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Of Mice and Men - Loneliness

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Introduction

Loneliness in 'Of Mice and Men' By Bethan Hindson 'Of Mice and Men' is set in 1930s America, in Salinas and centres around two men, Lennie and George, who are migrant farm workers looking for work. In 1930s America, these men would travel around the country, either walking or by cheap modes of transport, in pursuit of farm work. They would receive $2.50, maybe $3 per day, plus board and a room. Often they would spend their whole life either travelling or working. It was a lonely life, and the novel lets us experience this through the eyes of the ranch workers in Salinas. It is thought the inspiration for 'Of Mice and Men' came from the American Dream and the men who believed so steadfastly in it. The American Dream started when immigrants first began to populate America. It was the dream of a better world; equal opportunities; escape from poverty and starvation; and political and religious freedom. Each man carried a different dream. The American Dream for many in this book meant the dream of a 'little place' where they could finally settle down. Yet, this isn't the only dream-from the ranchmen the dream is to be the cowboy heroes they read about in their magazines and Curley's wife dreams of being a movie star. In this essay I am going to look at the topic of loneliness. Each character in 'Of Mice and Men' has his own loneliness and their own reasons for feeling segregated. It is this loneliness that motivates the story, that lets the things that happen, happen. George and Lennie are the first characters we meet, and Chapter 1 is dedicated to describing them and the landscape. We learn they are travelling to Soledad for work in a ranch, 'bucking barley'. We learn of their positions in their partnership immediately upon their entrance: "They had walked in single file down the path and even in the open one stayed behind the other." ...read more.

Middle

He tries to show Lennie how he feels, first by talking about his past at his father's chicken ranch and telling him how happy he was then. He says, "the white kids come to play at our place, an' sometimes I went to play with them and some of them was pretty nice." (pg 70). This innocence that comes with children has clearly disappeared as he has grown older and we can see he misses this life. He has little contact with any of the men, save for Slim and the boss, and no friends on the ranch. This may go part of the way to explaining why he is so bitter-he is a proud man, and well educated for a Negro, but he is also very defensive and expects the worst from white men, as we can see when Lennie first appears at his door: "You got no right to come in my room. This here's my room. Nobody got any right in here but me." (pg 68) It may also be a fa´┐Żade to hide his loneliness and frustration, since when he stops being hostile towards Lennie; much of this is exposed for us to see. Crooks is another very lonely character, as a result of racism, but in talking about his loneliness he sums up the case for everyone on the ranch and helps explain why Candy and his dog, and George and Lennie, managed fairly successfully to escape loneliness: "It's just bein' with another guy. That's all." (Pg 71) Curley's wife is a fairly recent addition to the ranch, and is described as having "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 house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers." The ranchmen look on her as a "tart" and "jail bait" but she is never truly evil. ...read more.

Conclusion

The pity instead falls on his wife, who, during her life on the farm, is described as 'jail bait' and who is avoided by the ranchmen, despite her many efforts to attract them. After her death though, we see what she really is, as all her troubles and loneliness is put to rest: "And the meaness and plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young. Now her rouged cheeks and her reddened lips made her seem alive and sleeping very lightly." Lennie is the symbol for all this loneliness. He is the one who accepts Candy and Crooks and Curley's wife for whom they are but he is also desperately lonely within himself. There is a barrier between him and the rest of the characters that he can never cross, in that he doesn't have the full mental facilities and therefore is left as the follower, the one left behind, as we see when he first enters and in the barn. Crooks is in the novel to appear 2/3rds of the way through and warn of the imminent destruction of the dream. He is a character in which you have to believe because he is so convincingly drawn and can be identified with. He is exposed to Lennie's dream, and warms to it, as the reader does. Then he realises it is nothing more than a dream, a fantasy. Like Crooks, we want to believe in that dream despite everything we know. Like Crooks we know it will never happen. His isolation stems from racism and in portraying a character like Crooks, Steinbeck attacks everything associated with racial injustice. In their own way, everyone in 'Of Mice and Men' is lonely, but only one of those who suffer is blameworthy for what he has done and deserves his punishment, and that is Curley. The rest-George, Candy, Lennie, Crooks, Curley's wife-are just victims of their society, victims of a world which doesn't allow for people to be different. ...read more.

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