Discrimination in “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

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Updated: Sep 14, 2023
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Loneliness is a fact of life; it happens to many throughout one’s lifetime. In the novel, Of Mice and Men, a profound theme is, in fact, loneliness. During the making of the story, each character, in one way or another, is described, is given a reason, and how loneliness directly affects them and their decisions. Whether it be an old man who has lost his dog, a young married woman, or a middle-aged man with a hard discriminatory life, the complex emotion puzzles many. The emotional lack of communication and companionship has a deep effect on a person, much like in the novel. Steinbeck uses some of his most important characters, including Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s Wife, to show this loss of deep emotional support.


Curley’s Wife: Seeking Connection Amidst Restrictions

Curley’s Wife, a deeply important female character in the novel, is married to Curley, the boss’s son. Curley has a powerful hold over his Wife which was increasingly common during the Great Depression. He forbade all of the workers and other farmhands from talking to his Wife and vis-versa. Begging for friends, attention, and the feeling of belongingness, Curley’s Wife takes advantage of her looks and social status with Curley to her advantage. In chapter 4, the young woman pushes the men into giving her the attention she lacks, including intimidating Crooks when he tells her to leave his room by telling the black, disabled man that he could be “sprung up on a tree so easy; it ain’t even funny” (Steinbeck 81). Her new action became increasingly discriminatory and harassing. She was branded as a “promiscuous woman” (Steinbeck 32) and subjected to various derogatory labels by others. She experienced a profound sense of neglect and isolation. The only ranch worker with whom Curley’s Wife had the opportunity to converse was Lennie, largely because he was unaware, aside from George’s warnings, of her predicament. In their final conversation within the austere, desolate barn, she finally felt heard and understood. Remarkably, after only a few intense days of acquaintance, she confided in Lennie, saying, “I don’t like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella” (Steinbeck 89). The prospect of no longer feeling alone made her vulnerable, which, ironically, contributed to her demise. Curley’s Wife serves as a poignant example of the societal perceptions of women during the Great Depression and the behavioral changes stemming from the deprivation of a fundamental human need: companionship.

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Candy was the oldest ranch worker in the book that lost his right arm in an accident. He was discriminated against because of his age and disability and was an outcast. He had no family except for the dog he raised. His dog used to be of great usefulness, but as the dog became older, he became less useful and helpless. The death of the poor man’s dog only uncovered more of Candy’s intense loneliness. Candy’s dog is a direct showing of the issue of ageism and ableism in society at that time. Workers were expected to be productive on the ranch, and if one no longer met that demand due to age or ability to perform certain tasks, they would be dismissed and left to suffer without the thought of the well-being of most of the time, a very hard worker. Candy knows that he will meet the same fate very soon, which will only push him deeper into his swelling loneliness. So the crippled man tells George, “Just as soon as I can’t swamp out no bunkhouses, they’ll put me on the county” (Steinbeck 60). To escape his loneliness and inevitable fate of getting canned by the farm, Candy becomes deeply invested in the duo’s version of the American Dream. The old man offers his entire life savings, a total of $350 dollars, towards the dream farm. “S’pose I went in with you guys. Tha’s three hundred and fifty bucks I’d put in. I ain’t much good, but I could cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some. How’d that be?” (Steinbeck 59). He was very attached and drawn to the idea of the farm and continued to have this dream even after the.

Crooks: Racism, Acceptance, and Loneliness

One of the biggest issues that was prevalent in the Great Depression was racism, which Crooks was a victim of. He was physically separated from the other men and had limited contact with others. As a replacement for friendship, he kept himself occupied with books. Still, he admitted that “Books ain’t no good” and that “A guy needs somebody – to be near him. A guy goes nuts when if he ain’t got nobody” (Steinbeck 72). In the Great Depression, black people faced racial discrimination and segregation from the white citizens of the United States. However, this was exaggerated greatly in the novel as Crooks was the only black man on the ranch.

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These characters grappled with various societal challenges, mirroring the struggles of minority groups within the societal framework of their nation. Each individual acknowledged their solitude, and based on their current societal roles and status, they adopted unique measures to combat or cope with it. Steinbeck effectively illustrates that the loneliness stemming from the prevailing prejudices of the era significantly impacts one’s character, conduct, and mindset. Contemporary society possesses a deeper understanding of the repercussions of isolation and bias. It should be society’s collective objective to eradicate all forms of discrimination and extend support to individuals dealing with various life challenges, with the aim of fostering a more inclusive, healthier, and interconnected existence for all.


  1. “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, 1937.


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Discrimination in “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. (2023, Aug 19). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/discrimination-in-of-mice-and-men-by-john-steinbeck/