Consider the theme of loneliness in the novel, Of Mice and Men. How does it affect the friendships and relationships in the novel?
Throughout the Great Depression of the 1930’s, migrant workers were commonplace in the USA. John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, allows us to have an insight on the lives of these people, through the two protagonist characters and good friends, George and Lennie. Out of the two, George is the physically smaller one but more intelligent, whereas Lennie is physically well-built however mentally challenged. George is quick to anger, but very protective of Lennie, who to a large extent depends on George’s guidance. Lennie’s relationship to George can be compared to an animal and its master. He is fiercely loyal to George and afraid of displeasing him. Both of them share the same dream – to save up enough to buy their own farm on their own land.
In terms of emotional stability, there is one missing element suggested in this book, that is friends. Without friends, people would suffer from loneliness and solitude. Loneliness leads to low self-esteem and deprivation. Other characters in the novel, Crooks, Candy, and Curley's wife all exhibit some form of loneliness. They are driven towards the curiosity of George and Lennie's friendship because they do not have that support in their life. Through Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck demonstrates that often times, a victim of isolation will have a never-ending search to fulfill a friendship. In the beginning of the novel, this point already comes up when George says to Lennie: ‘’Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world.’’ But Lennie says: I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you.’’ Even through the vicious power of loneliness and separation, there exists friendship still, albeit a strange one.
As mentioned before, the relationship George and Lennie have appears to be a strange one. In a world without friends, strangers will have to do. Furthermore, all the major characters searches for a friend, and seems to envy the relationship George and Lennie have. A friend to help them measure the world, as Crooks would say. In the end, this companionship seems unattainable, or unmanageable. For George, the hope of companionship and friendship dies with Lennie and he must go through life, alone. But before that happened, the duo seemed to draw comfort from each other. Though George is only a friend, his care for Lennie seems almost paternal; when they arrive at the ranch, Lennie is constantly getting into trouble, and George is constantly getting him out. Evidently, George doesn’t mind helping his friend, but his long pent-up wrath finally boils over, and he shoots Lennie. Lennie obviously looks up to George. A friend, a mentor, and model to follow. Clearly, he tries to obey George as well as he can, but is unable to, due to his child-like mentality.
The book’s themes and symbols are personified by Candy, the handyman. He is aged, left only with one hand, and is worried about his future, that the boss will dismiss him, and ask that he leave the ranch. This fear is not without reason, as we see with Candy’s dog. Once an extremely competent sheep herder, but now toothless, has rheumatism and foul-smelling. Carlson has no regard for the dog, and makes it clear when he suggests that the dog should be shot. In such a world, Candy’s dog serves as a harsh reminder of the fate that awaits anyone who outlives his usefulness.
However, Candy is distracted from this reality through George and Lennie, with their dream ranch. Like George, Candy clings to the idea of having the freedom to take up or set aside work as he chooses. So strong is his devotion to this idea that, even after he discovers that Lennie has killed Curley’s wife, he pleads for himself and George to go ahead and buy the farm as planned.
Steinbeck generally depicts women as troublemakers who bring ruin on men and drive them mad. Curley’s wife,...
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