Soledad derives from the word Solitude, a state of social isolation. It is the situation/state of being alone. Loneliness is defined as an emotional state in which a person (or animal) experiences an immense feeling of emptiness and isolation. Loneliness and isolation is a theme that is reflected constantly throughout Of Mice and Men such as; the characters, in the minor actions that the characters pursue, in this case, when the men play solitaire, and also the settings which are described to us that give us the idea of loneliness.
The characters in Of Mice and Men experience loneliness in various ways to each other through the story. Many of the men who work at the ranch travel alone besides George and Lennie. This makes the other men curious yet also suspicious of their motives. Many of the workmen and characters at the ranch can be seen as lonely in the way that they are separated from their families and civilisation, however, the characters which are the main victims of loneliness in Of Mice and Men are Curley’s wife, George and Crooks.
John Steinbeck portrays Curley’s Wife as the only female on the ranch and gives the reader a description to identify her with ‘Full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red’ (Page 32), Steinbeck presents her as a beautiful young woman who is especially appealing to the men at the ranch. As we progress in the book we find that one of the men Whit explains, “I never seen nobody like her.
She got the eye goin’ all the time on everybody. I bet she even gives the stable buck the eye. I don’t know what the hell she wants” (Page 51).
It is soon discovered that Curley’s Wife is always looking for Curley and he is always looking for her. However this is just her alibi so that she can go around the ranch trying to talk to all the men and get their attention, which she doesn’t get from Curley. The men however are cautious of her as Curley is very aggressive and uneasy when anyone talks to his wife or when she talks to anyone at the ranch. So what happens when Lennie, who has been told not to talk or say anything to anybody at the ranch, begins to communicate with Curley’s Wife, an attractive, manipulative and lonesome woman. It is obvious that the worst is going to occur when this occurrence takes place (Lennie and Curley’s Wife talking), as Curley is already suspicious of him and George, and George has specifically told Lennie not to communicate with anyone because of recent bad events. Lennie said to Curley’s Wife as they sit alone in the barn, , “No, sir. I ain’t gonna talk to you or nothing” (Page 85), as the conversation goes on Curley’s Wife says, “Why can’t I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely.”
Lennie replies to this situation the only way he knows how, “Well, I ain’t supposed to talk to you or nothing.” “I get lonely” Curley’s Wife said. “You can talk to people, but I can’t talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. How’d you like not to talk to anybody?” (Page 85). Curley’s Wife being the only female on the ranch and with the restricted communication shared with any other humans on the ranch, was just trying to get the attention she believes she deserved and of course needed, so that she would not feel the loneliest and emptiest she has been ever since she married Curley. Although George travels with Lennie, he is emotionally and socially alone. George’s partner Lennie is mentally slow, meaning that communication between the two men is very frustrating as Lennie does not understand George and George is constantly annoyed at the sheer fact that Lennie isn’t very bright, continuously making mistakes which get them into trouble.
“An’ whatta I got,” George went on furiously. “I got you! You can’t keep a job and you loose me ever’ job I get. Jus’ keep me shovin’ all over the country all the time. An’ that ain’t the worst. You get in trouble. You do bad things and I got to get you out.” His voice rose nearly to a shout. “You crazy son-of-a-bitch. You keep me in hot water all the time.” (Page 13) George is always taking his anger out on Lennie by yelling at him as he believes this is the way it will get through to Lennie but this does not prevail and leaves George angrier than when he began shouting at Lennie. As this reoccurring annoyance towards Lennie happens even at the ranch it is acknowledged by one character; Crooks talks to Lennie in the barn, “Sometimes he talks, and you don’t know what the hell he’s talkin’ about. Ain’t that so?” (Page 69).
George has no other friendship with anybody else, as he travels alone in life except for one disturbance, Lennie. As ill-fated as it is, Lennie is seen as a disturbance and obstruction to George. Even though Lennie may be very handy, he’s neither bright nor intelligent. In realism, it appears as though George himself is trying to escape the feeling of emptiness and the reality of loneliness. However he just finds himself unable to bond with Lennie in any way, leaving him trying to play his one man game with his unfortunate hindrance partner.
Crooks, the stable barn, who lives in a small shed that leads off from the barn is exposed to loneliness as he keeps to himself in his small and deserted room. ‘Scattered about the floor were a number of personal possessions; for being alone, crooks could leave his things about.’ (Page 66). When first describing Crooks, the author puts and underlying message in our head of loneliness as to show us that this is one of the most important themes which is rampant throughout Of Mice and Men.
Crooks faces loneliness and partly shelters himself to isolation due to prejudice from the people around him. He believes everyone is against him because he is a ‘negro’ however this may not always be the case, he just keeps to himself so that he doesn’t have to deal with getting grief off any of the other men, especially Curley. As a result of this, Crooks, Curley’s Wife and George may all be lonely in different ways to each other, and the other men, however, they all feel emptiness and it appears like they are all playing their own game each as a solitary individual man (or woman).
A game played regularly by the men, George in particular, is Solitaire. This game is always played by one person which can be very relevant in the story Of Mice and Men when Steinbeck is reflecting to us the idea of loneliness. When George plays the game of solitaire he does this alone like he is playing his own game doing it the way he wants to. But in reality, he is always stuck with Lennie. This is just a way of getting away from the fact that Lennie is bringing him down, so that he can play his own game not constantly having to deal with the obstruction of his partner.
This game is also the foreshadowing of loneliness, to show us that when George must shoot Lennie, he has been destined to be alone, alike to the other characters. Even when he had Lennie he felt alone, and now without even a companionship he is still alone, playing his own solitary game of life. The game solitaire is a very structured game, ‘George laid out his deliberate solitaire hand – seven cards, and six on top, and five on top of those’ (Page 52). George may relate the game to how he would like his life to be. A structure set out with some outcomes relying on fate, but an independent game played by one individual. On the whole, the game of solitaire foreshadows loneliness mainly through the character of George but also through the minor actions of the other workmen at the ranch.
The ranch is set a few miles from Soledad, California and is geographically isolated from other human contact, except for the workmen and Curley’s wife who also live on the premises of the ranch. The feeling of isolation is immediately set upon us as Steinbeck produces a description to collate a picture and collect evidence that the characters are bound to be lonely at the ranch. On the ranch there are only a few small places where the characters spend their time when they are not working. The bunkhouse is a very plain room where the workmen sleep, this is where George and Lennie have a few private conversations, along with other events such as the argument over candy’s dog, the game of solitaire being played and the deep conversations between George and fellow worker Slim.
Crooks isn’t welcome in the bunkhouse by the other men and this becomes clear when Crooks says to Lennie in his barn, “I ain’t wanted in the bunkhouse, and you ain’t wanted in my room” (Page 68). Crooks lives in a small room off the barn where he keeps to himself, having little or no communication with anyone unless it is to do his job as the stable buck. When Lennie, and then soon after Candy, enter his room, Crooks is setback but still very suspicious of why they are bothering him, he tries to hide his confusion and maybe even contentment with anger, although Steinbeck says ‘It was difficult for crooks to conceal his pleasure with anger’ (Page 74).
His room is very isolated from the other people on the ranch which leaves him lonely all the time. Another setting in the story that is mostly remote is the barn. The only people who visit the barn are Lennie, when he is petting his pup, and Curley’s Wife when she takes shade in there as it is cool. The barn is secluded to the other places on the ranch in that when Curley’s Wife screamed for help due to the actions Lennie had taken, her cries were too distant that none of the other men could hear her. This shows us that the author has even included the theme of loneliness and especially isolation when the different settings in Of Mice and Men where analysed.
To summarise, Steinbeck has incorporated Loneliness as one of the many themes into the story, Of Mice and Men, in many different ways. These are, firstly in the name, as Soledad means Solitude which can also mean Loneliness. Also through the characters, such as their motives, way of life and personalities. The game solitaire is another representation and foreshadow of Loneliness as this is a game that the characters play, especially George, as an individual, solitary, man, which in reality he is not. Lastly, the settings, in and around the ranch such as the bunkhouse, the barn and Crooks’ room all relate to isolation and loneliness as this is where many acts of the idea surrounding loneliness take place and progress through the story. John Steinbeck has sufficiently and broadly shown us how the theme and idea of Loneliness flows throughout his book ‘Of Mice and Men’.