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How does John Steinbeck present the theme of loneliness in his novel 'Of Mice and Men'?

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Introduction

Lucy Gillett English Coursework Of Mice and Men How does John Steinbeck present the theme of loneliness in his novel 'Of Mice and Men'? Of Mice and Men is a novel by the author John Steinbeck. This fictional story is set in 1930's, during the time of the Great Depression. The Great Depression was an economic disaster, during this time it was very hard to find a job, because of this human inflicted catastrophe. The Great Depression was very true to its name, people became both lonely and desperate. They became isolated from one another. The main work for men during this time was on ranches as itinerant workers. The book focuses on the men in one particular ranch, including the main characters George and Lennie. The ranch it self is deserted and lonely, surrounded by fields, mountains and countryside, we know this as George and Lennie had to walk 4 miles to enable them to get there. Inside the ranch and bunk house the relationship between the characters lacks and also proves that these men don't know how to be friends and have companions, they are all to used to being by themselves. They all just stick to the stereotype of itinerant workers, which is lonely, except for George and Lennie who both know that they break this and are proud of doing it. As George says in the novel 'Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong to no place. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to'. Everything that the men do and have is closely linked to the theme of loneliness. The men have little belongings, and also in the bunk house little room for belongings, which shows you that itinerant workers are not expected to have a lot, just two shelves for all their stuff. ...read more.

Middle

'She's purty,' said Lennie, 'Yeah and she's sure hidin' it' George says sarcastically. George means that Curley's wife wants the attention of everyone. She wants everyone to notice her and to fancy her. Curley's wife is seen by some as 'jail-bait'. This means she is very provocative, she dresses herself up to attract some ranch workers and then Curley would duff them up or get them canned. This is not what necessarily happens but it is what all the workers believe what will happen is they do anything to her. This is why George warns Lennie away from Curley's wife. 'Don't you even take a look at that bitch. I don't care what she says and what she does. I never seen a piece of jail-bait worse than her. You leave her be.' George warns Lennie away just in case he gets to close to her and Curley gets annoyed and starts a fight with him. I think that she is very lonely. As she is the only woman on the ranch she has no one to talk or gossip to. She tries to talk to some of the workers but they are scared of what Curley would do to them. This definitely adds to her loneliness. She always claims to be 'looking for Curley', which I think, is an excuse to chat up the ranch workers. But definitely, the main reason she feels so unhappy and alone is because of her husband. He forces his wife to feel alone because he forbids her out of the house and, I am pretty sure he beats her. Also, he visits brothels and this makes her feel inadequate. For Curley's wife Curley was second choice and he acts like it. She does have several dreams of a better life. When men promise her careers in acting and film she believes them but I think that they just wanted her to sleep with them. ...read more.

Conclusion

I think that, even though Lennie is naive, he still knows how to keep things to himself. Whereas George wants someone to confide in, someone who is on the same level as himself. I don't think Lennie feels the need for this comfort. George sits down to have discussions with Slim, the jerk line skinner on the ranch, who he really seems to trust. Yet, other people seem to confide in Lennie; because they know what they are telling him will not ever be repeated. However, I think Lennie understands more than he lets on, but he just doesn't want to confront the person, talk about the problem and take on some responsibility. He doesn't know how. George and Lennie contradict the typical stereotype of ranch workers being lonely and friendless, by traveling together and just by being friends. Nevertheless, George plays solitaire. Steinbeck is trying to show that, even though George has Lennie's constant companionship, he is still lonely, which is why he plays solitaire. Solitaire is card game that you can play by yourself. It's the same with them both George and Lennie are lonely, they have each other, however they do not understand each other and they both want and need some one that does. In conclusion I think that this novel has been very cleverly written, with many different characters that all have the same 'disease' this being loneliness, however they all have caught it for different reasons. For example Crooks has it because he is black, Candy because he is old. The timing of the story adds to the loneliness as the Great Depression caused many men to become lonely. I think the main reason they are lonely is because they want to be. These men have lived their life by themselves and have been told to do so. They are brought up to be itinerant workers and follow the path of loneliness that is placed in front of them, and they don't know how to get off. ...read more.

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