In the novella Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck explores discrimination in the 1930s through a range of characters. Discrimination occurs when an individual is treated less fairly than others due to something out of their control. The issues of discrimination against women, African Americans and the mentally disabled are demonstrated by the characters Crooks, Curley’s wife and Lennie. These characters are forced to experience a different lifestyle from the average American at the time.
One of the characters that experience discrimination in Of Mice and Men is Curley’s wife.
Curley’s wife is probably one of the most misunderstood characters in the novel, often being looked down upon, or talked badly about. She is the only woman on the ranch. Curley’s wife is unable to be the person she is for the reason that Curley owns her and she is his possession, Curley’s wife is recognized as Curley’s wife and his not able to have her own individuality.
This is an example of the way women were commonly treated, especially on a ranch during the 1930s. Curley’s wife endues loneliness due to unable to socialise with anyone on the ranch other than Curley, because he doesn’t trust her with any of the ranch workers and often watches her every single move making sure she doesn’t talk to anyone – “I can’t talk to nobody but Curley…” Curley’s wife also suffers from loneliness because she is identified as “being trouble” in a flirtatious manner which prevents her from socialising and making friends with the ranch workers. George specifically recommends Lennie to not even “…look at that bitch… I never seen no piece of jailbait worse than her” (p.36) knowing Lennie’s reputation for trouble. The loneliness she experiences forces her to put down those characters who are socially lower than her on the ranch. As an African American, Crooks has the lowest station on the ranch and so Curley’s wife intimidates him through racism – “Listen, Nigger…” (p.80) – in order to make herself feel superior. Curley’s wife is not only discriminated against herself, but also isolates other characters such as Crooks.
Not only is Curley’s wife a victim of discrimination but Crooks is also. Crooks is discriminated because of his skin colour. – “They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black.”(pg. 68) This quote demonstrates how the boys on the ranch won’t allow Crooks to play cards because he’s
black. They also discriminate against him by having him live in a different room across from the “bunkhouse”. Due to Crooks not accepted in the “bunkhouse” he makes Lennie not wanted in his room. – “I ain’t wanted in the bunk house, and you ain’t wanted in my room.” (pg.68) this quote also represents that Crooks ain’t welcomed into the “bunkhouse” because his black. Just because Crooks is black everyone has a higher authority over him Curley’s wife clearly shows this when – “…I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” (p.g80) Crooks also is not wanted on the ranch by the other ranch works, -“You ain’t wanted here…” (p.g78) all these complications that Crooks has deal with is just over his skin colour something he cannot have control over. These occurrences clearly prove that Crooks has been discriminated against.
Lennie is also symbolic of people who are mistreated and discriminated against because of their mental handicaps. George often thinks of Lennie more as a burden then as a friends and thinks if George was by himself he could have it easy and not have to worry about his friend. – “…If I was alone I could live so easy” (pg.12)
Candy is a victim of ageism. This means his if discriminated against his age. The men at the ranch don’t like the dog anymore because it’s useless, and they want Candy to shoot it. This makes Candy think about what will happen if he became useless, will they shoot him too? It makes one wonder, who cares if he’s old. – “ The men always think he’s unable to do things because he is old, even though he can do it. “I lost my hand right here on this ranch. That’s why they give me a job swampin’.” Throughout the book Candy keeps to himself, away from others, because he’s rejected by them, just like Crooks.
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