Whilst reading the novel, ‘Of Mice and Men’ it becomes apparent that loneliness, is one of the main themes that is carried throughout the book. This theme is symbolised in almost every character, each expressing loneliness in their own way. From Crooks, the misunderstood black man who wasn’t always discriminated against; Curley’s Wife, the only woman on the ranch who had dreams of being something much bigger, to the leading characters George and Lennie.
Whether they are mentally alone or whether they have a fear of being alone, they all express loneliness. We are first introduced to the theme of loneliness when George is talking to Lennie about life on a ranch and how men on a ranch live compared to how they live, saying “Guys like us that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world.
They got no family. They don’t belong no place……..With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us” Lennie eagerly finishes George’s description of them saying “But not us! An’ why? Because…
I got you to look after me and you got me to look after me” From this conversation alone it is obvious to us that George and Lennie are on completely different wavelengths intellectually, Lennie being extremely childlike, thinking and speaking like a toddler would, and George being a father-like figure, getting frustrated when Lennie doesn’t understand him, or when he doesn’t remember something he’s been told, as Lennie pointed out, physically, they are not alone, physically, they do have each other and although Lennie isn’t intellectually able enough to understand, mentally, George is alone, travelling and holding conversations with a man who has the mental ability of a 3 year old would not be enough to take away the feeling of loneliness.
Although Lennie isn’t alone, he has a subconscious fear of being alone, of being abandoned by George, and like most children, he has a constant urge to have a companion, a pet, so that even when he is ‘alone’ he has something with him, this is shown through his constant petting of animals, dead, or alive “Jus’ a dead mouse, George……
I could pet it with my thumb while we walked along” the fact that Lennie subconsciously fears being alone becomes very apparent when Crooks suggests that George may not come back, Lennie becomes very aggressive, very quickly “S’pose he gets killed or hurt so he can’t come back” Like an animal, his fear turns to anger and he moves to attack ‘He stood up and walked dangerously towards Crooks.
“Who hurt George?” he demanded’ his fear of being without George is his fear of being alone. While Lennie is with Crooks, Crooks is heard saying “S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunk house and play rummy ‘cause you was black. How’d you like that?” This connects to an earlier quote in the book, saying that in Crooks’ room, there were a pair of ‘large, gold-rimmed spectacles’ and Crooks’ mentions to Lennie that his father owned a ranch and “the white kids came to play at our place, an’ sometimes I went to play with them, and some of them was pretty nice” this shows us that Crooks’ wasn’t always discriminated against, he wasn’t always alone, in a lot of ways its worse for Crooks’ than a lot of other black men, because he isn’t so used to it, he knows what it’s like not to be alone, whereas most black men have never known anything else, Crooks’ also speaks out about his loneliness to Lennie saying “Books ain’t no good.
A guy needs somebody-to be near him. 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, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick” Crooks’ has a loneliness which is never-ending, he can’t change it.
Curley’s wife is the only woman on the ranch and the only female woman in the book. Curley is possessive of her, he makes out that she belongs to him and that no one else can have her, that no one else can talk to her.
Curley wants the other men on the ranch to know that they can’t communicate with her, he is threatening towards the men about his wife constantly being suspicious of them demanding they tell him where she is even if they don’t know, he worries about her being unfaithful, so gets very aggressive when he thinks she has given anyone ‘the eye’ and it can often lead to fights due to his hot-tempered personality, at one point, he thinks Lennie is laughing at the fact that he can’t find his wife and that is when a fight between them occurs, this makes the men wary of talking to her, or even, being near her.
Curley doesn’t like her communicating with the other men, so she has no one to talk to. At one point when talking to Lennie she is heard saying “I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely’. Because she is lonely, she always seeks attention, and the only way she knows how to get attention is through her looks. Her over-the top appearance only highlights her desperation to be noticed by someone, anyone.
The only people she ever see’s refuse to talk to her because they think she’s a ‘tart’ and they see her as ‘jailbait’, they refuse to communicate with her because they don’t want to start anything with Curley. Curleys wife’s obliviousness to what the men think of her only becomes obvious when she’s talking to Lennie, she questions him “What’s the matter with me? Ain’t I got a right to talk to nobody? Whatta they think I am, anyways?” She is oblivious to that fact that, the more she tries to get noticed the more the men on the ranch will steer clear from her.
Overall, I think the loneliest character in the novel would be George, because, not only does he end up physically alone, but, throughout the book he is always alone, whether there are people around or not, he is mentally alone and with Lennie to look after and look out for he must be mentally exhausted after just one conversation with Lennie, his patience and obvious love for Lennie, is in the end the reason he is completely alone, without Lennie, without anyone, from the beginning of the book.
George had loneliness coming towards him, whether he knew it or not, he was bound to end up alone, the life he claimed he ‘wanted’ the life that he said would be so much ‘easier’ a life without Lennie, by the end of the book, George is one of those men that work on a ranch, by the end of the novel George is one of the ‘loneliest guys in the world’