Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
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Society isolates individuals from others because they fear the reactions they will evoke from others. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck displays isolation through Crooks, Candy, and Curley’s wife. Candy is isolated because of his disability and his and the death of his dog. Crook is isolated mainly due to his race. Curley’s wife suffers from solitude because she is the only women. The pervasive emotion experienced by all of the characters in Of Mice and Men is loneliness. The loneliness is also, though, profoundly existential and symbolic. The men do not want to be isolated and they do not want to be left behind by society.
Candy is one protagonist who suffers from isolation. Candy is isolated because of his disability and his dog that is not so fresh smelling. Further, when his dog gets shot he does not have much to live for. He cannot work with the other men and now has lost his one friend in the world. After hearing Lennie and George’s “American Dream” Candy is now part of it and that is the only way to take his mind out of the past. The Great Depression reflected through this character because many men became useless for having disabilities. On page 222 it displays how Candy regrets leading a stranger kill his dog which makes him depressed and isolated,” “You see what they done to my … dog tonight? They say he wasn’t any good to himself or nobody else. When they can me here I wish somebody’s shoot me” (p. 222).
Candy suffers depression and solitude like other characters. Another protagonist that suffers isolation is Crooks. Crook is isolated mainly due to his race. He is excluded from the other workers because he is black and disabled. This isolation is not only a mental one for Crooks but a physical one as he has to sleep in the stable. Crook also thinks that most people are out to harm him so it is difficult for him to form any relationships even if they were available to him. For example, Crook is afraid of society because he has being prejudice cause of his color: Crooks, on a black man’s loneliness: “S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunk house and play rummy ’cause you was black. How’d you like that? S’pose you had to sit out here an’ read books. Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books ain’t any good. A guy needs somebody-to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got anybody.
Don’t make any difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick” (p. 80). The Great Depression reflected through Crook because slavery ended but there was still racism against any black. For example, Crook got even with Lennie to show all his anger of isolation and racism. Curley’s wife is isolated because she is not wanted by society as she is a woman. The fact that she doesn’t have her own name explains that she is property of Curley. Curley’s wife is also isolated because she needs to find consolation in Lennie telling him about her being a star if her mom had let her. She is craving for so much attention. This forces Lennie to end up killing her. Curley’s wife is not a typical character meaning she does not appear in many stories. No men want to talk to her as they consider her a flirtatious and trouble maker.
For example, Curley’s wife states that she is lonely: “I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely.” Curley’s wife tries to gain attention from the men with her famine charm only to find she will be pushed away (p. 98). The pervasive emotion experienced by all of the characters in Of Mice and Men is loneliness (see quotes, below). The loneliness is, on the one hand, real- none of the men wants to be alone. The loneliness is also, though, profoundly existential and symbolic.
The men do not want to be alone with themselves, and they do not want to be left behind by society. Write an analytic essay in which you evaluate these various levels of loneliness. Steinbeck argues that the events which led to the Great Depression forced individuals into social isolation. Today in society, the economic recession has forced individuals to socially cower and strive to attain success through higher education. If individuals are willing to compete in a “dog eat dog” world and realize the importance of networking, then the errors of the past will dwindle and history will fail to repeat.