“I don’t remember” is a common phrase said by the character Lennie Smalls, in John Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men. Lennie is one of many characters who express some sort of incapability. The reader is introduced to more of these characters after Lennie, and his best friend George, reach the ranch, where they work for the rest of the novel. Steinbeck portrays a theme of Prejudice and segregation through the characters: Lennie, Crooks, Curley’s wife, and Candy. As the plot thickens, the reader can depict a sense of separation from society. Disabilities are considered a weakness, not only in modern day, but also in the past. Lennie suffers from a mental disability which affects his speech, memory, and the way he acts. He can’t control his motions as easily as an “average” person, for example, George or Slim, is able to. Steinbeck frequently uses the forgetful side of Lennie so the reader can understand what it is like to be in his shoes, “‘Where we goin’, George?’ The little man jerked down the brim of his hat and scowled over at Lennie. ‘So you forgot that awready, did you? I gotta tell you again, do I? Jesus Christ, you’re a crazy bastard!’, ‘I forgot,’ Lennie said softly” (4). As seen in this quote, George is constantly repeating everything he says to Lennie. Although Lennie listens and doesn’t do it on purpose, he always manages to forget. Without George, Lennie would be lost, and he might not even be alive. He needs someone to constantly remind him what is happening, and to guide him to make the right decisions. Just like Lennie’s disability, Crooks has his own sort of weakness; being African-American and crippled doesn’t serve him well. The book takes place around the late 1930’s, about the same time as the great depression. Back then, African-Americans weren’t respected or treated as well as a white man was. This is shown mainly in the scene where Crooks and Lennie have a heated argument, “‘…You go on get outta my room. I ain’t wanted in the bunkhouse, and you ain’t wanted in my room.’ ‘Why ain’t you wanted?’ Lennie asked. ‘Cause I’m black…'” (75). Crooks is being mistreated due to the fact that his skin color is different. Although Lennie is confused and not understanding how he is different, the other were not mistaken. Not only is Crooks “black”, but he also has a bad back. Because of these two factors, he is forced to live in the barn, alone, with the animals instead of in the bunkhouse with the rest of the crew. Racial segregation is seen throughout the rest of the scene.Candy is the oldest man living on the ranch. Near the beginning, Candy’s dog was shot because the other men thought that he was too old to work and he smelt bad. Steinbeck was showing that the older one gets, the less important they become. Candy was seen as one of the weaker men throughout the whole novel. Not only is he losing his usefulness, but he also lost a hand. His is physically disabled. All he has left to offer are his words of wisdom and his friendship. Another way Steinbeck demonstrates prejudice and segregation is through the character referred to as Curley’s wife. Her name must not be important, as it is not mentioned once in the whole book. Being the only women to make a physical appearance in the book, she definitely struggles. She doesn’t feel as though she belongs in the ranch with all the men. Women were not treated with the same importance or value as men. She was always trapped in her house under the command of her husband. She was never supposed to be seen with any other guy. “They left all the weak ones here,” she said finally” (84). Curley’s wife points out that Crooks, Lennie, and Candy are demonstrated as weak. They all have something working against them in some way. Men are not as important as women. White men are more superior than African-Americans. Disabilities are always dragging you down. The older you get, the less useful you are. Weakness is a common occurrence in Of Mice and Men. Prejudice and segregation were clear themes throughout the novel. These four characters are only a few ways Steinbeck implies these themes.

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