Prejudices in Of Mice and Men
In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, the audience hears the tale of two migrant workers and the experience that changed their life in the 1930’s. Steinbeck’s novel is full of prejudice, which does not discriminate against color or sex. Prejudice can be seen through three main characters, Lennie, Curley’s Wife, and Crooks. Whether it is based on skin color, sex, or disabilities, prejudices take these characters into a world of isolation, a world of isolation in which there is no way out.
The first character who clearly has a prejudice against him is Lennie. Within the first few pages, the audience can tell something is not right in Lennie’s head. Just by observing the way he talks and acts, it is clear he has some kind of disability. Lennie is quick to copy George, as George serves as Lennie’s father, keeper, teacher, babysitter, handler, friend, and boss all at once. George knows this and gets frustrated with Lennie’s antics, although they never cease. “He’s jes’ like a kid, ain’t he” (Steinbeck 43). Just like a kid, Lennie never really knows how to act in public and it is clear that he cannot understand the severity of his actions, nor can he understand the difference between normal life and tense situations. Ultimately, this leads to Lennie’s death and ultimately leads to George getting away with his murder. Lennie was so prejudiced that nobody could trust him, and nobody would not believe what George said about him.
The second character who prejudice is noticeably visible in is Curley’s Wife. Curley, who is the son of the boss, has a big head with an even bigger attitude. During the 1930’s women were prejudiced against on a daily basis. Not being allowed to wear short swim suits, not being allowed to go into male professions, and even being stigmatized for smoking in public even Steinbeck shows how prejudiced they are, as the only name she is given makes her seem like the property of a male. Curley’s Wife is the only female on the ranch and is well aware of this, as she often tries to spend time with all the male ranch hands. None of the hands will talk to her, even telling her she does not belong in the bunkhouse. Curley is well aware that his wife is very promiscuous and attempts to isolate her in the house. With the ranch hands and her very own husband being prejudiced against her, she becomes very unhappy with her life, her only freedom coming at the time of her death.
The character who prejudice is seen the most in is Crooks. Crooks is obviously discriminated against because he is an African-American. Crooks is forced to sleep in a different building than all of the white farmhands and generally viewed as lower than all of them. Even Curley’s Wife discriminates against Crooks, forcing herself in his quarters and refusing to leave. Crooks knows that her word is superior to his, so there is nothing he can do. This makes Crooks the lowest man on the totem pole, being discriminated a woman who is in turn being discriminated against. On top of the prejudice based on his skin color, he is prejudiced against or having a crooked back because he as kicked by a horse. Crooks realizes that once he outlives his usefulness he will be thrown out and seeks sanctuary in George and Lennie’s dream farm.
Prejudice happens all through out Of Mice and Men, but it happens to different characters for different reasons. Steinbeck uses the various prejudices to show that they are part of everyday life, no matter where you are or what you do. Everyone wants to be accepted in some way, but those who are already accepted have trouble accepting more people, for fear of losing their status in the ever competitive world of social hierarchy.