Theme of Loneliness of Mice and Men
In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses the very interesting and unique setting of Soledad, California. Soledad is Spanish for the word “loneliness” which is one of the major themes throughout the novel. He uses loneliness as a way to teach the readers how meaningful human interaction is and how much it can affect a person’s life. Most cases of loneliness in today’s society lead to death, resentment, and fear which is very similar to the cases in the novel.
Most of the readers, after hearing about the book, would probably think that Lennie would be the loneliest character in the novel due to his mental disability, however, that is not the case. The loneliest characters in any story are the ones who have physical flaws, like Crooks and Candy, people who experience a great loss, like George and Candy, or the ones who the reader deems desperate, and constantly reaching for attention or help, like Curley’s wife.
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The physical flaws of a person can really make them feel isolated or even make them resent themselves. Crooks is an African-American stable hand for the farm that Lennie and George run away to. Because of his race, he is shunned by everyone around him which makes him feel very isolated. When Steinbeck is describing the life that Crooks lives, he states “A guy needs somebody-to be near him…a guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody” (Steinbeck 72) which shows how isolated he really is and how he’s desperately searching to have a life where he feels loved by someone.
The reader sees his isolation again when Lennies decides to talk to him in his room to which he responds with, “You go on, get outta my room. I ain’t wanted in the bunk house, and you ain’t wanted in my room” (Steinbeck 68). Candy is another character that struggles with loneliness due to his physical appearance. People on the farm see him as an old man with a missing hand that restricts him from doing as much as they want him to.
Candy also struggles with loneliness due to his great loss that he experienced. Towards the beginning of the story the readers learns about Candy’s beloved dog that is old and sick. In that same chapter, a man names Carlson shoots the dog because he is useless and couldn’t do anything to benefit the farm.
When this happens, Candy has no one else in his life and it sends him searching for something to latch on to to help him forget about his loneliness and to fill that empty feeling. Steinbeck writes about Candy’s loneliness when he states, “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog” (Steinbeck 61). He ends up latching on to George and Lennie’s dream of moving away to a farm. George creates this dream, so that he and Lennie can escape their restricted lives due to Lennie’s disability. George spends his entire life taking care of Lennie because of his mental disability, even though he jokes about wanting him to go away.
His disability gets so bad towards the end of the story, that it ends up causing Lennie to kill Curley’s wife and his puppy. Because of these horrific events, George feels the need to kill Lennie in a peaceful way before the people on the farm wanted to hang him and make him suffer through an awful death. Steinbeck ends the story with George shooting Lennie never showing just how lonely George will be because he had just shot his best and only friend. The reader can only assume just how lonely he would be by putting themselves in his shoes.
Unlike George, Curley’s wife attempted to rectify her loneliness but did not succeed. Curley constantly degrades her and cheapens her in the view of other men. He restricts her from talking to any other men on the farm which makes her feel very isolated and trapped since she is the only woman on the farm. Curley also doesn’t pay much attention to his wife which makes her seek constant attention from everyone around her.
When he sees that she is seeking for attention and she is trying to talk to the other men on the farm, he goes behind her back and threatens every man on the farm that he will fight them if they try to talk to her. Curley’s wife states, “What’s the matter with me? Ain’t I got a right to talk to nobody?” (Steinbeck 85) when she is trying to figure out why, when she tries to talk to these men, they just avoid her at any cost. Because she constantly reaches out to other men on the farm, she is known as a flirt and a troubled influence.
All Curley’s wife is trying to do is escape her haunting reality of constant misery and isolation and just find someone to talk to and to love her. These supposed “flirtatious” actions that come from her seeking attention and an escape from her isolation result in her lowering herself to getting close to Lennie. In the end, Curley’s wife suffers a horrific death due to Lennie seeing her loneliness, but due to his disability, he grows too close to her and eventually won’t let her go until she dies.
While Curley’s wife’s loneliness makes her seem very desperate and isolated, she also lets her loneliness dictate her actions. She acts like a flirt, and is known on the farm as the woman who sleeps around and is easy. Many characters that experience great loneliness execute many uncontrollable actions. They let their emotions dictate how they operate and this creates many conflicts throughout their life in the story. Lennie has a mental disability that makes him act like a young child. When he senses if anyone around him is lonely, he latches onto them until he thinks they feel better.
The reader sees this when he latches onto Curley’s wife until he ends up holding her so tight that she ceases breathing. Crooks also uses his loneliness as a defense mechanism by treating people badly so that he can’t be let down. Steinbeck writes, “He kept his distance and demanded that other people kept theirs” (Steinbeck 67) to show how Crooks pushes people away so that they can’t let him down first. Another character that uses loneliness as a defense mechanism to dictate their actions is Candy. Candy desperately holds onto his dog, even though he is sickly, so that he can avoid loneliness.
Loneliness is something that can greatly affect a person’s life whether it’s because of how other people treat them, a great loss, or how they look. While there are many characters in the novel that are very lonely, George states that “God a’mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy” (Steinbeck 12) which shows how desperate he is to be lonely. George is constantly overwhelmed with Lennie’s friendship throughout the book to the point where he seeks for loneliness unlike every other character in the novel. Anyone can be lonely whether they are surrounded by people, like George is, or if they’re isolated due to their supposed flaws. Every person in our world is always seeking for something more in their life because of their constant feeling of emptiness, that is seen in everyone.