"Guys like us, that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world" Discuss the significance of loneliness in Of Mice and Men.

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                November 2002

“Guys like us, that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world” Discuss the significance of loneliness in Of Mice and Men.

Loneliness plays an enormous part in Of Mice and Men as a large proportion of the characters are minorities or discriminated against, therefore they have to come to terms with loneliness on an every day basis. The loneliness is endemic of this culture as the line of work they are in often forces them into travelling alone as all of them are ‘migrant workers’. It is difficult deal with and all humans want companions. George has a companion in Lennie and although Lennie is not intelligent he is loving and protective. This prompts questions at the Ranch that they go to as the people here are not familiar with this kind of friendship, when they are interviewed by the Boss at the new ranch the boss is suspicious of George. He thinks that George is stealing Lennie’s pay but then when George tells him that that is not true he retorts, ‘ Well, I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy’. Companionship is a foreign aspect of life for him and he cannot understand it. Another character who remarks on this friendship is Slim who has a different opinion to the boss saying that he cannot understand why there aren’t more friendships in this world and then he puts it down to ‘the whole damn world being scared of each other’ There are those who long for companionship such as Candy, Crooks and Curley’s wife but generally the men on ‘the ranch don’t never listen nor he don’t ast no questions’ and they keep themselves to themselves.

The vast majority of the men who work on these ranches have no dreams, aspiration or ambitions and do not form friendships because it complicates their simple existences. They do not want to be tied down by anyone so that they can do what they want when they want. They are quite happy to

‘earn them fifty bucks and take it to some lousy cat house and then start all over again for the next month’.

When visiting the brothels at the end of each month we are shown they ignorance of their understanding of women and intimacy in general. They demonstrate how the lack of love in their lives has affected the way that they treat women; as tools for releasing sexual tension. They are scared to settle down, then form roots, and instead employ a macho image that masks their true characters, which are fearful, insecure, lonely and weak. Whit and Carlson epitomise this ‘machismo’ image though deep down are weak and prone to the longing for true friendship. There is one reference to true friendship when Whit remembers William Tenner, a worker from a few months back. This shows that underneath they do actually form friendships and do remember them, though this is also masqueraded by their harsh appearances.

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‘Bill and me worked in that patch of field peas. Run cultivators, both of us. Bill was a hell of a nice guy.

They are sensitive characters when they are opened up but they never get to form long lasting friendships as they move around to other ranches as individuals. We are given many examples of Carlson’s lack of consideration for other people’s emotions on many occasions, none more so than when he goes off to kill Candy’s dog,

“You know what to do”

“What do ya mean, Slim?”

‘“Take a shovel,” Slim said shortly’

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