This novel was set in America around the 1930’s. The inspiration of this novel was the economic collapse, which forced many people to go into manual jobs like working on the farms. The book is mainly about the two central characters, George and Lennie. They travel around together trying to raise money to buy a small plot of land, which they can go and live on and not have to work for anyone. These people have a hard life, it is a lot of manual labor, and because they travel a lot together, it is a very lonely life for them.
The novel is set on loneliness. “Guys like us, which work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They have no family. They don’t belong no place”. This shows loneliness was very common at the time in the US during the great depression.
Alternatively, with Lennie and George they got each other. “But not us! An’ why? Because… I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why”.
Lennie and George have a dream just as the American dream was to live on a farm. They want to live on the “fatta of the lan”. “We’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens”. George is Lennie’s friend. George is “small and quick dark of face, with restless eyes”. Lennie is a “huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes”. George and Lennie’s friendship is a theme all the way through the book, it is a unique friendship, as none of the other ranch hands travel with anyone else.
They are good friends because they share the same dream and believe that it will come true. Lennie looks up to George in the same way a child would. The friendship was unusual in America during the great depression.
The ranch where George and Lennie end up working for a while is near Soledad, which is south-east of Salinas. Soledad translated means lonely and this could be why Steinbeck chose this setting.
George grows close to Lennie; despite the trouble Lennie’s simple ness and strength bring on them both, particularly George. Lennie also loves animals, and desperately wants to be able look after a pet of his own. The theme loneliness is very strongly portrayed in the story of Mice and Men. It is generally a part of all the characters; however, they’re all lonely in different ways and for their own personal reasons. The friendship between George and Lennie is a complete contrast to the relationships between the people that are around them the loneliness of the homeless ranch worker, the loneliness of the outcast black man, the loneliness of the woman, the loneliness of the old helpless man.
Even so, both George and Lennie seem different; they’re unique because they have each other however, George is still lonely. The theme loneliness in Mice and Men is also to do with for every person who is working on in the ranch is there, as they don’t have their own family, so the people in the ranch are each others family. Another reason is a character such as Crooks is black so he can’t mix in with the white’s in the novel. This is because whites don’t like blacks. There was Segregation and racism in the USA at that time.
George and Lennie are affected by loneliness in many ways. Firstly, they don’t both have a family to support them and so, they’re only got each other. “I got you and you got me to look after you”. Being lonely, they have to rely on other people at the ranch for food and shelter. Steinbeck in the novel uses this line very effectively as in those days, they didn’t have people supporting each other, and all were lonely.
George is often in the habit of playing solitaire, a card game that requires only one person, while he is in the bunk house. He never asks Lennie to play cards with him because he knows that Lennie would be incapable of such a task. Solitaire, which means alone, is a metaphor for the loneliness of the characters in the novel, which have no one but themselves. It is also a metaphor for George’s desire to be “solitaire”, to be no longer with Lennie’s company. Steinbeck puts this metaphor in the novel.
Crooks taunts Lennie about imagine being alone on your own and Lennie is upset as it’s about George. “S’pose George don’t come back no more”. This shows that Steinbeck has shown that loneliness doesn’t only affect others but Lennie as well as he makes Lennie think as being lonely. Another key point is Like Crooks, And Curley’s wife, Lennie can’t go out with the other men, and such as when the whole group went into town and Lennie had to stay behind with Crooks. He can not do this because he can’t be trusted with meeting strangers, such as like what happened in Weed when he raped a girl.
However, George and Lennie are not affected by loneliness more than other characters are. George and Lennie are together. George doesn’t feel lonely as he gets along with people well. “I’m gonna go in the bunk house. Then in a minute, you come out and tell the guys about her. And I’ll come along and make like I never seen her”. Steinbeck shows that George is not lonely here as Candy is on his side like being a friend helping. Comparing George to Lennie, Lennie gets along with pets like rabbits. Lennie finds it hard with people, as they don’t like his attitude. For example Curley who always picks on Lennie.
In a selfless act, George kills Lennie in order to save him from Curley, this makes George even lonelier but he know he must do it for his friend.
Candy is affected by loniness in this Novel. Candy is an old man who makes friendship with George and Lennie. He also cleans the ranch. Candy is an old man with only one arm who works as a swamper. The boss thinks this is the only thing he can do, which illustrates his prejudice. Main and only real friend is his dog which he has had since he was a little pup. “Had him since he was a pup”. Candy’s dog by now has become very old, smelly, and slow so one night he is persuaded by the other men like Carlson in the bunk how to let them put the dog out of its misery. “I been around him so much I never notice how he stinks”.
Eventually and against his will, he agrees and they take the dog outside, and he is shot in the back of the head. Now that his dog is, gone Candy’s has nothing to look forward to and now his only friend has gone life is almost empty for him. This could be one of the reasons why he buys his way into George and Lennie’s dream by offering those most of the capital to buy their plot of land to try and secure something better in life for him. Also, he offers to give a hand on the new plot of land, so that they feel he is actually doing something towards helping them with their dream. Candy’s initial concern after the shock of Curleys wife’s death is for his future, he’s terrified of being lonely, “the little fat stove … an’ the rain comin’…an’ us jus’ settin’ there.’ His eyes blinded with tears”. The dream of living of the “fatta of the lan” is shattered.
Similarly, Crooks is a black man, he is called this because he has a crooked back. He is the only black man on the ranch and has his own room because he is not allowed in the bunk-house because of his colour. This was typical of the 1930’s America, as black people were thought of as less important than others. Crooks spend his time reading and is a fairly clever person. I think the other ranch workers know that and feel threatened, so that is one of the reasons they talk to him the way they do. He is not allowed in the bunkhouse to play cards as the others claim he stinks. “Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black”. This shows racism that Crooks has to face which makes him lonelier. But he tells Lennie, When Lennie goes into Crook’s room, Crooks is angry because he thinks that as he isn’t allowed in the bunk-house, no one should go into his room.
After a while, he lets Lennie stay because he hasn’t talked to anybody for a long time and is eager for company. He shows this by saying, ‘Books ain’t any good’, and ‘A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody’. This shows he really is lonely. However, the only way he can socialise with the other men is when they’re all playing ‘horse shoes’. Steinbeck shows Crooks on the stronger side for a moment when Lennie, Candy, and Crooks were talking in the barn house, Curley’s wife came in, and they all wanted her to go. Crooks stood his ground to her as they were all arguing. He said ‘you got no rights comin’ in a coloured mans room. You got no rights messing around in here at all.
Now you jus’ get out, an’ get out quick. If you don’t, I’m gonna ask the boss not to ever let you come in the barn no more’. Curley’s wife replied with’Listen nigger, you know what I can do to you if you open your trap. The book then reads ‘Crooks seemed to grow small, and he pressed himself against the wall. ‘Yes, ma’am’. This Clearly shows at that time rascsism was common as well as whites were than blacks. What Curley’s wife meant by saying what she could do to crooks is that all she has to say to Curley or anyone, is that Crooks has been coming on to her and harassing her. Once she has said that, Curley will be after Crooks and beat him. No one will want to listen to Crooks side of the story simply because he’s black (coloured).
Another character who is lonely in the novel is Curley. He is not the main character who is affected by loneliness. Firstly, as he is the boss’s son “his glance was at once calculating and pugnacious”. This shows he is sly and aggressive. He hates big guys like Lennie this makes him lonely in one way. Another reason he is lonely is he is the boss’s son with money. He doesn’t have much support from anyone even his wife, as she is always absent. In one way, Curley is jealous of his wife. Curley is also short and thinks he’s cool as he has one Vaseline hand. The others don’t like his attitude to this. The others also talk behind his back about him, as they hate him.
Curley’s wife is lonely differently from Curley. Curley’s wife has “full rouged lips and wide spaced eyes heavily made up… her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore… red mules on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers. Everyone thinks she is a tart and this is clearly shown by Steinbeck. The first reason why she is lonely is because she is the only woman on the ranch and the men are all afraid to talk to her. She also flirts with the ranch workers a lot. All the men think that she has got ‘the eye’ and that she is a tart, but she is actually just an insecure, lonely woman and this is shown when she tells Lennie, ‘I never get to talk to nobody, I get awful lonely’. Curley’s Wife is the only major character in Of Mice and Men whom Steinbeck does not give a name. Steinbeck purposely didn’t give Curley’s wife a name because it shows that she was not treated as a normal human being.
In the novel, Candy has his dog that is simply known as Candy’s dog. This is shown of what Curley’s wife means to everyone in the novel. All that she was to everyone was Curley’s property or owner. An example is in chapter three was,’ did you see that girl? You mean Curley’s girl. ‘Like crooks, Curley’s wife does not have a say in anything. She dislikes her husband and feels desperately lonely at the ranch. She still holds some small hope of a better life, claiming that she had the chance to become a movie star in Hollywood, but otherwise is a bitter and scornful woman. “I was natural. Soon’s he got back to Hollywood he was gonna write to me about it”. She leads Lennie on and through Lennie`s childish and innocence he accidentally murders Curley’s Wife.
Steinbeck shows inequality in this novel. Curley”s wife faces inequality from the attitude men gave to women regarding them as objects. Sexism is shown. The society was very sexist at that time referred as the macho world.
Slim also faces loneliness in some ways. He was described, as “his hatchet face was ageless”. He was known as the “prince of the ranch”. “His voice was gentle”. He’s the ideal combination of tough, mainly exterior, and gentle, thoughtfulness interior. He worked on the farm; he was very skilled and was not replaceable. Unlike some of the workers, he was very secure in his job, because of his calm nature he is like and trusted by his fellow workers.
There are quite a few workers who have been working on the farm but their jobs are not as secure as Slim’s. Slim in the novel is shown to be lonely as he says, “I hardly never seen two guys travel together. You know how the hands are … never seem to a damn about nobody”. Steinbeck purposely shows that this character doesn’t know anything about the outside world by putting him in this position. It also shows how he doesn’t care about interring with anyone.
Whit is also another character who is lonely in the ranch. “jus the usual thing we go into old suzy’s place hell of a nice place”. This is a cat house they go to for female affection. This shows that Whit is lonely as his expression shows it’s the best place he has been to ever. He is also lonely as he has no family just plays horse shoes with others, and also goes town with others.