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Loneliness in Of Mice And Men
In John Steinbeck s Of Mice And Men loneliness runs alongside friendship as a major theme. Although ranch life in the 1930s America is lonely for migrant workers and many other people, George and Lennie, two of the loneliest guys in the world (13), at least have each other. For African-Americans like Crooks, women like Curley s wife, or the old like Candy, life is far more lonely.
The person who expresses his loneliness most openly and deeply is Crooks the African-American stablehand, a victim of racial prejudice. When Lennie enters his room uninvited, Crooks, out of bitter pride, exercises his only right, that of privacy in his own room. (68) He is so desperately lonely that he cruelly tries to hurt Lennie with tales of George deserting him to try to make him understand what it feels like to be so alone. (71-72) His envy of their friendship shows when he says: George can tell you screwy things, and it don t matter. It s just the talking. It s just bein with another guy. (71) Glad to have someone to talk to, he warns of the dangers of too much loneliness and continues with: A guy needs somebody- to be near him… A guy goes nuts if he ain t got nobody. (72) The reason Lennie goes to see Crooks, of course, is that George is out of town with the other ranch hands and he wants some company. When Candy joins them too, Crooks can hardly conceal his pleasure with anger. (75)
Candy the cleaner seems to deal with his loneliness by gossiping and listening for what s going on. He also worries about his future when he is too old to work and explains his reasons for wanting to be part of the plan to buy a smallholding: When they can me here I wisht somebody d shoot me… I won t have no place to go, an I can t get no more jobs. (60)
Curley s wife would have been doomed to an equally lonely old age. In a rash moment brought on by her disappointment at not being in the movies, she marries Curley and soon regrets it. (88-89) She appears at the door of the bunkhouse and later Crook s room pretending to be looking for Curley when she is actually looking for company. As if they can afford to care when their jobs and physical well-being are at stake, she says: think I don t like to talk to somebody ever once in a while? Think I like to stick in that house alla time? (77) Although she like to flirt, her isolation is genuine: Sat day night. Ever body out doin som pin. Ever body! An what am I doin ? Standin here talking to a bunch of bindle stiffs- an likin it because they ain t nobody else. (78) There is no way out of her alienation from the other characters on the ranch, who are all men. When she develops her ill-fated friendship with Lennie, she tells him she gets awful lonely (87), and, like Crooks, appeals to him to understand how she feels. The way Steinbeck uses imagery, or word pictures, of sunlight and describes Curley s wife in death illustrates how much better off she is dead than alive. (92-93)
Steinbeck also finds other ways to develop the theme of loneliness. Soledad, the name of the nearby town, and Crook s birthplace, means lonely in Spanish. The way that George can so often be found playing solitaire, a card game for one player, is a reminder that, as George will soon discover, we are all alone in the end, despite our friendships.