Dog: In Chapter 4, she calls out Candy for his old age and threatens to lynch Crooks, which kills all the good feeling they were having before.
- Lady in Red: In the scene where she invites Lennie to pet her hair and dies, she's wearing a red dress with matching shoes.
- Named by the Adaptation: In one of the film adaptations, she's called "Mae"
- No Name Given: She's not named, just called "Curley's Wife". According to Steinbeck on why she doesn't have a name, she's, quote, "not a person, but a symbol-a foil and a danger to Lennie."
- Too Dumb to Live: She's seen firsthand that Lennie is a simple-minded but powerful fool who was capable of crushing her husband's hand, and that he has problems controlling his strength because he's dumb — after all, he'd just killed his new puppy by accident when she came in. Yet she's still stupid enough to invite Lennie to start stroking her hair, and then panics when he won't stop. When he grabs her and tells her to stop screaming, she keeps on screaming, and he ends up accidentally breaking her neck in trying to make her stop.
- Trophy Wife: It's rather obvious Curley married her more because of appearances (she's described as lovely) than love.
- The Vamp: However, she's a played with case. On one hand, she does flirt with the men on the farm but it's mostly so she can have someone to talk to and, other than a couple of Kick the Dog moments, she's not evil or anything but, on the other end, the other men on the farm don't want anything to do with her for a reason.
- Your Cheating Heart: Supposedly. Curley suspects the reason she's seldom around and difficult to find is because she's going around having sex with other men. So far, we've only seen her flirt with the other men and, if she did cheat on her husband, we don't hear about it.
CrooksA black farm worker, who keeps to himself
- Animals Hate Him: He has a crooked back because a horse kicked him before, and he never recovered from it.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: He would like to have friends but because of his skin color and being the only (mentioned) black worker on the farm, he's isolated and masks this with grumpiness.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He takes a great deal of joy in picking on Lennie. And then he's put on the receiving end of it by Curley's Wife who threatens to have him lynched. However, he seems like for the most part a normal, well-meaning, reasonable person.
Aunt ClaraLennie's aunt who raised him. Lennie describes her as a "fat little old lady, with thick bull's eye glasses and a huge gingham apron".
- Parental Substitute: We don't know about what happened to Lennie's parents but we do know she's taken care of him since he was a baby until she passed away
- Posthumous Character: She's passed away before the story starts and the only time she makes an appearance is when Lennie sees a vision of her scolding him in his voice.