The Victims in Of Mice and Men

The Victims in Of Mice and Men

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MOST, IF NOT ALL, OF THE CHARACTERS IN OF MICE AND MEN CAN BE SEEN AS
VICTIMS IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER DISCUSS.

It was a time of great hardship, a time of extreme poverty during
which people struggled to survive. They struggled to put food on the
table let alone get some enjoyment from life. They were trapped in a
time where little hope existed. Migrant workers had to travel great
distances to find work, often there was too little work for too many
people. People became victims of these hard times known as The Great
Depression.

The Great Depression caused a major economic slump in North America.
People lost their jobs, many farming and businesses were made
bankrupt. By 1933 millions of Americans were out of work. Bread
lines were a common sight in most cities. Hundreds of thousands
roamed the country in search of food, work and shelter. Many ended up
competing for seasonal work picking crops at very low wages and in
extremely poor living conditions. It is against this background that
‘Of Mice and Men’ is set, the characters being victims of a desperate
social and economic situation created out of a time of great
disruption to their lives.

The characters of ‘Of Mice and Men’ are all victims in ways that are
different but sometimes there are similarities. John Steinbeck, the
author, portrays the way each individual character is a victim.

George is a victim in various ways; he is a victim of a social
situation. He is trapped with looking after Lennie, who is, according
to Curley’s wife, ‘jus’ like a big baby’. George made a promise to
Lennie’s Aunt Clara to stick with him and look after him. Lennie is a
liability in that he makes various mistakes which result in both of
them losing jobs and having to leave the area. However, having Lennie
for a companion has a benefit for George as they are company for each
other. In those times many people were victims of isolation and
loneliness. As George and Lennie have each other they avoid this
situation as they are there for each other.

George is also seen as a victim of financial hardship as good,
well-paying jobs were hard to come by. It was a struggle for him to
get the bare necessities such as food as he lacked the money to make
purchases. George tells Candy: “We got ten bucks between us.” Living
like that can be very frustrating, especially when you have a grown
man beside you who is forever asking for things you cannot have such
as tomato sauce. Lennie says ‘I like ‘em with ketchup’.

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This
situation serves to remind George of his needy state and the
continuing struggle to survive. Being frustrated like this causes him
to lash out at weaker people and bully them. In this case Lennie is
the victim of a bullying approach. George at one time explodes ‘Well
we ain’t got any, whatever we ain’t got that’s what you want’. ‘God
almighty if I was alone I could live so easily’. By saying this
George is looking for some sympathy but he is also trying to make
Lennie feel bad about the way he acts towards him.

Lennie is seen as a victim in many ways, the main one being his
learning disability. This means that he is incapable of surviving on
his own as he would not be able to look after himself. George says to
Lennie: “Jesus Christ, you’d be shot for a coyote if you was on your
own.” He is lucky to have George because without him he would not
function. When he is with George he does whatever George asks him to
do. At these times he showing how vulnerable he is as some of the
tasks he performs would not be carried out by a person of sound mental
functioning. George used to play jokes on him ‘cause he is too dumb
to take care of ‘imself’. Having a learning disability made it easy
for George to trick him into performing things that are demeaning.
Lennie is a victim of bullying because he lacks the necessary mental
ability to understand what is going on. If Lennie was the same as
George then he might have been the bully due to his size and
strength.

When George was around Lennie he felt that he had power although he
had responsibility as well. John Steinbeck gives all of his
characters a taste of power which is eventually taken away from them.
George made a conscious decision to not abuse his power over Lennie,
especially since the incident which almost caused Lennie to drown.
George told Lennie to jump into a river and knowing how loyal Lennie
is, he jumped in, even though he couldn’t swim. This made George look
like a hero to Lennie because he ‘rescued’ him by pulling him out.
George loses this power when he kills Lennie. Lennie has his taste of
power on different occasions, one being when he grabs Curley’s fist
and squeezes it until his hand broke. Lennie was in control of Curley
and was capable of overpowering people due to his size and strength.
Crooks said about George ‘S’pose he took a powder and just ain’t
coming back’. ‘What‘ll you do then?’ Lennie did not like this and
moved towards Crooks in a threatening manner.

Lennie is a victim of his personal limitations; he is unable to think
for himself and simply does whatever George tells him to do. People
would automatically assume that he is useless due to his learning
difficulties; however, his size proves that he is indeed useful at
physical tasks that require strength such as bucking barley. In those
times Lennie would have been dismissed as a liability as it was the
‘survival of the fittest’.

Candy is an old man. He is seen as useless because not only due to
his age but due to the fact that he possessed only one hand. He is
made a victim of his physical disability as he states that he knows
for sure that he will be fired from his job soon. He says that
‘They’ll can me purty soon’. As a victim of his physical disability
he looks for sympathy from the people around him. He says ‘When they
can me here I wish somebody would shoot me’. He said this after his
dog was killed as he had outlived his usefulness. He feels that the
time is coming when he will also have outlived his usefulness so he
would like to be dealt with the same way as his dog. Although he did
not want the dog killed he allowed himself to be pressurised by others
into doing it for him, by this he is seen as a victim of bullying. He
was pressurised by the continuing requests from other people to have
it put down as they complained that it smelt and was useless.

Candy is also a victim of his personal limitations. Having only one
hand allows him to do only a certain amount of work, which can be seen
as unacceptable for the pay he receives. This makes the possibility
of him being fired greater, because it would be easy for the boss to
find new workers who would do a lot more than Candy and for less pay.
Candy is lucky because he has over $250 saved. Candy can also be
seen as a victim of loss because he lost his dog, who was a close
companion ever since he was a pup. It is not easy to have someone or
something that you have lived with for years just taken away from you
in a short amount of time. The only reason he lost his dog was
because of everyone around him, who did not feel the same way that
Candy did towards it. Everyone else wanted it dead. Having his dog
dead made Candy a victim of isolation and loneliness. He is on his
own now, only because he was forced to give up his pet.

Candy will suffer severely as he faces a bleak future “on the county”
– a meagre system of state welfare. This system guarantees the victim
to end up in poverty, automatically losing his or her dignity. Once
trapped within this system it is extremely difficult to break away as
it saps a persons’ mental and physical strength.

Curley was a bully. Ironically he was a victim of his own bullying
because he tried bullying Lennie, which proved to be a big mistake.
After punching Lennie several times George told Lennie to ‘Get ‘im’.
Lennie responded by grabbing Curley’s fist and squeezing it until he
was told several times by George to stop. For his bullying Curley got
a taste of his own medicine, a broken hand. Curley used his hand to
punch and to boast about his sexual prowess with his wife: both feeble
attempts at overcoming his sense of inferiority. It is deliberately
ironic that his hand was broken. It was almost a reflection of his
inadequacy. Curley, not being able to fulfil his dream of becoming a
professional boxer, was a victim of thwarted ambition.

Curley’s wife is a victim of circumstances; she is in an unhappy
marriage. Even though she has been married for only two weeks, she is
already unhappy being with Curley. Curley keeps her like a caged
animal because he does not allow her talk to anyone besides himself.
She is being made a victim of deprivation in that she is not allowed
to mix with others and develop the normal social skills associated
with growing up. She did not know what Curley was like because she
married him to spite her mother. She also claimed that she was a
victim of deception, as she reckoned that her mother took all of her
letters because she never received a letter she was expecting from an
agent in Hollywood. Curley’s wife is a victim of Curley’s own
promiscuity. Curley regularly visits brothels, so it can affect his
wife as he is at risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease,
which his wife can easily catch. For Curley’s wife there would be the
added shame of knowing that her husband prefers the company of
prostitutes. She does not realise that she is a victim of an
adulterous husband. She is also a victim in that due to Curley’s
philandering. There is less money in the household.

Being a woman she is a victim of her sexuality. There were limited
prospects for women such as acting or prostitution. Sexism was very
common in those days as women were condemned to a subservient role.
She was referred to as ‘Curley’s’, in that she is considered his
property, in other words, she is not an individual in her own right.
She tries to get over this by going out ‘pretending’ to look for
Curley but while asking the other workers she tends to flirt with
them, using her looks to attract them. Curley’s wife had no other
company besides Curley, who spent most of his day out and about. She
didn’t have any real friends so she became a victim of isolation and
loneliness. Similar to Curley, his wife is a victim of thwarted
ambition as she never took the opportunity of becoming an actress
because of her mother’s interference.

The stable buck Crooks was victimised a lot because of his skin
colour. His accommodation was separate from the white workers because
it was felt that he was not wanted, being a victim of his colour.
This was normal in those days since this novel was set before Martin
Luther King campaigned for civil liberties for blacks. Having his own
room can be a good thing but after a while it gets tedious as he
becomes socially isolated. “Come on in a set a while.” This shows
that he wants someone to talk to as he is very bored on his own.
Unlike the others he can’t play card games or converse in company
because he is victimised due to his skin colour. Being a victim of
isolation is not nice. When Lennie comes to his room he allows him in
even though he knows he is not allowed there as he says ‘Long as you
won’t get out and leave me alone, you might as well set down’. He
realises he is an outsider which serves to emphasise his isolation and
loneliness. He sees no change in this. Crooks gets a taste of power
while Lennie is with him because Lennie is very slow and does not do
anything to hurt anyone unless provoked, in which he is when Crooks
asks him what he would do if George never came back to him. Lennie
reacts badly to this because he has a learning disability. The
thought of George abandoning him frightens him and he becomes agitated
and unsettled by this which he proves by taking a challenging stance
with Crooks. ‘He stood up and walked dangerously towards Crooks.’
Crooks realises his taste of power is false and he tries to calm him
down by talking gently to Lennie, reassuring him that George will come
back.

Crooks, just like Candy, is a victim of his disability. Because of it
he needs to apply liniment which can help ease the pain he suffers
every day. Having a bent back makes it difficult for him to do a full
days work and leaves him open to being ridiculed by other workers.

The above incidents show that the use of the genre, tragedy, surfaces
throughout the book. Many characters are victims of personal
tragedies. Some they have brought upon themselves, others that have
been put upon them. The hard economic times made it difficult for
them to break out of their situations. John Steinbeck starts each
chapter by setting the scene; each one being described how beautiful
the background is. It is ironic that how beautiful each scene is, it
jars against the characters’ fate.

In chapter 6, the description of how the water snake smoothly glides
up a pool, ‘twisting its periscope head from side to side; and it swam
the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that
stood in the shallows. A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked
it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its
tail waved frantically.’ Steinbeck’s description of nature’s beauty
is suddenly shattered by the swift brutality of the heron. This
highlights the fact that harshness is even evident in nature.

The language used in this novel is in parts very harsh. The different
characters use very offensive words such as ‘nigger’. Some use it as
a normal and ordinary word, but others tend to use it in an offensive
and derogatory manner. Curley’s wife makes a personal attack on
Crooks, Lennie and Candy, offensively saying: ‘An what am I doin’?
Standin’ here talking to a bunch of bindle stiffs – a nigger an’ a
dum-dum and a lousy ol’ sheep.’

The harsh language used reveals the attitudes of the different
characters of ‘Of Mice and Men’. It shows how the people who lived in
the times of great hardship were frustrated, and how they took all
their anger out on those who are easy targets such as ‘niggers’ and
‘dum-dums’. The language used is indicative of the times, a harsh
language in harsh times.

In conclusion there is overwhelming evidence that most of the
characters of ‘Of Mice and Men’ are victims in a variety of ways,
whether they are victims of bullying, isolation, disabilities or
social situations. The poverty caused by the Great Depression
contributed to the people being victims as it put great restrictions
on their hopes of a better life. The lack of hope for a better life
led to many characters accepting their lot as victims.
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