Loneliness Theme in Of Mice and Men
While loneliness is undesirable in everyone’s life, some characters in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck experience it. One town near the ranch is a town named Soledad, meaning solitude, which sets the ground for the theme of loneliness. Notably, isolation is depicted as a negative factor in the characters’ lives in the novella. Lonely characters feel isolated for lack of companionship, a situation that affects their daily lives on the ranch. When lonely, the characters find ways to improve their state of loneliness. In the novella, different characters experience loneliness, although George and Lennie are lucky for their solid friendship. In Of Mice and Men, discrimination against Crooks and Candy makes them lonely, while Curley’s wife’s suppression by Curley keeps her away from other characters on the ranch.
Discrimination Against Crooks and Candy
The life of Crooks on the ranch shows his loneliness and separation from others. Crooks’ loneliness stems from the black race that sets him different from other characters in the novella (Steinbeck, 1937). The typical rejection is synonymous with how discrimination was prevalent during the great depression, as the whites discriminated against the black population. Interestingly, Crooks, for lack of other options, accepts that his race sets him different from others, resorting to staying an isolated life. For example, when Lennie visits Crooks to make a friendship, Crooks denies Lennie’s advances, telling him, “You (sic) got no right to come in my room. This here’s (sic) my room. Nobody got (sic) any right in here but me” (Steinbeck, 1937, p. 25). These words authoritatively indicate that Crooks knows he is distinct from others due to his race and is comfortable staying an isolated life. While on the ranch, Crooks spend most of the time alone, sleeps alone in his house, and does not join others in the bunkhouse to play cards. Crooks laments, “Cause (sic) I’m black. They play cards there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink” (Steinbeck, 1937, p. 26). These words indicate Crooks’ loneliness and miserableness on the ranch.
Again, discrimination makes Candy a lonely character on the ranch. Candy’s companionship with other characters is greatly limited due to his age and physical disability, especially due to having only one hand (Steinbeck, 1937). Due to his disabilities, he is not involved in the ranch activities, making him a lonely man. His loneliness gets worse when he loses his dog. For the longest time, Candy’s dog had kept him company and was his best friend (Shakil, 2018). Upon the death of his dog, Candy tries to get into George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm for their economic development and financial freedom. The way Candy requests George and Lennie to accommodate him in their dream shows the magnitude of his loneliness and misery. Candy tells them, “I ain’t (sic) much good, but I could cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some (sic)” (Steinbeck, 1937, p. 22). From his words, Candy is desperate for accommodation in George and Lennie’s team pursuing to achieve the American dream.
To sum up Candy’s loneliness, George replies the most unexpected answer to Candy, saying, “I gotta (sic) think about that. We was (sic) always gonna (sic) do it by ourselves” (Steinbeck, 1937, p. 22). Undoubtedly, Candy was a lonely character and sought companionship from George and Lennie. But, then, his age and disability set him aside from others who would have offered him the needed companionship.
Curley’s Wife’s Suppression by Her Husband
Curley’s wife’s life on the ranch shows her loneliness. Unfortunately, Curley’s wife is the only female among other characters (Bashar et al., 2019). As the only female, Curley restricts her engagement with other males on the ranch, leading to her loneliness. At some point, Curley’s wife confesses to Lennie that she is lonely. She does so when she meets Lennie at the barn, asking Lennie, “Why can’t I talk to you?” (Steinbeck, 1937, p. 32). In the conversation, Lennie says, “Well, I ain’t (sic) supposed to talk to you or nothing” (Steinbeck, 1937, p. 32). Lennie’s words refer to Curley’s disapproval of people engaging with her wife. In her response, Curley’s wife says, “I get lonely” (Steinbeck, 1937, p. 32). In this conversation, it is evident that Curley is a lonely person on the ranch. Her husband is stern about her not talking with other people at the farm, which compounds Curley’s wife’s loneliness. Despite warnings from her husband, Curley still engages other men to fight her loneliness. Through these interactions, she gets to share her dream of being an actress. Unquestionably, Curley’s wife lives a lonely life, especially as the only woman on the ranch.
Undoubtedly, Crooks and Candy’s discrimination makes them lonely, while Curley’s suppression of her wife keeps her away from other characters on the ranch. In the novella, Crooks faces rejection as a black man, forcing him to accept the state of loneliness. Equally, Candy is presented as an aged man without one arm, which makes his stay and engagement in the ranch activities problematic. When his dog dies, he is left alone and requests George and Lennie to accommodate him. As the only woman, Curley’s wife suffers loneliness, especially since her husband limits her from engaging with the men on the ranch. In conversation with Lennie, she acknowledges loneliness. Unarguably, loneliness is a significant theme in the novella.
- Bashar, K. U., Zeb, A., & Khan, H. (2019). Stereotyping of Curley’s wife in Steinbeck’s of mice and men: From Derridean Perspective. Linguistics and Literature Studies, 7(3), 95–99. https://doi.org/10.13189/lls.2019.070301
- Shakil, R. (2018). Unveiling multiple themes and concerns: A reading of John Steinbeck’s of mice and men. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327702124_unveiling_multiple_themes_and_concerns_a_reading_of_john_steinbeck’s_of_mice_and_men
- Steinbeck, J. (1937). Of Mice and Men. Lulu.