Loneliness as a Key Theme in ‘of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck

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I believe that the novel does have a large focus on the theme of loneliness as this feature plays a key rôle in the lives of every character and is a key attribute to the time in which they live. The loyalty and friendship of George and Lennie stands out in this harsh environment and I feel that it is that friendship in contrast with the rest of society in the novel that makes the book so fantastic.

Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902. During summers he would work as an itinerant worker on ranches which helped strongly influence his writing and it is often thought it was his experiences on these ranches in the ‘Dustbowl’ which inspired him to write the novel. It also allows him to write with a complete sense of realism which allows the readers to really relate to the characters and slip right in to the novel. The novel was set in 1929 which is very important as the Wall Street crash had occurred that year and the economy had collapsed. This meant that unemployment was at an extreme level and many people had to move around for work, never staying long enough in one place to form strong relationships with others.

The very first sentence in the book reads “a few miles south of Soledad”, which instils loneliness as a key theme right from the very start as Soledad literally translates from Spanish to mean ‘loneliness’. This also helps to show how Steinbeck likes to drop in extra subtle techniques to tell the reader things he wishes them to know but not realise, which links to omens and foreshadowing which also plays a key part in the novel. We see another good example of how everyone seems to just accept workers to be solitude when when Lennie and George arrive on the ranch and the boss seems to be very surprised when he discovers that Lennie and George travel together – “Well, I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy.” George actually states outright that “ranch workers are the loneliest people on the planet and don’t belong nowhere”. This...
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