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How is the theme of loneliness explored in Of Mice and Men

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Introduction

How is the theme of loneliness explored in Of Mice and Men? The theme of loneliness is one of the key themes throughout the book. The book starts off with a very natural feel, "On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan mountains." This theme soon changes into the theme of companionship as we begin to know George and Lennie we can see they are good friends "because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you". However Steinbeck gradually changes the theme of companionship to the opposite theme of loneliness "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." As we meet more and more of the main characters we begin to see just how lonely they are; We later meet Curley and his wife. Curley is the only person on the ranch to have a partner, and even then it's not a trusting, full relationship "If you can't look after you own God damn wife, what do you expect me to do about it" Slim tells Curley. Curley's wife says to Lennie: "I don't like Curley. He ain't a nice fella.". This is Steinbeck underlining how even the characters who are married are lonely and regretful. ...read more.

Middle

With his dog dead Candy is desperately grasping for some sort of companionship and for a while it looks as if their dream may be realised. Unfortunately though, Lennie kills Curley's wife and their dream is shattered. Crooks is the only black man on the ranch, the book was written in 1937 where racism and black/white segregation was still commonplace. Crooks is deliberately written as being black as a method for Steinbeck to speak out against the evils of racism; Crooks is clearly very lonely, even by ranch workers standards. Because he is black he must sleep in his own "little shed" and isn't allowed in the bunkhouse with all the other workers "I ain't wanted in the bunkhouse". In Chapter 4, the reason for this ostracising is made clear "'cause I'm black, they play cards in there, but I can't play because I'm black." The other ranch workers may think that they have no close friends, but Crooks isn't even allowed to be around them (except while working or playing horseshoes), which is something the rest of the characters take for granted- he explains to Lennie "You got George. You know he's coming back. S'pose you couldn't go into the bunkhouse? Suppose you had to stay out here and read books. How'd you like that? Books ain't no good. A guy needs somebody - to be near him. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lennie is the only one who has a real companion (George) yet he doesn't appreciate it until he sees how lonely the others are and empathises with them: "You got George" Having them meet is Steinbeck's way of showing the reader how lonely they are - the people who would normally have ostracised them aren't in the ranch at the time, and so Crooks, Candy and Curley's wife, the three most lonely people, all feeling left out and lonely meet and talk to each other. Though it would seem that they would enjoy talking to one another, they are all so used to being wrapped up on their own, that, particularly Crooks and Curley's wife, are not at all friendly to each other; Curley's wife tells Crooks how she "could get him strung up on a tree so fast it ain't even funny". This is a reference to the lynchings of black men, which were common at the time. This, again, is Steinbeck speaking out against racism and implying that many blacks were framed for their crimes. In conclusion all of the ranch workers are lonely; all except Curley have no wife, few have close friends or companions and they live very lonely existences. There are a few however, namely Candy, Crooks, and Curley's wife who are especially lonely because they have been cut off from the rest of the characters Steinbeck uses his book to speak out against sexism, racism and ageism. ...read more.

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