Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men is set on a ranch near Soledad, Soledad means loneliness and the fact that the ranch is not actually in the town suggests the loneliness is deeper than can be seen. It is the workers on the ranch, which I will be exploring in this essay, both as individuals and as a group. George and Lennie are the only workers on the ranch that travel together; they have each other for company, yet we can see that they both fear loneliness.
When Lennie suggests he could go into the hills to live, George immediately begins bribing him to stay with promises of treats. “First chance I get I’ll give you a pup. ” Although George initially appears to be independent and tough, he would not be able to manage without Lennie. Lennie himself also fears being alone, after experiencing life on the ranch and seeing the effects of loneliness on other workers, he is very protective of George and springs to his defence when Crooks suggests George may be injured. “Ain’t nobody goin to suppose no hurt to George. We see the extremes George goes to in order to protect Lennie from danger and ensure he stays with him rather than leaving him to fend for himself.
Curley is another character who desperately fears loneliness, he doesn’t want to risk loosing his wife and therefore forces her to remain in the house and not talk to others. However, it appears he cares more for his reputation and status than his wife, he considers himself above the workers and if his wife begins to talk with them, she is “lowering to their level. He wants to keep her to himself and deny his workers the company of a female to ensure they remain beneath him socially. When he suspects Slim is in the barn with her he becomes extremely worked up. He has seen the loneliness of the workers and fears he may become like them should he lose his reputation, this is perhaps why he is more threatening towards Lennie and George. Curley’s wife seems to be the loneliest character in the novel, most restricted in what she can do and whom she can talk to.
She spends the majority of time “looking for Curley”, however this seems to be an excuse to talk to the workers and just escape from the confines of her home. She is clearly desperate to talk to anyone who will listen and upon getting the chance to speak to Lennie in the barn she crams as much as she possibly can into the conversation as quickly as possible, telling him about her desired career in “pitchers”.
“She went on with her story quickly before she should be interrupted. She seems desperate to impress Lennie and receive admiration in return for the admiration she gives him for beating Curley. She tells him about how “Curley ain’t a nice fella” indicating how lonely she is both with him and without. She left home to marry Curley to free herself from her restrictive mother and found herself in an even more controlled environment. Crooks is in many ways like Curley’s wife, they are both restricted in who they can talk to and where they can go.
Crooks is discriminated against for the colour of his skin and not allowed to sleep in the bunkhouse with the other workers, instead he lives in a room alone, with no one to talk to. “A guy gets so lonely he gets sick. ” He is also excluded from games and activities. He gets his fun from scaring men such as Lennie to see their reactions, he enjoys seeing fear of loneliness is his eyes to ease the pain of his own loneliness. Crooks is obviously desperate to talk to people but wants to maintain his dignity and cold appearance.
Candy is also desperate not to spend his last years alone and is willing to give up everything he owns to Lennie and George just for a chance at companionship and freedom especially after the loss of his dog. “I’d make a will an’ leave my share to you guys in case I kick off. ” He has only known Lennie and George for a short period and yet the weight of loneliness is enough to drive him to desperate measures to lift the burden of being alone.
In conclusion it is loneliness which is the backbone of this novel, it drives many of the events including the death of Curley’s wife and of Lennie. It appears that the men are given respect on how well they conceal their loneliness. Slim who is the most respected, doesn’t show any signs of weakness, whereas Curley is so desperate not to be lonely he resorts to violence and receives little respect. This novel was also written during the depression, meaning the economy was unstable and having families was difficult, increasing uncertainty and making loneliness seem more inescapable.