Loneliness is an inevitable fact of life that not even the strongest can avoid. In his novel, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck illustrates the loneliness of California ranch life in the early 1930s. Throughout the story, the reader discovers the many sources of solitude, primarily being discrimination and prejudice, resulting in loneliness and isolation. One of the most important things that are really needed is a friend. Without friends, people would suffer from loneliness and solitude. The characters in this novel are intrigued yet envious of the special friendship shared by George and Lennie because they do not have that in their life.
All the characters are extremely lonely and unhappy with their lives (except Slim, who is the only character that seems to be confident and happy with his life), and none of them can escape this unhappiness. Economic and social forces control them, and free will seems illusory. To study the aspect of loneliness in Of Mice and Men, we will study George and Lennie’s bittersweet friendship, as well as loneliness through 3 characters who are forced to locate their happiness elsewhere to fight off their loneliness–in Crooks’ childhood on the chicken farm, or Curley’s wife’s vision of Hollywood stardom, or George and Lennie’s Eden-like dream of their own farm. And finally, we will point out interesting similarities between certain characters.
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The setting of the novel is destined for loneliness. Soledad is short for the town’s full name, ‘Nuestra Senora de Soledad’ which means ‘Our Lady of Loneliness’. This is the town that is closest to the ranch, a place that is already full of lonely, solitary people. The name of the closest town being Soledad, we understand that loneliness is some kind of vicious circle, because on the ranch they are already lonely, and going to town to fight that loneliness won’t help since it’s called “Soledad”. “Guys like us that live on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world.” George means that if not for each other, then he and Lennie would be all alone, with no friends, like all the men like them, who are nomads working from ranch to ranch without making any friends, and living a lonely, solitary life.
Clinging to each other in their loneliness and alienation, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie dream, as drifters will, of a place to call their own. But we can attribute another meaning to this sentence. George and Lennie are very different, physically as well as mentally, even though they talk to each other, we can sense that they are both on a different level. George is a smart, quick-witted man, who seems to need mental stimulation from a companion, which he cannot have in his relationship with Lennie. And Lennie doesn’t always understand what George is talking about, as Crooks points out “Sometimes he talks, and you don’t know what the hell he’s talkin’ about. Aint’ that so? Jus’ talks on, and you don’t know what the hell it’s all about?”. Even though they have each other, they are still both lonely at a certain level, but as Crooks also points outs “it doesn’t make no difference”; what he means that it’s not what’s being said that is important, nor that the interlocutor understands clearly what the others talking about, the important thing is human contact and being there together.
Crooks, Candy and Curley’s wife all suffer injustices such as discrimination and prejudice, resulting in loneliness and isolation. They learn to cope with their loneliness through their interest in Lennie and George’s friendship. In some ways, they are even envious of the bond. Crook is a black man that experiences isolation because the society in which he resides is racist. The quote “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t matter no difference who the guy is, longs he with you. I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an he gets sick” was his means of finding a personal connection to Lennie. Like Lennie, Crooks has a ‘relationship’ with loneliness. Crooks is rejected from every group of people and cannot socially interact with others, just like Lennie who can’t socially interact properly because of his mental disability.
“Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m Black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all stink to me!” Crooks’ loneliness results from rejection; others treat him unjustly because he is different from them given that he is black. Crooks aren’t allowed to participate in daily events with white people such as card games. He is treated unfairly and therefore acts the same way toward the white people who have offended him Crooks is fascinated by the strength of the friendship of Lennie and George, especially how close they are. Crooks said, “Well, s’pose, jus’ s’pose he doesn’t come back. What’ll you do then?” Crooks asks these questions because he does not have any friends, and wouldn’t know how losing them unexpectedly would feel. He was curious and envious, about the friendship of Lennie and George, noticing that Lennie is retarded, he takes advantage of this situation to “torture” him mentally, to make him feel better and ease the pain of having others rejects him, he also does this to ease his jealousy towards the friendship Lennie has, but that he, Crooks will probably never have. He wants the people to feel the way that he did when he was lonely, having nobody with them.
He is striving to achieve sympathy and understanding from others. Crooks would work for nothing if it meant communicating with others. He even offers his services to Candy to work on their “dream ranch” to join in on the friendship and dream shared by Lennie and George, in order to leave behind him his lonely life. Candy, like Crooks, is an outcast because his age and physical disability make him different from the rest of the men on the ranch, but he always tries to communicate with them as much as he can. Candy has one true friend in the world, his dog, which he cannot even talk to. However, when his dog dies, he has to look elsewhere for friendship. He hopes that these friends can be George and Lennie. Because of his age and disability, he has a feeling of uselessness “They’ll call me pretty soon”. Candy thinks that nobody wants to be friends with him because of this disability. Eventually, he tries to find friendship by attempting to join the dream of George and Lennie.
Candy offered his services to become a part of George and Lennie’s friendship and dream, this is one of Candy’s desperate attempts to find a place in society and meaning in life by making himself useful to someone, by proposing the various things he could do to show that his is in fact useful and could bring a lot in the dream as well and the friendship “I could cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some” “you’ll let me hoe in the garden…An’ I’ll wash the dishes an’ little chicken stuff like that”. After Candy lost his dog, he felt much more lonely than he was before. The dog was something that Candy had owned and confided with within his years. Candy and his dog had the same relationship that George and Lennie had shared for so many years. He offers everything that he had to support the friendship including money, he offers the biggest share of money to realize the dream as well as services hoping that the pair will “let” him help out.
An interesting sentence is “Maybe I can give you guys my money, you’ll let me hoe in the garden”, this sentence is ambivalent, in exchange for a financial contribution to the dream ranch, he can help out and work on the ranch, but the implicit meaning of the sentence is: in exchange for my money, we will have a close friendship; Candy tries to buy Lennie and Georges friendship, or at least a share of it, but money will never buy genuine friendship. Curley’s Wife’s loneliness has a different source; her husband causes it. Even though Curley’s wife is mentioned frequently, nobody asks what her name is. Nobody wants to talk to her because people are afraid of Curley; he is jealous and would start a fight with anyone who tried approaching her. She does not like Curley, and furthermore, he doesn’t talk to her at all, and there’s no one in her life with whom she can share her feelings, and longs for companionship.
But because she is Curley’s Wife, most of the ranchers avoid talking to her, and she notices that she is being rejected and ignored and asks them several times what is wrong with her, and why doesn’t she have a right to communicate like everyone else does “What’s the matter with me? Ain’t I got a righto talk to nobody?”, and that no one cares about her “Seems like they ain’t none of them cares how I gotta live”. She dresses the way she does (heavily made up, in flashy colours), to gain the attention of the ranchers and to soothe her loneliness. These acts give her a sense of relief and made her feel wanted so she can share her personal concerns and experiences, she notices that Lennie finds her “purty” and tries to talk to him and get close to him several times.
She is obviously very desperate if she wants to talk to someone as dumb as Lennie, “her words tumbled out” rushes when she talks to Lennie as though she were afraid that someone was going to take him away from her “she hurried before her listener could be taken away from her”, thanks to this sentence we understand that she doesn’t have the chance to talk to people often, and is trying to say as much as she can, about the emotions that have been building up inside of her “she went on with her story before she could be interrupted”. She also makes sure that Lennie is listening to her when she speaks “You listenin’?” since she is not used to talking to anyone, she wants to be sure that what she is saying is being heard attentively. Her death could be thought of as a misfortune, but as a positive thing as well because it ended her suffering; being the only woman on the ranch and having married a man like Curley she was inevitably destined for loneliness.
But now that she is dead, she will not have to worry about being lonely ever again. Curley’s wife’s case of loneliness was the most severe throughout the novel. She struggled in her society to find somebody that she could befriend in vain. We can notice interesting parallels between certain characters in the novel. We can draw a parallel between Candy and Crooks; both of these characters have a physical disability (Candy has a stump for an arm, and Crooks has a crooked back) both caused by an accident, as well as another factor Crooks’ colour and Candy’s old age, those factors make both of them outcasts. Because of their situation, they are both destined to loneliness, each of them deals with it in their own way: Candy has his dog for companionship and makes conversation with the other men that work on the ranch, but Crooks turns towards books and becomes hostile towards the other men on the ranch who have rejected him before because of his race.
They are both fascinated and envious of the friendship shared by Lennie and George and offer their services and money to join in on the dream, hoping as well to join in on the friendship. To these characters who are outcasts because of a certain disability, we can add Lennie, who has a mental disability, thus making him part of “all the weak ones” that get left behind, as Curley’s wife points out. Another interesting parallel we can draw in the one between the relationship between George and Lennie, and Candy and his old dog. Both George and Candy and lonely, even though they have companionship; Candy cant talk to his dog, and George can’t have a really serious conversation with Lennie either. Even though they have companionship, they need something deeper and more meaningful. It is also interesting to notice the similar fate of Candy’s dog and Lennie who will both be shot in the back of the head unsuspicious of what is going to happen.
We can also draw a last parallel between two of the loneliest characters in the novel; Curley’s Wife and Lennie. As we’ve seen previously, Curley’s wife is the only woman in the novel, and her husband forbids her to talk to other men, and because of his jealousy, doesn’t let other men approach her or else he picks a fight with them. George also gives orders to Lennie and strictly forbids him several times “Don’t even take a look at that bitch. I don’t care what she says and what she does…you leave her be” “well, you keep away from her”, they aren’t allowed to talk to each other, that’s what makes the fatal scene in the barn so symbolic; Curley’s wife wanted to talk to someone so bad, that it drove her to her death. Even if all people are miserable when they are lonely, the consequences of friendship can be even worse. When one of the members of a friendship is removed, it causes misery and pain; when Candy lost his dog, he kept thinking about him and felt terrible because he kept thinking that he should have shot his dog himself, and looks for friendship elsewhere.
When George had to shoot Lennie, he felt terrible, because he had just shot his best friend, his lifetime companion, his only friend in the world. Because of this, he has to live the rest of his life, in guilt, alone and knowing that he killed his only friend. Human beings were made to live in society, thus all people are driven towards others, and is it a natural instinct to seek friendship and companionship. When they find it, they are the happiest people. The only downside to finding a friend is what happens when one of the friends is lost. This causes even more misery in the remaining friend and forces the friend to start searching again, which is a hard process, because the person has taken the habit of his friend and being comfortable in his relationship, and opening towards others is harder. One of the most important lessons we learn in Of Mice and Men is that Friendship and human interaction are two very valuable things, and that having them is as much as a right as it is a privilege, that we much treasure as it keeps us away from loneliness.
George and Lennie – A friendship ” Of Mice and Men ” by John Steinbeck is a novel involving two extremely different main characters. George is a reasonably intelligent, hardworking ranchman. Lennie on the other hand always manages to find trouble. He is equally as hardworking and honest as George but his simple childlike mind always finds him trouble wherever he goes. However, they have one thing that unites the two of them as close as any bond can. This is that they both share the same dream of owning their own ranch – and after many hard-working years, moving from ranch to ranch, living in complete poverty and working for next to nothing they finally try to achieve this lifelong dream.
I enjoyed this novel because I found the contrast between the two main characters very interesting and wanted to try to understand why Steinbeck has chosen main characters such as George and Lennie, as the rest of the book was mainly moulded around these two specific characters. I was very involved with most aspects of the book particularly that of the setting. However, I have decided my task will be to focus on the themes of friendship and loneliness. Steinbeck writes the novel “Of mice and Men” using 3rd person narrative to show how emotionally remote the characters are and to show that they don’t get to know people intimately. This for me is enhancing the success of the book as it gives an equal account of all the character’s feelings.
In the opening chapter, Steinbeck immediately introduces the idea of loneliness and the idea of the men living very temporary lives, with no real direction. Steinbeck cleverly uses the setting to convey these ideas. The path George and Lennie are walking on is described as ” A path beaten hard by boys… and beaten hard by tramps who came wearily down from the highway in the evening to the jungle – up near water ” and ” an ash pile made by many fires ” These quotes for me convey the idea of the setting and the characters living very temporary, lonely lives. Not only do these quotes describe the setting, but they also give us a detailed description of the men’s tragic, isolated lives as well. For example when Steinbeck tells us about an ash pile made by many fires. He is actually making the point that the ash pile occurred from lots of men passing through that point in the forest and so they live temporary lives and are always moving from ranch to ranch and this is just like all the men on the ranch.
This also shows how hard work was to find so many wonders from place to place. Another point about the setting that I feel relates to the men’s lives is shown on the peg. 18. The description is that of the bunkhouse where all the ranch workers stay ” Over each bunk, there was nailed an apple box with the opening forward so that it made two shelves for personal belongings ” The manner in which Steinbeck describes the bunkhouse is very similar to that of the ranchman’s lives and it also shows us all they have for personal belongings is two shelves. Steinbeck shows us that by having only two shelves for belongings they live lonely insecure lives. One man who suffers from the extremes of loneliness on the ranch is a man named Crooks
“A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t matter any difference who the guy is, longs he with you. I tell ya a guy gets too lonely and he gets sick” Crook is a black man that experiences isolation because the society in which he resides is racist. Crooks is forced to live in the barn by himself and can not join in any social activities with the other men. The quote says “don’t matter no difference who the guy is, longs he with you”. I feel this makes the point that although Lennie does rely on George a lot, George also relies on him to be a friend and the fact that Lennie is simple makes no difference because they have something which all the workers envy – friendship. Crooks is possibly the loneliest character on the ranch alongside Curley’s wife who is also very lonely.
Curley is the ranch owner’s son and likes to think everything he does is right. Curley likes to think he owns his wife and that he should tell her what she can and can’t do and consequently this is what makes her another very lonely character. If she tries to talk to the ranchmen they ignore her, because they fear Curley and she has no female friends so she is very isolated. His wife is never given a name in the book and is constantly referred to as “Curlew’s wife”; this for me makes an important and bold statement to the reader. Steinbeck shows how lonely she is, as she is never given a name it shows that no one thinks of her as a friend, but more of an object. She shouldn’t really be as lonely as she is because she has a husband, but still, she has no real friends. She has no real grip on life and lives in two completely different worlds. In reality, she lives in an old ranch surrounded by ranchmen with no friends or companions to communicate with. However, she longs and truly believes she can be a film star. She once told Lennie
” I ain’t used to living like this. I could make something of myself… maybe I will yet ” Curley’s wife is not the only one dreaming of a better life, all the characters struggling in this novel are dreaming of moving away and making something of themselves. All the characters on the rank suffer from loneliness, and this is down to having no friends. They all in some way or other envy George and Lennie because no matter what happens George and Lennie have each other as friends; no one else on the ranch can boast this. It wasn’t normal for people to travel together like George and Lennie did and this is what brought about suspicion, for example, the boss of the ranch thought George was taking Lennie’s wages – showing that nobody really knew or understood friendship, as it didn’t really exist for anyone on the ranch.
Candy is an old ranch worker who was disabled a few years back while working. He has a little bit of money and feels he can contribute towards paying for George and Lennie’s little ranch, as long as he can be a part of the dream. This is a very strange peculiar part of the novel as it gives an unexpected twist to the storyline. Throughout the novel, the dream is always associated with George and Lennie, like the times when George explains the dream to Lennie and how they always keep the dream alive by talking about it. Candy an old lonely, isolated man changes this and George and Lennie need to make an important decision – whether or not to allow Candy in on their dream. ‘Spouse I went in with you guys. That’s three hundred and fifty bucks I’d put in… How’d that be? ” Once again candy’s desperate attempt to be a part of the dream shows us the degree of loneliness that exists for him. Candy owns an old disabled dog, which is much like him in many ways.
The dog is only used for labour and is not really needed around the ranch: very similar to the way the other men look upon Candy. In the end, his dog was shot and I think this is also making the statement that candy’s life may be going in the same direction, even if this is contradicting the American dream. Candy worked hard all his life and all he had to show for it was nothing, not much when you consider how long he worked for. Crooks dreams of a better life just like all the characters, but he dreams of a different life, he dreams of educating himself. “And he had books, too: a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905. They were battered magazines and a few dirty books… A pair of large gold-rimmed spectacles hung from a nail on the wall”.
John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men shows the reader how without friendship everyone can suffer from loneliness. A prime example of a strong relationship in the novel was between George and Lennie. At the end of the novel, George shoots Lennie, many could preach and say he did this out of malice however I believe this shows how strong the bond was that George and Lennie had as friends. George shot Lennie for his own good, George couldn’t sit and watch Lennie die a slow cruel death at the hands of the other ranchmen instead he put Lennie out of misery in a quick and more humane manner. At first to the reader, it seems George may live a better life without Lennie but he really will just end up as one of the other men – with no real friends suffering from extreme loneliness and of course the dream will never come true. If this book has taught me one thing in life – it is that everyone should have a friend; no matter what race, colour, or sex everyone should have a companion and that is why John Steinbeck’s novel is very successful.
Of Mice and Men is a novel set on a ranch in the Salinas Valley in California during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was the first work to bring John Steinbeck national recognition as a writer. The title suggests that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, a reference to Robert Burns’s poem “To a Mouse.” Of Mice and Men was selected for the Book of the Month Club before it was officially published, an honour that encouraged 117,000 copies of the novel to be sold before its official publication on February 25, 1937. Critical response to the novel was generally positive. There were, however, critics who were offended by the rough earthiness of the characters and their lives. By April 1937, the book was on best-seller lists across the country, and it continued to remain a top seller throughout that year. Steinbeck said that he was not expecting huge sales, and he was surprised by the substantial checks he received from his agents.
In fact, Steinbeck became a celebrity with the publication of his novel, a status that he feared would negatively affect his work. Steinbeck conceived Of Mice and Men as a potential play. Each chapter is arranged as a scene, and each scene is confined to a single space: a secluded grove, a bunkhouse, and a barn. With the success of the novel, Steinbeck worked on a stage version with playwright George Kaufman, who directed the play. Of Mice and Men opened on Broadway in New York City on November 23, 1937, with Wallace Ford as George and Broderick Crawford as Lennie. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive, and the play ran for 207 performances, winning the prestigious New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. The action of the novel occurs over the course of three days. Steinbeck created the novel’s two main characters, George Milton and Lennie Small, to portray victims of forces beyond their control.
George and Lennie are two migrant agricultural workers on a California ranch who share a dream of owning their own farm someday. They take jobs at a ranch where their hopes are at first raised but then destroyed by a tragic accident. Steinbeck depicts George and Lennie as two innocents whose dream conflicts with the realities of a world dominated by materialism and greed. Their extraordinary friendship distinguishes them from other hopeless and lonely migrant farmworkers. The novel portrays a class of ranch workers in California whose plight had been previously ignored in the early decades of the twentieth century. In fact, George and Lennie are like mice in the maze of modem life. The great friendship they share does not prove sufficient to allow them to realize their dream. As a young man, Steinbeck learned about migrant labourers, usually, unmarried men recruited to work during harvest seasons, from his own experience as a worker on company-owned ranches. With Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck became a master craftsman, ready to write his masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath the following year.
Born February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California, not far from the setting of his novel Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck was the grandson of a German immigrant on his father’s side (whose name was originally Grossteinbeck), and of an Irish immigrant on his mother’s side. Both his father and his grandfather had been independent businessmen who owned and operated their own flour mill. His father also served as county treasurer for 11 years before retiring. Steinbeck’s mother was the daughter of a California rancher. She was a schoolteacher
Of Mice and Men opens with a physical description of the topography of the Central Valley of California. “A few miles south of Soledad,” the Salinas river winds through an idyllic scene of yellow sands, golden foothills, and deer that come to the shore to drink at night. It is in this setting that we first meet Steinbeck’s two protagonists, George Milton and Lennie Small. George is “small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features.” Lennie is “his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders.” They have just…
Idealism vs. Reality. Of Mice and Men tells the story of two simple men who try to escape homelessness, economic poverty, and emotional and psychological corruption. Otherwise, the fate of those who do not abandon the lives they lead as itinerant workers is bleak and dehumanizing. As George tells Slim, the mule driver “I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain’t no good. They don’t have any fun. After a long time, they get mean.” George and Lennie dream of owning a farm, but by the end of the novel, the dream has failed. Their plan is doomed because…
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a powerful and vivid depiction of life in rural America. It recounts the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two lonely itinerant farm workers who belonged nowhere and to no one but themselves. George has accepted the burden of protecting the mentally incompetent but uncommonly strong Lennie from the thefts and tricks of both ranch bosses and other hands, but, in so doing, George has considerably reduced the possibilities of his own successful attainment of independence and peace. In order to placate his childishly effusive…
The relationship between the intelligent but weak George Milton and the retarded but strong Lennie Small is the focal point of Steinbeck’s novella, and a surface reading strongly suggests that “friendship” or “personal commitment” is one of this work’s salient themes. As the half-witted Lennie dutifully intones, the two men are distinguished from all of the other characters in the story “because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.” (p.15). The initial interview by the ranch boss underscores the unusual quality of this bond and the jerk line skinner…