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Of Mice and Men - Treatment of the Inferior

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Treatment of the Inferior

In the novel, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, a social hierarchy controls the ranch. The boss is the most powerful and recognized while Curley is second, followed by lim, the white ranch workers, Candy, Curley's wife, and lastly, Crooks. Society views and treats the three bottom tiers of the social ladder, the elderly and crippled, women, and African Americans, each in a distinct and disrespectful way because of their physical ability, gender, and race, which also leads to depriving them of their dreams.

Candy works at the ranch as a swamper, but because he is old and crippled, the rest of the ranch workers see him as useless. Candy's injury causing the loss of his hard makes his worth as a ranch worker lessen, and he says so himself, claiming that, "I ain't much good with on'y one hand. I lost my hand right here right here on this ranch. That's why they give me a job swampin'" (65). Because everybody sees him as useless, his only dream is to be useful as a person. This is why he wants to be a part of George and Lennie's dream of having their own ranch, to "hoe in the garden even after I ain't no good at it. An' I'll wash dishes an' little chicken stuff like that. But I'll be on our own place, an' I'll be let to work on our own place," (66). For Candy, being nothing of worth is him is his biggest fear, but it is inevitable, as the moment he becomes too old to work, the boss will fire him. Candy tells George that, "When they can me here I wisht somebody'd shoot me. But they won't do nothing like that. I won't have no place to go, an' I can't get no more jobs," (66). However, it is not just Candy who sees himself as useless; the other ranch workers also think so, although they don't outwardly tell him that. During the scene when many of the ranch workers, including Carlson, Curley, George, and Slim, are on the search for Lennie, Candy is the only one to not participate in the search. Everybody deems him incapable of doing so because of his status of a cripple and an old man. Curley's wife makes her opinion about Candy known when she appears at Crook's cabin. "And her eyes [travels] from one face to another. "They [leave] all the weak ones here,' she [says] finally," (84). In this quote, Curley's wife is assuming Candy's being as a weak and useless person. Curley's wife, like Candy, has her dreams crushed by the way society treats her.

The ranch workers treat Curley's wife, the only example of a woman in the ranch society, as an object, not as a person. Throughout the book, the author refers to her as "Curley's wife", never as an actual name. This strips away her individuality and importance in the view of the ranch workers. In the Great Depression in which this novel takes place, people see women as weak and a lower class of society. Candy describes Curley's wife as a tramp. "I seen her give Slim the eye. Curley never seen it. An' I seen her give Carlson the eye," (31). The ranch worker's frequent visits to cathouses further prove that they see women as an object to be used. Even Curley, her own husband, treats her like an object. During the ending scene when Curley sees his wife dead, he doesn't mourn her, he only seeks revenge. "Slim [stands] looking down at Curley's wife. Slim says, "Curley-maybe you better stay here with your wife." Curley's face [reddens]. "I'm goin," he [says]. I'm gonna shoot the guts outa that big bastard myself, even if I only got one hand. I'm gonna get 'im," (107). The typical response to spouse's death is sorrow. However, Curley sees his dead wife as a possession that Lennie breaks, and his only response is anger at Lennie.



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