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Discuss Steinbeck's presentation of the theme of loneliness or isolation in 'Of Mice and Men'.

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Discuss Steinbeck's presentation of the theme of loneliness or isolation in 'Of Mice and Men'. 'Of Mice and Men' was written by John Steinbeck, published in 1937. The novella is set in the 1930s during the great depression in California. The two main characters, George and Lennie, are farm workers who have a dream of one day owning their own ranch. During this time of depression, this 'American Dream' was common amongst many migrant workers, and was a way of them believing they have a goal in life to work towards, and/or a way of forgetting their isolation. George and Lennie find work in a ranch near Soledad. This is mentioned at the start of the play therefore immediately introducing the theme of loneliness into the novella. They are met by different characters on the farm that all have a dream. To be lonely means to lack friends or companionship and to feel isolated. Most of the characters are lonely and the only thing that keeps them alive is their dreams. Some of the loneliest characters they meet are Candy, an old man with only one hand, Crooks, a black cripple and Curley's Wife, a woman with no identity (as her name is never mentioned). She is lonely even though she is married. Although they are all on the ranch together, they are lonely because of who they are and their history. This essay will describe the way loneliness and isolation are portrayed in 'Of Mice and Men.' The book begins with a calm and peaceful setting of nature: 'A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops close to the hill-side and runs deeps and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool.' This shows the peaceful world of nature, it is very calm and tranquil. The pool shows a sign of innocence, as it is only a branch of the Salinas River. ...read more.


He spends time looking after the gun, he does not take part in the conversation between the other men, because his gun is his only valued possession, he does not understand the value of friends and companionship. The last part of the quotation, 'then fell to cleaning the barrel with the little rod,' shows that he spends time and effort cleaning his pistol, as if it was more than a gun. The language emphasizes that Carlson doesn't just polish the outside of it; he efficiently cleans the insides as well. This also shows that Carlson does not understand friendship because he doesn't see things for what they are. He tells Candy to get rid of his companion because he has no use for it. But Carlson's only companion is his gun, which he keeps because he has a use for it. He thinks that you should only keep things that have a practical use, or they are useless. Curley's wife is one of the loneliest characters in the novel; she has no identity, she is seen as an object, a possession of Curley's. Curley's wife is seen as a flirtatious 'tart' by the other workers. It is true, Curley's wife does flirt, she is very conscious of the effect this has on men, but she is not a tart. She wants attention and by gaining that attention, she act the way people think: 'She had full rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red.' She likes to dress up and wear a lot of make up, to attract the men. The men on the other hand do not flirt with her, as they are afraid of what Curley might do. This leads to the loneliness of many characters, and cancels out any female friendship they want, meaning the only female friendship they have is that at Suzie's place. Although the men think it is wrong of her to flaunt herself sexually and give everyone the 'eye', the men all visit a whorehouse for sexual gratification and momentary companionship. ...read more.


'I know,' said Lennie miserably. 'I tried Aunt Clara ma'am. I tried and tried.' This is a turning point for Lennie as he realizes George is better off without him. He then realizes he should leave George, and he doesn't care that he will be lonely, but by then it is too late as he has caused too much damage to society. There was an instance earlier in the novella when Lennie was going to leave George; this is ironic in this context because it is the threat of being lonely that makes George tell Lennie to stay. George shooting Lennie was probably, in Lennie's situation, the best thing that could have happened. Lennie having to face the consequences had he not been shot would have been far worse than ending his life. He is 'recued' by George in this way. Despite George being comforted by slim, he must now face the future without Lennie. And because Lennie has been a life companion to him, he is now certainly left alone. Steinbeck presents the theme of loneliness through the characters. The language he uses to describe the landscape and characters show signs of loneliness. The character's past reflect their loneliness and the death of both Candy's dog and Lennie create the major theme of loneliness. Death seems to prompt loneliness in this sense, but death was not the cause of the loneliness in the first place. Loneliness is shown as early as the very start of the novella, creating a major theme. The novella has a cyclical structure because the scene at the start is again described in the climatic part of the novella. It is almost like the novella finishes where it has started because the theme of loneliness is still there at the end as much as it is at the start and the description of nature is sustained all the way through to the end. ...read more.

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