The relevance of ‘Of Mice and Men’ being set in the town of Soledad comes from the parallels drawn between the meaning of the name ‘Soledad’ and the deeper sense of loneliness expressed through the characters of the novella. The symbolism of the loneliness that is associated with the town of Soledad establishes an underlying sense of loneliness in all characters. The author uses a variety of techniques to develop this underlying loneliness in each of the individual character’s lives.
Such individual characterisation building on the loneliness established in the connotations of Soledad is evident in Curley’s wife, Crooks, George and Lennie, for the epitome of these characters’ isolation can be pinpointed to their time in Soledad. Curley’s wife is an important element of the theme of loneliness expressed throughout the novella, ‘Of Mice and Men’. Unhappily married to an aggressive man, her only opportunity for interaction with others comes from the other men on the ranch, who believe her to be a ‘tart’. Her desperation for companionship is shown through her response to the men when she says, “I ain’t giving you no trouble.
Think I don’t like to talk to somebody ever once in a while? Think I like to stick in this house alla time? ” Here Steinbeck uses rhetorical questioning to convey the deep loneliness she experiences on the ranch and to call upon the responder to reflect on Curley’s wife’s situation, considering things from her point of view. She feels weak because of her situation, and therefore feels the need to lash out at others in order to assert her power over those weaker than herself. This is exemplified when she says to Crooks, “Listen, Nigger… I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.
The colloquial and explicit language in the direct speech conveys her cruelness towards Crooks, and the fact that she lashes out at Crooks to exhibit her power over others further demonstrates her need to exert her power wherever she can. Because Crooks is a “Nigger”, he is of a lower status than Curley’s wife, and therefore an opportunity for her to have control over a situation. Crooks the stable buck on the ranch, who is treated with less respect than the other men because he is black, is another example of the loneliness plaguing the town of Soledad.
He does not live with the other men, and does not socialise with them as they do with one another. This is shown when Lennie visits Crook in his bunk house and Crook says, “I ain’t wanted in the bunk house… ‘cause I’m black. They say I stink” Through the colloquial language and dialogue used in this extract Steinbeck aims to bring the responder down to Crook’s level so that they can better understand his place in society and the problems he faces by those who are prejudiced against him because of his race. Similar to Curley’s wife, Crooks is a disempowered character who turns his vulnerability into a weapon to attack those weaker than him.
He plays a cruel game with Lennie, suggesting to him that George is gone for good and telling him, “They’ll take ya to the booby hatch. They’ll tie ya up with a collar, like a dog. ” Crooks lashes out and tells Lennie what it feels like to be alone, taking pleasure in torturing Lennie, after suffering racism and loneliness, because he is jealous of Lennie and George’s friendship. The simile ‘like a dog’ that is used refers to the parallels drawn between the death of Lennie and the death of Candy’s dog, as they are both killed ‘with a shot in the back of the head’.
This quality may be expected to make Crooks seem dislikeable, however his character evokes sympathy in the responder as the origins of his cruel behaviour are made evident. Lennie and George are contrasted to the other characters throughout the novella because their friendship acts as a buffer to the external forces that cause the loneliness of a man. They have a companionship that is idealized by the men living in those harsh, lonely conditions, in which they live with one another’s best interests in mind, protecting each other and knowing that there is somebody in the world dedicated to protecting them.
The power of their friendship is conveyed in the exchange between Lennie and George, “’Because I got you’ ‘An I got you. ’” The repetition and dialogue used in this extract conveys the intensity of their companionship, and the way they finish each others’ sentences demonstrates the strength of their long lasting relationship in that it has prevailed through all they have struggled through. Ultimately, however, the world they live in is too harsh and predatory a place to sustain such a relationship as theirs, tragically separating the two and leaving George as lonely as the other men on the ranch.
Lennie’s death is not only representative of the end of their friendship, but also as the end of the hope that someday them may fulfil their dream of living on their own land, and this is shown when George says “I think I knowed from the very beginning. I think I knowed we’d never do her. ” The sad and dejected tone used here evokes devestation in the responder and allows them to empathise with Lennie and George as the possibility of one day living away from the pressure of society is crushed.
The symbolism used here shows how even though they are chasing their dreams throughout the novella, they were always destined to have their dreams crushed. With the devastating separation of George and Lennie, a rare friendship vanishes, but the rest of the world – represented by Curley and Carlson, who watch George stumble away with grief from his friend’s dead body – fails to acknowledge or appreciate it. ‘Of Mice and Men’ thrives around the notion that everybody is isolated, and Steinbeck explores this theme of isolation through the individual characters living in Soledad, a place representative of this loneliness.
Each character’s loneliness stems from their time spent in Soledad, and therefore the meaning of ‘Soledad’ is relevant in its symbolism relating to the individual characterisation of characters such as Curley’s wife, Crooks, Lennie and George. These characters, as well as others in the novella, are used by Steinbeck to exemplify the sense of loneliness that is present throughout ‘Of Mice and Men’. The relationship between the characters and the setting of the novella allows the responder to better understand the themes of the novella, and the true message of the story.