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What does John Steinbeckhave to say about friendship and loneliness in "Of Mice and Men" and how do cultural, social and historical issues affect this?

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Introduction

What does John Steinbeck have to say about friendship and loneliness in "Of Mice and Men" and how do cultural, social and historical issues affect this? John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" was set in California during the early to mid 1930's, a time of economic depression and high unemployment. It is a famous story about the harsh realities of life for the poor and unskilled workers who were disrupted by the Depression. Large numbers of migrant workers came to California from other parts of America in search of work. Two of these workers are George and Lennie. They are two very different men, who together search for work. The action takes place at or around the ranch where they eventually find work. The main themes in the story are friendship and loneliness. Migrant workers found friendships difficult to establish at that time as they were thrown together in difficult circumstances, often competing for a single job and were not in the same place for very long. This competitiveness was a common cultural aspect amongst the migrant workers who were mostly men. Men had to leave their wives and families behind and mostly travelled alone, roaming from ranch to ranch, farm work being the only type of work available to them. Against this historical background, the friendship between George and Lennie is all the more special because it is so rare. ...read more.

Middle

At this final point in the story, the two companion's friendship is displayed perfectly. George knows that the other workers, in particular Curly, are coming after Lennie to punish him for the death of Curly's wife, and knows that when they catch him they will either brutally kill him or send him to a mental institution as he would be viewed by the society at that time as unsafe . George feels entitled to shoot Lennie himself as he realises the harsh realities that would befall Lennie if Curly caught him. At this point, historical and social aspects affect the outcome very much. If Lennie was captured today, he'd be taken to a court case and would most likely be committed to a caring institution because of his mental instability. However this is not the way it worked in the society of the 1930's. Immediately Lennie would be labelled insane and sent to jail or to an institution which would differ very much from one in today's society. George therefore takes it upon himself to kill Lennie at the peaceful scene where the story first began and makes his death as humane as possible. He dies a quick, clean death, blissfully unaware of what is happening to him, but happy in George's reassurances of their future. ...read more.

Conclusion

Crooks, out of pride, use his only right, that being in the privacy of his own room, and taunts Lennie with stories of George not returning from his night out. Crooks does this to show Lennie what being lonely is really like but soon realises that Lennie didn't come into his bunk to cause harm, but just to have somebody to talk to. Unfortunately, just as Crooks is beginning to open out and reveal himself to Lennie about how he is constantly lonely, Curly's wife enters. Her presence causes anger and tension inside the room but due to there deficiencies, Crook's being black and Lennie suffering from learning difficulties, they are both powerless and cannot retaliate to her abuse. Her anger is caused by the common bond that all workers have, loneliness. Steinbeck portrays friendship that seems to be fixed in male companionship. This true to the historical context of men being thrust together by historical circumstances. This friendship is more than just the absence of loneliness. It has positive aspects such as the sharing of the "American dream", common to the society of the 1930's, and the solid trust which is based purely on companionship and not on any duty or commitment to one another. This friendship between males does not seem to cross the racial or gender boundaries. This accurately depicts the situation of the women and black people of the time. GCSE ENGLISH COURSEWORK CHARLIE DEBELLE ...read more.

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