Motif of Loneliness in John Steinbeck’s of Mice and Men

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Updated: Aug 13, 2019
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In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses the motif of loneliness to examine the importance of friendship and how it can lead to self-destruction. Curley’s wife seemed to have the “personal freedom” (55) and is considered to own the “dream” (147) that everyone has during that time period, to be free. But ironically she is remained nameless throughout the entire novella, and she is very lonely even though she is Curley’s wife.

During the first introduction of Curley’s wife, she is seen to “give the eye” (82) to Lennie. This scene is important because it’s the first formal introduction of Curley’s wife in the novella and Lennie’s thoughts about her play a very big role. Even the old rancher, Candy, states that he has “seen her give the new workers the eye” (82). He even describes her as “a tart” (83) suggesting that George and Lennie stay away from her. But we could see that Lennie was clearly interested in her and kept calling her “purdy” (88). Also, he instantly noticed her soft “sausage hair” (87).

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Ironically Steinbeck uses the most uncomplicated character, Lennie, to be the victim of Curley’s wife. Throughout this novella, Lennie is portrayed as innocent. We see that Lennie is very childlike and has a weird fetish for soft things. Since Curley will never treat his wife like she expects him to she will forever remain emotionally lost and flirt with other men to gain Curley’s attention, which will cause her of her own death.This foreshadows to the rest of the story that trouble is coming for Curley’s wife.

Later in the book Curley’s wife catches Lennie in the barn trying to cover his “dead pup” (164). This scene is important because it will be the end of Curley’s wife’s life and the end of Lennie’s dream. The dead pup symbolizes the victory of the strong over the weak. The pup also foreshadows the ending of Curley’s wife. She comforts Lennie about his dead pup him and starts explaining her life story to Lennie alone in the barn, which covers the main reason of her being lonely and flirtatious to other men. This is shown in the last few pages of chapter 5.

Curley’s wife admits that she doesn’t “like Curley” (168) and he “isn’t a nice fella” (168-169). She had dreams of “a different life” (92), but her parents wouldn’t allow her to follow her dreams. She even suspected her own mother of stealing her letter because she had to blame someone for her broken dreams. She met Curley and thought he was the “ticket out” (51) of her miserable life. But she was completely wrong.

Their marriage was more of a financial decision rather than love. She wanted to look desired instead of deserted, but unfortunately her husband was only interested in the idea of having the “wife” (115) around and showing her off as a trophy; there was no real connection between them so she ended up being very isolated.

While Curley’s wife explains her life Lennie was more interested in her hair and started stroking it very hard. While trying to cover her mouth Lennie accidentally killed Curley’s wife. The setting of the murder place is the barn which represents a supposedly safe place where animals can find shelter. It is a human made place where animals are taken care of, which is symbolically ironic because it is where Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife and his pup.

Motif of Loneliness in John Steinbeck’s of Mice and Men essay

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Motif of Loneliness In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. (2019, Aug 13). Retrieved from