How is loneliness and isolation explored in the novel?
Loneliness is the feeling of isolation and no hope or dreams in your life-which is what Steinbeck achieves by portraying this theme effectively through key fictional characters in Of Mice and Men. By living in the town of ‘Soledad’ (Spanish for loneliness), the audience gets an overwhelming sense of the depressing environment that the migrant farmers are living through by their repetitive lifestyle and the consequences they face through the Great Depression and the Dustbowl. Yet another aspect of loneliness which is exposed vulnerably through several characters is the idea of the American Dream, for Steinbeck teaches us that even through hard work and prosperity, it is unattainable which is represented by Curley’s wife, Crooks, Candy and George + Lennie. These personas are left in isolation for as George says that ‘Guys like us that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world. They don’t belong no place…’ which is to say that these characters have lost all hope in their lives, which Steinbeck conveys effectively, and the fact that despite this, they still believe there is hope to come for them, which leaves me to sympathise for them more.
Candy is a prime representation of isolation and loneliness in ‘Of Mice and Men’. Firstly, it seems his disability has brought him down by the ranchmen because he has ‘no (right) hand’ which says to me that he isn’t practical in the ranch, yet it also suggests that Steinbeck may have used religious imagery to interpret the isolation Candy feels because the right hand is a symbol of hope and love in Christianity, and by not having one Candy has lost meaning in life, in my opinion. Nevertheless, it’s surprising this because it’s ironic that he’s the oldest on the ranch by being a ‘tall, stoop-shouldered old man’ but having the most experience on the ranch. Yet it seems that the depression has hit on the shoulders for his look on life has been brought down. As well as this, his American Dream of living on George and Lennie’s dream ranch is affected mainly by Curley’s wife’s death as he ‘lay down in the hay and covered his eyes with his arm’ after the men left, knowing it seems that age and disability has made him vulnerable against the harsh reality of isolation in 1930’s America. Yet nevertheless, I still believe that there is hope for him because just several years after Of Mice and Men was published, President Roosevelt signed an agreement for peace and equality in America. He had polio. He was disabled. So despite Candy being in a position of loneliness against the world, there is still hope for him in the world I believe, not like some other characters.
Crooks was also considered disabled by being a ‘negro buck’ as black people were treated terribly as slaves and not in society. This is shown by Steinbeck’s language of setting as Crooks lives in a ‘little shed that leaned off the wall of the barn’ as if to say that he is not strong or bold enough to survive in the world. He also has ‘a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905’ which conveys to me that despite Crooks being motivated and strong to achieving a prosperous life, his life will never be the same. The past has gone behind him and nothing can protect him from his isolation and loneliness. Although Steinbeck shows that loneliness has made Crooks bitter by putting Candy and Lennie in the same position as he is making Lennie think if ’s’pose you don’t have nobody’ As well as this, his race makes him more vulnerable and exposed to others easily, especially by Curley’s wife threatening him to be ‘strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny’ which conveys to me that Crooks is used for other people’s pleasure and has no freedom or boundaries. However, he was born black. So he was born lonely which leads me to empathise for him more, despite Steinbeck still communicating the realistic idea of isolation on the ranch.
Furthermore, despite Curley’s wife being dominant towards Crooks, she was also born lonely- for women were considered as disability in 1930’s America, which is harsh but Steinbeck shows this very effectively. Curley’s wife appearance may make her as an extremely attractive person, having ‘full rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes’ which to me reminds me of an image of Marilyn Monroe if we look at this from a modern generation, a controversial celebrity- which is Curley’s wife’s American dream-which makes her all the more vulnerable to her loneliness. What makes her more exposed is the constant red imagery used in her appearance as well which not only represents a desire for romance in her life (which is failed by Curley for her loneliness has made her disappointingly upset) but also a sign of warning and danger in her life- an echo of the girl ’in a red dress’ by Lennie who as a woman was treated as a disability and also uses red imagery. Because of this, Curley’s wife exposes herself too much and may face the consequences of this from Lennie because of her vulnerability. Not only this, but Curley’s wife is vulnerable because she has no name which in a sense, to me, suggests that she has no strong identity on the ranch and is treated as a social accessory, like Candy’s dog-also with her name. So similarly to Crooks, her loneliness has made her bitter and more masculine which is shown towards the end of Section Four and is now treated as ‘ma’am’ by Crooks, which raises her hierarchy. Yet nevertheless, I feel that she is still lonely because she was never meant to be masculine so she is still in isolation with herself.
Contrasting with all these characters, George + Lennie are a strong companionship coming into the ranch with high expectations. However, their initial descriptions convey their hierarchy already as Steinbeck says that ‘the first man was small and quick’ with ‘sharp, strong features’- which means to me that he is the dominant and masculine character in this relationship and can stand up against the world. Juxtaposing with this, Lennie is described as ‘a huge man, shapeless of face’ which may describe his feature- unbalanced and quite unsure of himself and the rest of the world compared to George. Because of this, as they enter the ranch they are split into two clashing environments as George ‘went into town’ with the ranchmen and Lennie headed into ‘a little shed’ which shows that George has company and will never be afraid of the world, whilst Lennie is alone and exposed in his vulnerability. Because of his disability, unfortunately he may never escape it. Relating to Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ Lennie is sentenced to death by his loneliness and contrasting characteristics with George which is very similar to Candy’s dog as a mercy killing which seems controversial, but because of the loneliness and depression the companions have been through, Steinbeck shows that it may seem unfair for Lennie to stay alive and go through the same cycle again with a new ranch-similar to Weed in my opinion, leaving George to go through the cycle of loneliness as he threw the gun ‘near the pile of old ashes’ with the rest of the old and bad memories as he must leave them behind in order to survive alone.
Overall, George + Lennie, Curley’s Wife, Crooks and Candy are affected by the harsh reality of loneliness which Steinbeck presents emotionally through setting and their own ‘disabilities’ in 1930’s America- whether it’s racism, sexism or not able to perform practical skills. Even with their American Dream, Steinbeck shows this only makes them the more vulnerable against the wide world ahead of them within a lonely town known as ‘Soledad’. Despite myself being emotionally connected with these characters and wanting them to succeed I realise that there may be no hope for them and unfortunately they must live within the difficulty of isolation forever.
Loneliness in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men Essay
1084 Words5 Pages
How true is the statement "Guys like us are the loneliest guys in the world"
Personally I believe that this statement is true in every aspect. Loneliness is a big part of the book "Of mice and men." The book shows loneliness in every ones life in the book. The quote says "Guys like us" George is talking about the ranch workers by saying "us" we know they are all lonely because they all show signs of loneliness, they try to fight this by making friends I think that in the book Steinbeck tries to show us that loneliness can be resolved by friendship. George blames Lennie for him being lonely ?I could get a girl, shoot some pool and stay at the cat house? George seems to be in denial as even if Lennie wasn?t there he wouldn?t be able to…show more content…
When Lennie comes in and does not have any intention of hurting him, he realizes it and he let's his guard down. It may seem that he doesn't desire friendships or affection, but he no longer knows how to deal with his loneliness. It has made him into another person. Curley's wife's loneliness has altered the way she is towards others, making her very flirtatious. The men on the ranch avoid her because of flirtatious personality to keep out of trouble. No one understands her situation and how loneliness affects her. Her insecurity is easily seen by the way she dresses and wears her make-up. She uses her appearance to receive attention like when "Curley's Wife was standing there looking in. She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton housedress and red mules, on the steps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers." Curley's Wife feels she must dress this way for people to notice her and give her attention. Her dressing-up is unnecessary because they live on a farm and this is not the typical or practical clothing. The way she dresses proves her insecurity and her lack of confidence. Curley's Wife dresses inappropriately along with acting in flirtatious ways. This is another attempt for the attention she