Loneliness in Of Mice And Men
In this essay I shall set out to discuss the recurring theme of loneliness evident in "Of Mice And Men" by John Steinbeck. I shall be writing about some very different characters, who all have this one trait in common. Loneliness affects many of the characters, and Steinbeck seems to show that it is a natural and inevitable result of the kind of life they are forced to lead.
Every character in the story exhibits loneliness. Curley's wife seeks the attention of the farm hands as a substitute for the lack of attention from the abusive Curley. Crooks keeps to himself because he believes that the white people want nothing to do with a Negro. Candy's only friend is his dog, and when his dog dies, he despairs. Each of the characters in the story is attracted to the plans of Lennie and George. As they fantasize about a future together, their loneliness subsides momentarily.
The novel is set during the Great Depression, which was a result of the Wall Street Crash in the world's stock markets- a disaster that shook all but a few of the world's countries wealth and prospects. This novel centres in on the lives of two contrasting men, working their way around ranches in the American South-West, in search of the eventual fulfillment of the American Dream- the idealistic fantasy of individual freedom, independence and self-reliance. One is a simple, immensely strong yet gentle man named Lennie, who has the mental age of a child; the other is George, a quick witted clever man with a lot of bitterness and anger. In fact, in the opening chapters of the book they are described with animal traits- Lennie is reminiscent of a huge, loveable yet unintelligent dog, who will usually only do what is commanded of him. At one point a direct simile is used, describing him as being "like a terrier who doesn't want to bring his ball back to his master". George is likened to a slight sharp creature like the fox- with all the fox's cunning. This quote shows this : "The first man [George] was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features. Every part of him was defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose."
The background to their story is a problematic one- George and Lennie had to flee their previous ranch in a place called Weed when Lennie was accused of raping a young girl. What had actually happened was, due partly to his mental age, Lennie had reached out to touch the girl's dress- when she had screamed he had panicked and held on. George arrived and found this happening, before pulling Lennie off and dragging him off to hide in one of the irrigation ditches before absconding.
George's loneliness is fairly understandable- he has been given the responsibility to look after a man who for all his good intentions may as well be a child. Although George deep down begrudgingly appreciates having a friend to travel with, he gets angry when Lennie's ignorance gets them in trouble and ruins any chances George may have of making friends of his own intellectual level. However, despite all this he cares about Lennie- he is to George the younger brother he loves to hate.
As far as Lennie is concerned, he has George, whom he worships, and he has his dream of their own piece of land to keep him going on. In reality though, he must get lonely- after all he is often shunned by George and made to feel stupid in conversations- that is if he is ever allowed to take part in one. Maybe this is why he loves the idea of tending rabbits when they have their own place- despite his obvious surface desire (he likes "soft things", thus the dress incident in Weed) they may represent a mirror parallel of all the bad things about George. From a rabbit he would receive unconditional love and no orders of what to do and what not to. He is lonely because he feels that the creatures he could connect most with are ones that can't connect with him.
The story unfolds...
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