Of Mice and Men
English 9 Honors

February 3,2003

In the literary work Of Mice and Men, the reader is introduced to the ranch as a microcosm, within which prejudice plays a significant part. A microcosm is a community thought of as a world of it’s own, having no connections to any other type of society. A strong point, enforced by repetition through many examples in the book, is the constant ability of the stronger to overcome the weaker. The definition of weakness, in this sense, is derived from the prejudices of the majority towards the minority, during the Great Depression in the 1930s. In the microcosm of the ranch, the greater number of people, therefore dominant, are the white-males, who retain power over the lesser groups of people. This inequality, as well as the influence of the time period, causes discrimination against people of color, women, and those that are disabled, either mentally or physically.

The crippled, African American stable hand, Crooks, is the victim of racial discrimination in the microcosm of the ranch. He is given his own room off the stables as if a privilege, but in truth the white-male majority of the ranch wants to have as small an amount of contact with Crooks as possible. Crooks understands this, as is shown when he explains it to Lennie in a simple statement, “They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink.” (p. 33) As a result of this separation, Crooks becomes incredibly bitter and lonely. Through his request of having a part in George and Lennie’s dream, it becomes obvious that he searches for a friend, struggling to be recognized as a human being.

Curley’s wife is the typical example of discrimination based on misunderstanding. Because she is never given the chance to express her point of view, the men have a strong opinion on her based only on their interpretations of her actions. In the men’s opinion, she does not belong milling around the ranch, and should stay inside her home, doing the things women do: cooking and cleaning. They see her as a lowly woman, thinking that she’s only out to flirt with them, and give them the ‘eye’. As Candy, the old, one-handed housekeeper mentions to George, “Well, I think Curley’s married…a tart.” (p. 14) What the men do not know is that Curley’s wife is just incredibly lonely, once having dreamt to be a star, and marrying Curley after the failure of that dream. She is all alone in the secluded world of the ranch. Having a husband who pays no attention to her, she tries to find someone to talk to among the men in the ranch, dressing provocatively for that reason only. Unfortunately, the combination of misunderstanding and their knowledge of only one type of women – the kind they encounter at ‘cat-houses’ – drives the men away from Curley’s wife.

The final type of discrimination shown in the book Of Mice and Men is discrimination against the phsycially and mentally disabled, in this case, Candy, Lennie, and once again Crooks. Because of disabilities, they are the weakness on which the stronger majority of white males prey upon. Candy, the one handed housekeeper, is only allowed to live at the ranch as a compensation, because the loss of his hand occurred there. He gives the white males power over him by being overly careful in what he does and says, because if he gets thrown out from the ranch, no one would take him. And just for that reason, he is drawn into George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm. He wants the security of knowing that he has somewhere to stay for the rest of his life, and that he will not be discarded for his uselessness, as his dog was. For Crooks, the fact that his spine is crooked, only helps to add another reason for the others to try and keep away from him. And finally, Lennie, who is mentally disabled, is on the receiving end of much hatred based on prejudicial judgement. Having the mentality of a child, yet the strength of several men, he is constantly ridiculed by others, such as Curly. His dreams are simple, wanting