This novel is set on the Californian Grain Farms in the 1930's. The town is called Soledad and is four miles south of San Jose. The inspiration for the book probably came from a poem by Robert Burns. The poem was about the plans of mice and men going wrong. The book generally is about all of the migrant workers, all with their own dreams. The main characters George and Lennie go from farm to farm, trying to work up a stake and save enough to buy their own farm. The other characters in the book are also all lonely in their own way. Crooks is black and the blacks are seen as outcasts. Curley's wife is a woman and therefore insignificant, perhaps this is why she has not been given a name. Candy has become old, and without his hand is next to useless.
George is a typical migrant worker.
He's not particularly strong, but he's smart and good at his job. The difference between him and the rest of the workers is that he has someone to call a friend. Lennie is the opposite of George in every physical way. He's much taller and better built, and consequently an amazing worker. Unfortunately for him and George he is not very intelligent. George enjoys going to brothels, getting drunk and generally wasting his money. Lennie adores animals and he likes to pet them. He forgets how strong he is and usually kills them. They both share the dream of one day owning their own farm. George wants freedom to work how he wants, and Lennie wants to tend the rabbits.
There is a very strong bond between the two. Lennie looks up to George and has a great amount of respect and admiration. Lennie could not survive without him. George feels sorry for Lennie but finds him almost impossible to deal with, because he always gets them into trouble. Although George would not admit it, he also needs Lennie. Lennie is the on who attracts the bosses, because of his capability. George is just an average worker, and only gets jobs because he controls Lennie. They both grew up in auburn. George knew Lennie's aunt who was taking care of Lennie, and when she died, George took over.
Candy is an old man who has been at the ranch for some time. He can remember people who have come and gone previously. He doesn't do much on the ranch, but he can do small odd jobs about the place. He has lost his hand in an accident, which makes him even less useful. The others do not hate him, he just gets left out because he is old. He has a companion, his dog, whose life parallels his. The dog was once a sheepdog, but has aged and now is only kept around because he is liked. The others all agree that the best thing for the dog is to shoot it. Candy fears the same, but when he hears of George and Lennie's plan to have their own farm, he offers the a considerable amount of money if they will let him come with, so he will have a purpose once again.
Crooks is the stable buck. He is different from the rest because he is black, in a time where racial prejudice is strong. He has also been crippled, and so his life is very bad. He lives separately to the others in his own room, the harness room. He has books on his shelves, which shows that he is more intellectual than the others. He has fond memories of his past, when he and his white friends would play on their chicken ranch, and were oblivious as to why their parents didn't like it. Now he knows why, and he hates the fact that he can't come into the bunkhouse to play cards, but has to spend all his free time by himself. The white people exclude him, so instead of pleading with them he decides he is going to exclude them as well.
Curley's wife is the wife of the boss son, Curley. She is lonely and different because she is a woman. Perhaps to signify the fact that she is insignificant, though not to this novel, she is called Curley's wife, and not given a name. She is heavily made up with contrasting colours on her face. She has blond hair with a flick at the end. She wears a cotton housedress. All of the workers on the farm spread rumours about her, and all conversations about her are negative. They are frightened to talk to her because she can make up things about those that she dislikes, and tell Curley. Curley can tell the boss, and subsequently they will get the 'can'. She was promised fine things in show business by an old lover, who promised to write. She never got letters, and blamed it on her family, and left home. On the rebound she met Curley and married him because he was there. She doesn't like him, and says that 'he ain't nice'. She feels that all she is good for on the ranch is staying in Curley's house. In order to liven things up for her, she is always looking for Curley, so she has an excuse to go in the barn and talk to the men. She isn't really a tart, she just does things to get attention, which she doesn't get from Curley.
Curley's wife's loneliness causes her to talk to Lennie, because only he will let her talk eventually. They have got a lot in common, not physically, but they are both lonely and excluded from the others. She does not know Lennie and that inevitably causes her death. Lennie accidentally hurts her by tugging her hair, and she screams. Since Lennie doesn't want to get into trouble with George, and doesn't know better he takes it into his own hands to stop her, and it even takes him a while to realise she is dead. Candy realises that their dream is never going to come true, and the truth comes back to George. He realises that he only believed it because he kept saying it to Lennie. George and Candy both know that this incident will mean that they will not see neither each other for much longer, nor Lennie.
All of the characters in the novel are lonely, and the only thing that separates them is that some know it and some don't. Crooks is the main Person who knows it, and because of that he has moved himself further away. George and Lennie were different because they had each other to call a 'friend', or just companionship. Curley knows he is different and goes around trying to disprove that, like the incidents with Lennie. My opinion on this book is that it tells a story of what can happen when you try to break a link. All of the typical workers live, work and die. This book is a story about a similar group who are more than just machines, and start making plans, the optimism only makes their current situation seem more desperate and depressing.