The Theme of Loneliness in John Steinbeck Book Of Mice and Men
Loneliness is something that many people experience, surprisingly. Especially in the book, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck which was written in the 1930’s during the Great Depression when everyone was suffering financially and emotionally. It doesn’t matter who they are, people from all different groups and backgrounds will experience loneliness at one point or another. Throughout the book, Steinbeck makes sure that being alone is a big theme. Almost every single character, if not all of them, feels alone at some part of the book. Whether or not the character is colored like Crooks, mentally disabled like Lennie, a female like Curley’s wife, or old like Candy, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they will feel isolated.
People who are minorities experience loneliness a lot throughout the book. For example, Crooks, who is a colored stable buck that works at the ranch, is literally separated from all the other men. In chapter 4 of the book, Lennie comes into his room because he wanted to find someone to talk to since he was left alone at the ranch while the rest of the men went to town to have fun with alcohol and entertainment from women. As Crooks and Lennie converse, Crooks tells Lennie about why he lives separately from all the other men and says, “’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, all of you stink to me” (Steinbeck 68). Here, Crooks is explaining, in an upset tone, how he is isolated from the other men just because of his ethnicity. He then goes on to say, “A guy needs somebody-to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick” (Steinbeck 72). This shows Crooks’ view on loneliness and how it’s something that he has been dealing with for a very long time. His only dream is to be accepted by the others for once, after all the racism he has faced in his lifetime. Although there are more examples, the isolation of Crooks from the other men is the most obvious sign of loneliness throughout this entire book.
Another character in Of Mice and Men, who experiences loneliness is Curley’s wife. Isolation is basically all she feels throughout the book. She is the only woman on the ranch and has nobody that wants to socialize with her. In chapter 5, while Lennie is panicking about his puppy’s death, Curley’s wife comes out of nowhere, and Lennie tries to tell her to leave. She then responds with, “I get lonely, you can talk to people but I can’t talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. How’d you like not to talk to anybody?” (Steinbeck 87). Curley’s wife is obviously very irritated with the fact that she never has anyone to converse with, especially since every time she gets close to any of the other men, they automatically try to shoo her away. Even though she technically is in a relationship and has a husband, she is still all alone and has nobody that loves her. She is unsatisfied with her marriage and dislikes her husband greatly. In the end, she is just like the rest of the men on the ranch, alone and isolated in her own way. Her loneliness is what drives her to try interacting with other men and is what eventually ended up getting her killed.
Of the guys who work at the ranch, Candy is one of the more isolated ones as well. Candy’s dog is what kept him company, until it had to be put down. After its death, Candy was all alone and had nothing else to look forward to in life besides sharing the dream of owning a farm with George and Lennie one day. When the time came to let go of his dog, Candy felt alone and defeated. After all the arguments, he was at a loss for words and no more things to say out of defense for his feelings and attachment towards his dog that he’s had since it was a pup. Steinbeck narrates, “Candy looked for help from face to face” (Steinbeck 45). At this point, Candy had lost the only thing that kept him company, and had no more hope. He joins the rest of the characters on the ranch by being lonely and having no company. Steinbeck wanted us to feel bad for Candy by telling us about how long he’s has had the dog for and then being pressured to let someone else kill his only companion he had left.
In the end, we can say that almost all of the main characters in the book, Of Mice and Men, go through a form of isolation or a feeling of being alone. Lennie being left alone while everyone else goes to town for alcohol and entertainment, Crooks being physically separated by having to live in a completely different area of the ranch, Curley’s wife having no one that ever wants to talk with her, and Candy losing his only companion that he had left. The reason why Steinbeck uses these examples is to let the readers know that a lot of people from all different groups experienced loneliness during the Great Depression, especially minorities. It was common for people, at the time, to be isolated and by themselves no matter who it was. He wanted his readers to understand the sadness that the characters were going through in the book. The point that Steinbeck was trying to make about humans is that people need each other even though it was very abnormal during the 1930’s. He wanted us to understand that people wouldn’t have to suffer through the sadness of being alone if they just stick together and keep each other company. He also wanted us to know that even when it seems like you do have company, you can still find yourself being lonely and sad if the people around you don’t actually care about your emotions.
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