In the book Of Mice and Men, it is evident that the friendship between George and Lennie is strong. They have each other and that makes them different from all of other characters. They are not necessarily stuck in the circle of all ranchers; they have a chance to go onto bigger things. The story takes place during the Great Depression. Finding a job and remaining optimistic was hard back then. Lennie and George work through the though times together and remain happy with each other’s company. Through this, Steinbeck reveals the theme that hope and companionship is necessary to survive.
Candy shows that companionship and hope are necessary to survive. His best friend and lifelong companion were his sheep dog. He grew up with him herding sheep when he was young. That dog gave Candy reason to live. He didn’t have much hope because of his age, but because Candy had a friend, he could live happily. Unfortunately, not everybody was so tolerable to the “dragfooted sheep dog, gray of muzzle, and with pale, blind old eyes.” The dog smelled so Carlson shot it, taking away Candy’s companion. This left Candy without a friend and much hope. He was down in the dumps until he heard George and Lennie talk about the farm that they are going to own one day. This brings Candy’s hope up and he has something to live for once again. He spends all his time planning how their farm is going to be and the jobs they are all going to do. He can’t stop thinking about it. Unfortunately, his dream is crushed when Lennie does a bad thing. Candy is once again just a normal rancher without hope or a real friend. He will live the rest of his life unhappy. Candy shows that you can’t survive unless you have hope and a companion.
Crooks also proves that hope and companionship are needed to survive. He even says it himself; “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. I tell ya a guy gets too lonely and he gets sick.” This is something that Crooks would know, because he doesn’t have any friends. He is black and living during the Great Depression, and unfortunatley there was intolerance for black people back then. He is also crippled, which doesn’t help. Crooks would take any friend he could get, even someone as crazy as him. That’s why he lets Lennie in his room, then he at least has someone to talk to, even if they don’t make any sense. Just being around other people that treat him equal makes him feel good. When he hears about George, Lennie, and Candy’s plan to buy a farm and live of the fat of the land, he gains hope. He thinks that he can escape the world he is stuck in and becomes optimistic for a short while. Curly’s wife immediately gets rid of any hope he had by reducing him down to nothing. When she yelled at Crooks, he “drew into himself.” After she’s done yelling at him, everyone leaves and he is back to being alone without hope. Crooks shows that hope and companionship are necessary to survive.
The fact that companionship and hope are necessary to survive is well demonstrated by Lennie and George. They have each other, which separates them from the other men. The other ranchers don’t have anyone “that gives a hoot in hell” for them. Slim says, “Ain’t many guys travel around together. I don’t know why. Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” There is a lot of truth in this, because there was competition for jobs during the Great Depression. Most men were just trying to do the best they could for themselves, as it was hard to find work and earn money at the time. It was also their instinct to compete and be wary of others that could challenge for their job. George and Lennie teamed up instead of turning on one another. Lennie was big and strong, so he could do hard work. George was smaller, but he was smart, friendly, and crafty, which George lacked. These characteristics paired together enabled them to find a job together and stay out of trouble, for the most part. Their companionship gave them hope. Since had a job and were making money, they had a dream of one day buying a farm of their own. This dream helped to keep them working together; thinking that one day their fantasy might come true. They came very close to accomplishing their goal, but their hopes were destroyed by someone without hope or companionship, Curly’s wife. Because Lennie and George had a friendship and hope, they had a chance.
All of these examples show that you need a friend and hope to live happily. George and Lennie had each other, and just having that company gave them a chance to go onto bigger things. They also always had someone to talk to, which Crooks lacked. Crooks wasn’t happy because he didn’t have and real friends. He was also black, which didn’t give him much hope of going on to greater things. Curly had his dog, which gave him company, and then he took part in George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm. Unfortunatley for him both of these things that made him happy were taken away and he could not live a good life any longer. Companionship and hope are needed to survive.
This academia was first published 11 Feb 2004 and last revised 13 Feb 2016.Adam Cap is a sometimes raconteur, rare dingus collector, and webmaster probably best known for SixPrizes (serving as “El Capitan”) and PkmnCards (read: fine art purveyor). He scrapbooks yonder every minute or three.
How is loneliness and isolation explored in the novel?
Loneliness is the feeling of isolation and no hope or dreams in your life-which is what Steinbeck achieves by portraying this theme effectively through key fictional characters in Of Mice and Men. By living in the town of ‘Soledad’ (Spanish for loneliness), the audience gets an overwhelming sense of the depressing environment that the migrant farmers are living through by their repetitive lifestyle and the consequences they face through the Great Depression and the Dustbowl. Yet another aspect of loneliness which is exposed vulnerably through several characters is the idea of the American Dream, for Steinbeck teaches us that even through hard work and prosperity, it is unattainable which is represented by Curley’s wife, Crooks, Candy and George + Lennie. These personas are left in isolation for as George says that ‘Guys like us that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world. They don’t belong no place…’ which is to say that these characters have lost all hope in their lives, which Steinbeck conveys effectively, and the fact that despite this, they still believe there is hope to come for them, which leaves me to sympathise for them more.
Candy is a prime representation of isolation and loneliness in ‘Of Mice and Men’. Firstly, it seems his disability has brought him down by the ranchmen because he has ‘no (right) hand’ which says to me that he isn’t practical in the ranch, yet it also suggests that Steinbeck may have used religious imagery to interpret the isolation Candy feels because the right hand is a symbol of hope and love in Christianity, and by not having one Candy has lost meaning in life, in my opinion. Nevertheless, it’s surprising this because it’s ironic that he’s the oldest on the ranch by being a ‘tall, stoop-shouldered old man’ but having the most experience on the ranch. Yet it seems that the depression has hit on the shoulders for his look on life has been brought down. As well as this, his American Dream of living on George and Lennie’s dream ranch is affected mainly by Curley’s wife’s death as he ‘lay down in the hay and covered his eyes with his arm’ after the men left, knowing it seems that age and disability has made him vulnerable against the harsh reality of isolation in 1930’s America. Yet nevertheless, I still believe that there is hope for him because just several years after Of Mice and Men was published, President Roosevelt signed an agreement for peace and equality in America. He had polio. He was disabled. So despite Candy being in a position of loneliness against the world, there is still hope for him in the world I believe, not like some other characters.
Crooks was also considered disabled by being a ‘negro buck’ as black people were treated terribly as slaves and not in society. This is shown by Steinbeck’s language of setting as Crooks lives in a ‘little shed that leaned off the wall of the barn’ as if to say that he is not strong or bold enough to survive in the world. He also has ‘a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905’ which conveys to me that despite Crooks being motivated and strong to achieving a prosperous life, his life will never be the same. The past has gone behind him and nothing can protect him from his isolation and loneliness. Although Steinbeck shows that loneliness has made Crooks bitter by putting Candy and Lennie in the same position as he is making Lennie think if ’s’pose you don’t have nobody’ As well as this, his race makes him more vulnerable and exposed to others easily, especially by Curley’s wife threatening him to be ‘strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny’ which conveys to me that Crooks is used for other people’s pleasure and has no freedom or boundaries. However, he was born black. So he was born lonely which leads me to empathise for him more, despite Steinbeck still communicating the realistic idea of isolation on the ranch.
Furthermore, despite Curley’s wife being dominant towards Crooks, she was also born lonely- for women were considered as disability in 1930’s America, which is harsh but Steinbeck shows this very effectively. Curley’s wife appearance may make her as an extremely attractive person, having ‘full rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes’ which to me reminds me of an image of Marilyn Monroe if we look at this from a modern generation, a controversial celebrity- which is Curley’s wife’s American dream-which makes her all the more vulnerable to her loneliness. What makes her more exposed is the constant red imagery used in her appearance as well which not only represents a desire for romance in her life (which is failed by Curley for her loneliness has made her disappointingly upset) but also a sign of warning and danger in her life- an echo of the girl ’in a red dress’ by Lennie who as a woman was treated as a disability and also uses red imagery. Because of this, Curley’s wife exposes herself too much and may face the consequences of this from Lennie because of her vulnerability. Not only this, but Curley’s wife is vulnerable because she has no name which in a sense, to me, suggests that she has no strong identity on the ranch and is treated as a social accessory, like Candy’s dog-also with her name. So similarly to Crooks, her loneliness has made her bitter and more masculine which is shown towards the end of Section Four and is now treated as ‘ma’am’ by Crooks, which raises her hierarchy. Yet nevertheless, I feel that she is still lonely because she was never meant to be masculine so she is still in isolation with herself.
Contrasting with all these characters, George + Lennie are a strong companionship coming into the ranch with high expectations. However, their initial descriptions convey their hierarchy already as Steinbeck says that ‘the first man was small and quick’ with ‘sharp, strong features’- which means to me that he is the dominant and masculine character in this relationship and can stand up against the world. Juxtaposing with this, Lennie is described as ‘a huge man, shapeless of face’ which may describe his feature- unbalanced and quite unsure of himself and the rest of the world compared to George. Because of this, as they enter the ranch they are split into two clashing environments as George ‘went into town’ with the ranchmen and Lennie headed into ‘a little shed’ which shows that George has company and will never be afraid of the world, whilst Lennie is alone and exposed in his vulnerability. Because of his disability, unfortunately he may never escape it. Relating to Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ Lennie is sentenced to death by his loneliness and contrasting characteristics with George which is very similar to Candy’s dog as a mercy killing which seems controversial, but because of the loneliness and depression the companions have been through, Steinbeck shows that it may seem unfair for Lennie to stay alive and go through the same cycle again with a new ranch-similar to Weed in my opinion, leaving George to go through the cycle of loneliness as he threw the gun ‘near the pile of old ashes’ with the rest of the old and bad memories as he must leave them behind in order to survive alone.
Overall, George + Lennie, Curley’s Wife, Crooks and Candy are affected by the harsh reality of loneliness which Steinbeck presents emotionally through setting and their own ‘disabilities’ in 1930’s America- whether it’s racism, sexism or not able to perform practical skills. Even with their American Dream, Steinbeck shows this only makes them the more vulnerable against the wide world ahead of them within a lonely town known as ‘Soledad’. Despite myself being emotionally connected with these characters and wanting them to succeed I realise that there may be no hope for them and unfortunately they must live within the difficulty of isolation forever.