“Of Mice and Men” Theme: the Heartache of Loneliness
One thing in life that everyone needs is a friend. Without having someone who can be there for us, we can cause us to be lonely. In the novella Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, he shows many characters who suffer from loneliness. George and Lenny share a close friendship, whereas Crooks, Candy, and Curley’s wife show their lonesomeness. In the novella, George and Lenny live their somewhat isolated lives on a ranch. They were at the bottom and had to switch jobs from time to time. They also had dreams other men had, and that was to buy land and never work again. Although the dream never came true, John Steinbeck still shows many important themes throughout the story, one being loneliness. In the novella, John Steinbeck shows the theme of loneliness through many characters and the never-ending search for a fulfilled friendship.
Loneliness Through the Character of Crooks
Crooks is one of the main characters who shows many examples of loneliness. Crooks is isolated from everyone else on the ranch due to the color of his skin. He cannot go to the other men’s bunkhouse, nor can he go to town with the other men. Crooks is also cripple and cannot work as well as the other men, which makes him seem less of a worker. As all the workers have dreams of their own, Crooks’s dream is to have equality throughout the ranch. He makes many remarks about being by himself and never having visitors come to his room. “Guys don’t come into a colored man’s room very much. Nobody has been here but Slim” (p.75). From this quote from Crooks, you can see the loneliness and inequality of others. You can also see how he never gets to spend time or talk to anyone since he is separated. Another quote from Crooks is, “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. ‘I tell ya’ he cried. ‘I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an he gets sick” (Page 72-73). Imagine having no one to spend time with and talk to. It would be a hard situation, and as Crooks said, “A guy goes nuts” if you have no one to talk to. This quote shows that everyone needs a friend; we always need someone along the side of us to help us when we struggle through hard times.
How it works
The Isolation Experienced by Candy
Candy is another one of the workers who suffer from lonesomeness throughout the novella. Candy has no hand, which makes him unable to work with the other men on the ranch. Not only does his lack of work due to his hand make him lonely, but the death of his dog also does too. Ever since Candy’s dog died, it has been like he lost a best friend, his companion. “Candy looked helplessly at him… ‘maybe it’s hurt him…I don’t mind takin’ care of him” (p.45). This quote shows sadness and carelessness of Candy just by the thought of his dog, which he has had since it was a puppy, dying. When Candy had no one else with him, he had his dog, but he was not going to have it for much longer.
Curley’s Wife and Her Battle with Loneliness
Curley’s wife shows her loneliness many times throughout the novella. Curley’s wife is the only woman on the ranch and has no one to talk to, even her husband; she hardly talks. Her husband, Curly, does not like when she talks to other people, so it restricts her, but when she does see someone, she immediately tries to seek their attention. She suffers from boredom, so in the meantime, she tries to engage the attention of other men, which only pushes her away more because the men are not very fond of it. When she does try to have a conversation with others, they always take it the wrong way due to her lack of socialism. “‘I get lonely,’ she said. ‘You can talk to people, but I can’t talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad…'” (p.87). You can see Curley’s wife’s struggle to talk to others and how lonesome she gets when she has no one to talk to.
Overall, loneliness through the characters of Curley’s wife, Crooks, and Candy is portrayed throughout the novella Of Mice and Men. It comes to show that everybody needs family and friends because they are always there for us, and we are always there for them when needed.
- Steinbeck, J. (1937). Of Mice and Men. Penguin.
- Heavilin, B. A. (2000). John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men: A reference guide. Greenwood Press.
- Owens, L. (2002). The Novels of John Steinbeck: A first critical bibliography. Scarecrow Press.
- Cacioppo, J. T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. W. W. Norton & Company.
- Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40(2), 218-227.