Mice and Men - Loneliness

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How does Steinbeck present the theme of loneliness in ‘Of Mice and Men’?  
‘Of Mice and Men’ is written by John Steinbeck, published in 1937. The novel is set in the 1930s during the great depression in California. The two protagonist characters, George and Lennie are farm workers who have a dream of one-day owning their own ranch. They find work in a ranch near Soledad, after escaping from Weed because of George’s incident. They are met by different characters on the farm that all have a dream. To be lonely means to lack friends or companionship and to feel isolated. Most of the characters are lonely and the only thing that keeps them alive is their dreams. Some of the loneliest characters they meet are Candy, an old man with only one hand, Crooks, a black cripple and Curley’s Wife, a woman who has no identity; she is lonely even though she is married. Although they are all on the ranch together, they are lonely because of who they are and their history. ‘Of Mice and Men’ is an emotional story with many different themes and characters. This essay will describe the way loneliness is portrayed in ‘Of Mice and Men.’ George Milton and Lennie Small are friends who travel together. They both share the same dream, which is to one day own their own ranch. George is quick-witted and intelligent. He takes the parental role of looking after Lennie, a simple-minded man who in the book is described as a giant. Lennie is kind hearted with huge physical strength. He does not know how powerful he is and likes to pet animals. The other men on the ranch find their relationship unusual, they do not know of their past. George describes himself and Lennie as the loneliest guys in the world. ‘Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They belong in no place.’ George feels sorry for himself; he can see the reality of being a ranch-hand. This loneliness therefore makes both him and Lennie have a dream that motivates him to work. It is the one thing that they are living for. The boss believes that George is exploiting Lennie. The other men come to see that their friendship is built upon loneliness. Others such as Crooks, Candy, Curley’s wife and maybe Slim are jealous of their relationship. Although both George and Lennie are close friends, they are still lonely in the sense that they are not alike. Lennie is lonely in the sense that there is no one who is as simple-minded as he is, he does not realise this, as he is too busy playing with his pup. When George and Lennie first arrive on the ranch, they are met by Candy. Candy and his dog’s relationship resemble George and Lennie’s relationship. In the same way, that Candy seeks comfort in his dog, Lennie seeks comfort in George. Candy has a parental role towards his dog, just as George has a parental role towards Lennie. Lennie can be compared with the dog in the sense that he listens, but does not talk; this provides comfort for those who talk to him about their feelings. Both Lennie and Candy’s dog are shot by the same gun (Carlson’s luger). Carlson is unsentimental about Candy’s dog, as he can see no practical use for it. ‘He ain’t no good to you Candy. An’ he ain’t no good to himself. Why’n’t you shoot him Candy?’ His suggestion is reasonable for the other men in the bunk- house but he seems oblivious to the strong bond between Candy and his dog. Candy tries to justify the reasons for keeping his dog. ‘I had him so long. Had him since he was a pup. I herded sheep with him.’ In the end, his dog is shot because of his lack of authority towards the other men. Candy is left lonely and deserted after he loses his lifetime companion. He later cheers up after he joins in with George and Lennie’s plan of owning the dream farm. ‘I’d make a will an’ leave my share to you guys in case I kick off.’ Candy promises them, that if he died, he would leave George and Lennie his money. This increases his chance of becoming part of the dream. It also increases...
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