How does Steinbeck present loneliness and isolation in of mice and men? Loneliness and Isolation are one of the primary themes in Of Mice and Men. John Steinbeck illustrates the loneliness of the ranch life in the early 1930’and shows, how migrant workers are driven to find friendship in order to escape from isolation. The author further reinforces this theme through subtle methods by situating the story near the town of Soledad, which means “solitude” in Spanish; this alone foreshadows the novel by emphasizing isolation.
Despite the need for companionship, Steinbeck presents how the nature of loneliness is sustained though the barriers established from acting inhumane to one another. 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. It is represented by Crooks, Candy, and Curley’s wife who exhibit some form of seclusion. Steinbeck uses symbolism as a way to explore loneliness.
Many times in the novel, George is described as playing “solitaire. Solitaire meaning alone, is a metaphor for the loneliness that many of the characters feel in the novel. The companionship between George and Lennie epitomises the theme of loneliness in the book as their friendship ends in tragedy, suggesting that ranch works are ‘the loneliest guys in the world’. The itinerant workers are caught in a trap of loneliness. They never stay in one place long enough to form permanent relationships as it would be destroyed by the demands of the itinerant life. This was what made the connection between George and Lennie, extraordinary.
When George and Lennie first arrive on the ranch, the boss is suspicious of George’s intentions of when it comes to his care of lennie. ‘What stake you got in this guy? You takin’ his pay away from him? ’ This shows that nobody understands friendship; as it does not exist on this ranch. To add to this, this demonstrates to the readers that solitude was common among almost all of the workers. Everyone looked after themselves as they had no one to worry or care for. When the migrate workers get their wages, most of them ‘sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. This can therefore illustrate the seclusion of many workers, showing us that they did not have much to look forward to in the future. The ranch workers suffer from loneliness because they fail to have a real home and a place to call their own. Discrimination is a form of social isolation that Steinbeck uses to show how people can be secluded from others. Take for example, Crooks, one of the most reclusive characters in the novel. The chief cause of Crook’s loneliness centres on the fact that he is black and therefore Crooks must live by himself in a small room in the barn. Crook’s says miserably, ‘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 of you stink to me! ’ Crooks doesn’t like the way he’s treated, but he is totally helpless against the racial segregation. He is forced to live in a stinking barn and is kept away from everybody. This passage highlights the need for companionship and the oppressive nature of Crooks’ society. Although most of the men have no true friends, they at least get to play cards and associate with others. Crooks is rejected from every group of people and since he is forbidden to socially interact with others, he turns to books.
He 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. Another thing to consider is the date of the book, ‘1905’. Perhaps it represents the time when Crooks’ father was a landowner and a respected person. ‘I was born right here in California. My old man had a chicken ranch,’ bout ten acres. ’ This portrays that Crooks wasn’t always lonely, he had a family in the past and now he’s left with no one, he’s isolated. This creates sympathy for Crooks.
During the beginning of chapter 4, Steinbeck describes all of the Crooks possessions in detail. There are’ broken harnesses and split collars and drippy cans of tar’. Nothing is whole. Even Crooks’ personal items include ‘tattered books, battered magazines, and gold-rimmed glasses hanging from a nail’. To me this indicates that Crooks belongings are a bit like him, shattered and broken inside after suffering from racism nearly all of his life, it has damaged him physically and mentally. Crooks become so accustomed to this constant prejudice, that he is suspicious of any man who suddenly tries to make friends with him.
In Crooks case loneliness leads him to low self-esteem and deprivation. The theme of isolation is also presented and developed though the character, Candy. Candy is an old, disabled, isolated, unhappy, lonely, insecure swamper. Candy’s loneliness is greatly attributed to the loss of his hand and his age. He believes he is a worthless old man who, like his old dog, is just wasting away. He has only his dog as his one companion but it’s not long before that gets taken away from him too. The death of this dog suggests that the weak are easily disposed of without remorse or guilt.
Upon the killing of the dog, he has no one and therefore, eagerly clutches to the dream George and Lennie share. “I won’t have no place to go, an’ I can’t get no more jobs ” insisting Candy, wanting to contribute towards a new home with the money he has saved up. ‘S’pose I went in with you guys. That’s three hundred and fifty bucks I’d put in… How’d that be? ’ This quote shows Candy is sacrificing his saving into his dream farm, which he could live the rest of his life in, in peace and comfort. Candy’s desperate attempt to be a part of their dream shows us the amount of solitariness that exists for him.
By the end of the novel, Candy is again left feeling secluded as his dream of a better life is in ruins following Lennie’s killing of Curley’s wife. “You an’ me can [still] get that little place, can’t we, George?… can’t we, George? ” Here, Steinbeck uses Candy’s pleading repetition to reflect the inevitable futility of hope and an escape from the stark, purgatorial reality of ranch life. Such solitude is perfectly embodied in George’s recognition that, “Guys like us that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world”.
Through Curley’s wife; loneliness and isolation is presented highly. Curley’s wife is the only woman on the ranch which is lonesome enough but more over she has no name, without having a name it gives a sense of emptiness as she has no strong identity on the ranch.. Culery’s wife’s loneliness can be developed because of her tyrannical husband being ill-mannered and over controlling. He does not regard his wife as a person needing love and companionship, but rather as an object which can be put aside or pushed around. ‘I don’ like Curley.
He ain’t a nice fella. ” Steinbeck illustrates ‘like’ in a italic front to emphasis the verb and to distinguish the word from rest of the text. This extract shows that Curley’s wife dislikes Curley and regrets marrying him since all he talks about is beating people up. Curley’s wife is seen throughout the novella searching constantly for Curley yet this is just an excuse to talk to the other people, ‘ ”I’m looking for Curley,” she said, her voice had a nasal, brittle quality. ’ She struggles to create friends or let alone have a civilised onversation with the men on the ranch. She uses this feminine appearance and flirtatious, predatory behaviour in an attempt to communicate and attract attention to herself. However this backfires and leaves her in a no-win situation as her heavily sexualised manner is the key point of criticism amongst the men as they describe her as a ‘tart’ and ‘a piece of jail bait’. Curley’s wife is so overwhelmed by her loneliness; she seeks out the friendship of Lennie. As she confides to Lennie about all her bottled up emotions, her motive becomes clearer.
She is not trying to be seductive; all she wants is a confidant to talk to, “Why can’t I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely… ’ In this quote, Curley’s wife is trying to get Lennie to relate to how neglected she is on the ranch as none of the ranchers would associate with her because she is, as Candy puts it ‘trouble’. Also, if they get into trouble with her, then the ranchers would have to answer to Curley, who prefers to use his physical strength to straighten things out.
Social life is restricted to only Curley, whom she is married to. Ironically however, she did not marry Curley out of love, but as an excuse to get away from her mother who opposes her dreams and ambitions. Even though Curley’s wife wishes to leave him, her final escape route is blocked since she can’t go back to her mother and she has no money of her own. She can’t escape. Steinbeck tries to get the reader to feel sympathetic towards Curley’s wife near the end of the novel ‘I never get to talk to nobody, I get awful lonely’.
She repeats this message a couple more times on the following pages. It feels like Steinbeck is trying to enforce the message that she is isolated. The adjective ‘awful’ suggests that her loneliness is almost unbearable. Steinbeck writes ‘… the meanness and the planning of the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. ’ This shows that now Curley’s wife is dead, she now looks happy and has relieved from her loneliness. This quote almost makes it sound like the only way to escape solitude, is by death.
In conclusion, Crooks, Candy and Curley’s wife are affected by the harsh reality of loneliness which Steinbeck presents emotionally through 1930’s. Whether it’s racism, sexism or ageism. Steinbeck’s characters are often powerless, due to intellectual, economic, and social circumstance. Although, loneliness, dreams and inequality are major themes in John Steinbeck’s literacy classic, Of mice and men, the most important to the characters is friendship . 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’.
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