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What is the significance of loneliness in this novel?

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Introduction

'Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world', the theme of loneliness is clearly encapsulated by George early on in the novel, which shows Steinbeck's eagerness to portray this element of a workers life. Steinbeck himself worked on a ranch and therefore the novel is very much a reflection of his own feelings of isolation, merely a graphic and moving portrayal of the problem. However the emotional power of the novel comes from one's realisation that things cannot and will not change for the men on the ranch. Steinbeck takes note from existential writers of the period and sees loneliness as part of the human condition, something we are born with and something we either fight or succumb to all our lives. Steinbeck pairs the themes of loneliness and friendship and the only way George and Lennie avoid loneliness is with their relationship. Loneliness is presented by Steinbeck quite ironically; nobody is physically alone, people live and work in close proximity of each other, yet several characters are lonely. Steinbeck has given us a picture of most ranch workers being lonely, rootless souls with no friends or family connection but the three loneliest people in the novel live permanently on the ranch, they are Candy, Crooks and Curley's wife. ...read more.

Middle

Candy is crippled by his loneliness because he is not able to stick up for himself, even when the most important thing in his life, his dog, is at stake. Candy's loneliness is reflected in his keenness to gossip to newcomers George and Lennie when they arrive on the ranch, and in his ready embrace of the dream that George shares with Lennie. He enjoys George's fantasy of how they would just stop work and go off to a carnival or show together of they felt like it. Candy is prepared to offer all the money he has if it will rid him of his loneliness. "I'd make a will and leave my share to you guys in case I kick off". Candy's loneliness is also matched by his bitter disappointment when he finds Curley's wife dead and realises that now the dream can never come true. Steinbeck portrays Candy's loneliness as a result and punishment for being subservient to the others on the ranch because of his disability. Candy is given to complete and utter despair by his loneliness. "I ain't got no family nor nothing", and as a result is driven to suicidal thoughts, "When they can me here I wisht somebody'd shoot me". ...read more.

Conclusion

Steinbeck shows how such bonds are impossible to make in the dog-eat-dog world of the Great Depression, because trust and loyalty are not easily earned from wandering men. On the other hand, animals like rabbits, dogs and even Lennie, are possible companions, since their vulnerability and dependence allows people like George and Candy to make them 'their own'. But again, this companionship is doomed because of one of the partners' vulnerability. Steinbeck also shows how prolonged loneliness makes people cruel and how a temporary, friendly reception can make people expressive and hopeful. Loneliness makes life a futile circuit of cheap, carnal attempts at human contact, which can constitute the petting of creatures, going to brothels or flirting with men. In the cyclical fashion of the novella, the result of these attempts is just more loneliness and the resulting indifference. Throughout the novel, Steinbeck uses his characters as dramatic devices, to develop the theme of loneliness from different aspects of society. We see how it is not just the poor, the disabled or the people who are scrutinized for their race who are lonely, it is the advantaged, more wealthy people who appear better-off who are actually the most isolated of them all. ...read more.

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