The idea of belonging in the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck, relates to the theory of ‘attachment’ in psychology. For most human beings, having a central place they can return to, ideally with loved ones or supportive friends present also, contributes towards their feelings of calm, relaxation and security. Such a place would ideally be one which provides safety,shelter,food, warmth, affection and earning capacity. Not all those elements are always present – sometimes it is enough to live in an RV or trailer park, as long as family or the other things are present.
Some nomadic people are happy to pack up and take most things with them – as long as they have support they are happy. However, George and Lennie only have each other and sometimes that’s even a liability – whatever ‘attachments’ they had in youth are gone and that leaves them adrift in a hostile, unpredictable world. That is why they yearn for ‘centredness’ or the security of a place of their own.
The answer to this question lies in the character named Candy in “Of Mice and Men. An old, disabled ranch hand who is unable to stop the killing of his old friend and dog, Candy realizes that he soon will outlive his usefulness and, perhaps, go the way of his old dog. But, when he hears of Lennie and George’s dream of owning a ranch and a house, he is sweetly hopeful, offering his savings to the men. For, with part ownership, he would not fear isolation and poverty, or abandonment. From owning land, too, there is a sense of pride.
The itinerant men of the Great Depression belong nowhere, they had nothing and lived in fear of losing a job, for they could not survive without any money. There is a constant stress put on these men who must few the next man as a threat to his job or security. But, if one has a place of his own, he must answer to no one else. In the early part of the novel, George explains the position of these men in the world: ‘Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family.
They don’t belong no place, They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go into town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re pounding their tail so some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to. ‘ I would think that one of the most powerful lessons of Steinbeck’s work is the idea that individuals have to possess a sense of belonging. Part of this is definitely physical. When individuals have to wander from life to life, different form of physicality to different form of physicality, their ability to better understand themselves and others becomes impacted.
There has to be some notion of grounding at some point and level where individuals can feel comfortable enough to call it “home” or know that this is where I belong. Despite lacking this, Lenny and George do a fairly good job of providing the belonging to one another. Certainly, Lenny sees George as essential to his conception of belonging. Yet, George does envision Lenny as a part of his own conception of belonging, a vision that appears in George’s dreams and whose faintest touch can be felt in the relationship they both share.
Courtney from Study Moose
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