Of Mice And Men By John Steinbeck: A Theme Of Loneliness
Loneliness is a human feeling, a state of mind and a place in which some people live. If someone is feeling unhappy, it could be because of his or her lack of friends and socialization. Likely that person experiences loneliness. In the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, loneliness and isolation is a recurring theme. With all the clever clues, Steinbeck is able to perfectly and effectively explore the types and layers of loneliness.
In Of Mice and Men, Crooks is alone as a result of his race and disability, Candy feels alone because of his disability and old age, Curley’s wife is lonesome because other men avoid her and Lennie is lonely because is never able to find someone to love or someone who loves him. Crooks the stable buck, became the victim of isolation because of two main reasons, his race, and disability. Crooks is the only black man living on the all-white male-dominated ranch. During the 1930s, discrimination against African Americans prevails and is generally accepted as a social norm. In the past, he became disabled after a horse kicks him, leaving him with a permanent crooked and sore back. The men like to poke fun at Crooks and his crooked back. They tell George that one day, the men let Crooks fight another man on the ranch, “If he coulda used his feet, Smitty says he woulda killed the nigger. The guys said on account of the nigger’s got a crooked back, Smitty can’t use his feet. ’ He paused in relish of the memory”. This shows that Crooks’ crooked back gave the men more of a reason to degrade and mock the crippled stable buck. On the ranch, due to his race and disability, Crooks is physically separated from the other men and forced to live in a barn with the horses.
“Guys don’t come into a colored man’s room very much. Nobody been here but Slim”. The quote shows how secluded Crooks is from the other men. It amazes Crooks that someone other than a Skinner came into his room. As a black stable buck, he tends the horses and has minimal interaction with the others who live on the ranch. Later in the book, as Lennie and Candy gained a sense of conversation with Crooks, the three became friendly which helped Crooks gain trust in them. Yet, later on, Curley’s wife arrives and threatens Crooks. “you know what I can do to you if you open your trap… I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny”. Curley’s wife robs Crooks of his newly found hopes for the future bringing Crooks to give up the plan that the men have. Crooks is lonely because of the way others treat him, caused by the colour of his skin. The men beat Crooks with racist comments and treat him with spiteful prejudice. This makes him unsure of the compassion and generosity he encounters from others. To conclude, Crooks is a lonely, sad and defeated man as a result of the colour of his skin and his handicap.
Candy is an old one-handed janitor who is lonely because of his old age and his disability. Candy is first introduced when George calls him out for eavesdropping on the conversation between himself and Lennie. “A guy on a ranch don’t never listen nor he don’t ast no questions”. Candy isn’t a conversationalist, as he avoids listening and asking questions, proving that Candy lives an isolated and silent life on the ranch. Candy is so isolated that he doesn’t have many friends on the ranch, except for his old dog. “Yeah. I had ‘im ever since he was a pup. God he was a good sheep dog when he was younger”. Candy considers the sheepdog as his best friend. But, a lot of the men did not like Candy’s dog because the dog is old and putrid. Carlson later suggests that they put the dog down and put him out of his misery. “I wisht somebody’d shoot me if I got old an’ a cripple”. Carlson especially shows a displeasure for the dog. He mentions time and time again he does not enjoy the dog’s presence. Since candy was an old disabled man, he has little to no power and the other men disregard him. “Candy looked for help from face to face”. All the men usually listen to Slim because he is the head Skinner and he has a lot of the men’s trust. Without Candy’s real approval, Carlson shoots the dog which leads Candy to feeling lonely after letting his one and only friend get shot. “Awright — take ‘im. He did not look down at the dog at all. He lay back on his bunk and crossed his arms behind his head and stared at the ceiling”. It was a hard time for Candy to say goodbye to his best friend. Candy avoids looking at the dog by lying down and telling Carlson to take him away. He wishes he was the one to shoot the dog rather than to have a “stranger” do it. “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog”.
At this point in the story, Candy is completely alone and dejected. Candy never leaves the ranch whenever the men go out into town, underscoring his isolation. Later on, Candy overhears George and Lennie talking about them planning on leaving to get a ranch of their own. George was hesitant about letting Candy join their plan and during that discussion, Candy says that he doesn’t have any friends or family, showing once again that Candy is a lonely old man. “I ain’t got no relatives or nothing…”. Candy knows that he has no one and that one day he’ll be gone. He thinks of himself as worthless and close to death, which all factors into his feeling of lonesomeness. Curley’s wife is lonesome due to the lack of interaction with other people on the ranch. The nameless woman is the only female on a ranch full of men. Curley’s wife does not have anyone to talk nor relate to. “Why can’t I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely”. She tries to engage with the other men, but they are aware of her husband, and so they ignore her or push her away. The men call her various names such as “tart” and “jail bait” and no one wants to talk to her because other men do not want to get in trouble. She is the wife of the bosses’ son, so the other men on the ranch are aware of the power she possesses. She could get the men fired from their jobs or even worse. The men also know that Curley is short-tempered, so the other men try not to get caught around Curley’s wife or else issues could arise. Because of that, she feels bored and alone as a result of no one will talk to her. This makes Curley’s wife hungry for attention. Her attractiveness is all she can use to get attention from others, she’ll look at men and dress herself up in ways that’ll get their attention. “She got the eye goin’ all the time on everybody”. Her being a married woman, she’ll still walk around the ranch all nicely dressed up and ask about her husband’s whereabouts, so she can desperately start a conversation with someone. She searches for companionship but never gets any because all the men aren’t willing to have a conversation with her.
Curley’s wife isn’t nice to the men as well, which pushes them further away from her. She’ll exploit the men’s weaknesses and make serious threats. For example, she threatens to Crooks that she can get him lynched “I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny”. Curley’s wife appears to be a very malicious character and wants to make the other characters feel unhappy like herself. To add to her loneliness, she experiences a rough past as a teenager. In the barn, Curley’s wife explains to Lennie that she dreams of being an actress. But, her mother prevents her from living out her dreams because she was too young. “Well, a show come through, an’ I met one of the actors. He says I could go with that show. But my ol’ lady wouldn’ let me. She says because I was on’y fifteen”. Curley’s wife ended up marrying Curley to escape from her mother but it is easy to tell that Curley’s wife still holds onto that dream and imagines what could have happened if she didn’t marry Curley. Now her dream is to escape the lonely ranch and her displeasing marriage with Curley. Ultimately, Curley’s wife succumbs to loneliness because of her lack of interaction with others and failed dreams.
Throughout Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck describes the lonely lives of the characters. Crooks is lonely because of his race creates a wall where no one tries or wants to know or understand him. Candy feels alone due to his disability and his old age. Curley’s wife parades her loneliness around the ranch, and is treated as someone to be avoided by the others. Finally, Lennie spends his days and efforts in a quest to shatter his immense loneliness and is only successful when he is murdered by George. These characters represent the minority groups on the ranch which leads them to be the outcasts because of the ways others treat them.
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