How Does Steinbeck Present Loneliness and Isolation in Of Mice and Men(TM)?
‘Of Mice and Men’ was first published in 1937 during the great depression and has had a great impact on workers in America since.Steinbeck got the name of the book from a line in a poem ‘To a Mouse’ by Robert Burns, the poem reads ‘The best laid schemes o’Mice an’ Men, gang aft agley, an’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain for promis’d joy!’ meaning that The best laid schemes of mice and men, Go often wrong, And leaves us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy! This relates to the end of the book where George shoots Lennie, this is the part where it often wrong because the dream is no longer as big as it was.
The book follows the journey of two workers, George and Lennie, travelling from Weed across America to the ‘Tyler ranch’ in Northern California.The book starts by using descriptive language to get a picture into the readers mind, ‘Golden foothill slopes’ Steinbeck makes America sound like the perfect paradise even with all the racism and discrimination around at that time, people still wanted to go there in order to achieve ‘the American Dream’.
The setting of Soledad I think, relates to Lennie, ‘Golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan mountains’, this echoes Lennie’s personality as he is calm and gentle and has a ‘golden’ personality, but if you say something to upset him he will slowly ‘curve up’ to become strong and full of rage with fists as strong as rock.
Lennie is an outcast of the group, linking to isolation as he doesn’t understand everything everyone says, and he doesn’t know his own strength.
Lennie is treat differently by al of the men ain the bunk-house because he is child-like ‘He don’t mean no harm…He’s a good guy’ they are trying to be-friend Lennie after what happened to Curley because they don’t want to end up with a crippled hand, when they go into town, Lennie is left behind and the men talk to him like a child, he is a bit ‘slow’ and doesn’t understand why people treat him differently. . The people at the bunk-house treat him like a child but they do include him in things like card games, whereas Curley hurts him, and Lennie doesn’t understand why.
George is the brains of the two, whenever Lennie is in trouble, George is there to get him out of it, this makes Lennie feel like he has a friend and doesn’t make him feel lonely. ‘Hide in the brush till I come for you’ George is showing Lennie that he will never be alone, ‘I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you’ they fight like brothers but will never leave each other alone or make each other feel isolated in anyway on purpose,.
‘An’ if a fren’ come along… we’d say “Why don’t you stay the night”‘ they would have people who care about them. George has this idea of people like them who work on ranches not having anybody to care about them, ‘With us it ain’t like that, we got a future’ George is showing determination to help Lennie’s dream come true for them to have rabbits to be Lennie’s friends so he isn’t lonely, George wants them to be isolated by having their own land where nobody can hurt them, and they can be a family.
I think George does feel lonely but in the way where he can’t speak to anybody except for Lennie, George has boundaries for what he can talk to Lennie about in case he forgets it or doesn’t understand. When they arrive on the ranch, George has a sense of relief when he confides in Slim and tells him what happened back in Weed and also tells him how he used to tease Lennie and that’s how they ended up travelling together, George feels less isolated because now he has someone to talk to that understands what happened and he can let it all off his chest without snapping at Lennie.
Candy is the oldest worker on the ranch, now no use to anyone due to an injury that occurred on the ranch, he has only one hand. Candy joins George and Lennie in the fight of achieving ‘The American Dream’ and gives them money for the farmhouse. ‘S’pose I went in with you guys…how’d that be?’ Candy starts to feel less lonely because George is at least considering it at this time, whereas the rest of the workers wouldn’t even give him a chance to speak about dreaming of it. He doesn’t feel so restricted of where he goes and who he talks to because he knows he isn’t going to be there for much longer.
Candy wasn’t lonely in the beginning of the book because he had his dog but the rest of the workers thought he was useless ‘He ain’t no good to you, Candy. An’ he ain’t no good to himself’ I think this makes Candy feel like they’re talking about him which links to the loneliness and isolation because he can’t open up to anyone and I think Candy feels threatened by George and Lennie’s arrival because every time a new worker comes along, it could mean that Candy wont be needed anymore.
Candy I think compares to the ‘ash-pile’ as he has become older and more useless but he has become part of the ranch like a landmark. He also compares to the limb which I think represents his stump, ‘Worn smooth’ which relates to Candy always stroking it.
Crooks is the only ‘negro’ on the ranch, he is physically isolated by having a room to himself, in a separate building and not being mentally able to bring himself to talk to any of the workers, when Lennie first encounters Crooks, Crooks tries to get Lennie to feel like he feels, and to understand how it feels to be isolated. The book was written in the 1940’s where most of America was segregated, Crooks was segregated and was only allowed to mix with the workers on Christmas.
Curley’s wife is isolated as she is the only woman on the ranch. She is perceived as dangerous because she wears red, ‘She is wearing a dress that shows her legs and her lips and nails are red’. George tells Lennie to stay away from her because of the dangerous red lips, Candy tells George that she’s a tart but George can see that for himself.
When Lennie is in the barn burying his puppy, Curley’s wife walks in and starts talking about her soft hair, she knew that Lennie was capable of causing severe pain and damage to someone, but she didn’t know he was capable of killing someone, Lennie doesn’t know his own strength.
This is a replay of what happened in Weed as Lennie felt something smooth that he liked and couldn’t let go.
The quote at the end of the book ‘Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?’ These are the very last words in the book and are spoken by Carlson. Carlson only comes into the book when things are linked to loosing family, he shoots Candy’s dog and shows no sympathy towards him. This suggests that Carlson is a very lonely character because he doesn’t know what it’s like to love someone and loose them.
Slim shows sympathy and compassion towards George, and looks after him. This suggests that Slim knows what its like to loose family, and I think that’s how he ended up alone on the ranch, because he lost his family so he decided to try and achieve the American Dream of making something out of nothing.
George has to let go and ‘put down’ his own family, by killing Lennie, he also kills the dream, not just his, but Candy’s aswell. George is now not only alone, but has isolated himself from everyone even more.
Crook’s predictions have come true which is no surprise to him, he’s been there for years and has seen loads of workers have the same dream, but never believed that them would achieve it.
The end of the book is left open for you to believe what you want, if you want to believe George and Candy got the farmhouse or whether you think George stayed at the ranch, there is no right answer so you create your own ending.