Of Mice and Men is a novel that deals with experience of loneliness. Although all of the characters are lonely in different ways, they share a history that can go some way to account for the loneliness they feel. In the Depression of 1930-1939, many families were affected in many different ways. Some family members were broken up, and young men in the family had to go of and find work, often at ranches. As there was a shortage of money in families, it was very hard to get food. People became very protective over the things they owned.
Suddenly it was everybody’s dream to own their own house and have a good job, but the time of Depression made matters much worse. Everybody’s dream involved land, to have and cultivate their own piece of land. People who went to work were constantly afraid of being sacked or ‘canned’, because work was hard to find at the time. Many people would be expected to go and find work, to earn and to be able to satisfy basic needs. Therefore, a foot could not be put in the wrong direction, or people would find themselves out of a job with no chance of fulfilling their dream.
The bunkhouse is a place that illustrates some of the problems that the ranchers had in getting to know each other. We would think that the bunkhouse is a place where ranchers could come and be more open to each other, but even here, the ranchers are very secretive. They still hide their deep inner thoughts and feelings. The bunkhouse is full of people from different places and backgrounds who do not know each other. The bunkhouse is like a prison. Although the ranchers are officially free, they have to follow the same procedures at the ranch everyday.
In the bunkhouse, George is playing a game of Solitaire; this is a one-man game, which symbolises the loneliness he feels. In some ways, Lennie and George can be seen to be different from the other ranchers. Unlike the others, they share a dream, to own their own land, and have a farm, and a house on the land, in which they can sit in on a cold day. “Sure, we’d have a little house an’ a room to ourself. Little fat iron stove, an’ in the winter we’d keep a fire goin’ in it. ” Lennie is lucky to have George. He needs him to survive and needs him to keep his dream alive.
Lennie dreams of getting to tend the animals especially rabbits. “And I get to tend the rabbits. ” Lennie is a strong person only in a physical sense. He could be described as having a child’s mind trapped in a man’s body. Lennie kills animals by petting them too hard and does not realise this. Lennie loves the pup, but it is the strength of his love that kills the pup which Slim has given to him. Towards the end of the novel, Lennie visualises animal imagery of a rabbit. The rabbit speaks in Lennie’s voice, it is telling off Lennie, and tells him what a time George can have without him.
Through out the novel Lennie is described as different kinds of animals. “Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. ” Lennie is like a tamed dog while George is his ringleader. On the other hand, George is perhaps not so lucky to have Lennie. Lennie is actually the one that makes George lonely. It is on account of Lennie that they have to keep moving from ranch to ranch, so George is given a responsibility to look- after Lennie.
The only way he can do this is by moving from ranch to ranch. If they both stay at a ranch for a long period of time, it won’t be long before Lennie gets himself in to trouble. For George there is no such thing as a permanent job, with Lennie around. If Lennie wasn’t around for George to look- after, he would experience a lot less loneliness in his life. George is like a farther to Lennie, because his whole life revolves around him. As it is like this, George is unable to have a permanent friendship with anyone else other then Lennie. This is how George experiences his loneliness.
Unlike the other characters, George and Lennie have each other, as Lennie says. ” Because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you. ” Another character who shares a feeling of loneliness is Crooks. He is bitterly lonely and has several good reasons for feeling this way. He is the only black person on the ranch, he has no name just a nickname and no identity. Crooks has a crooked back. For this reason, Crooks is unable to work and is only able to provide a service. On the one hand, Crooks likes being alone maybe because he is a damaged person.
He likes to read and is obsessed with his rights. On the other hand Crooks wants people to understand him and the way he feels. The loneliness that Crooks feels gives rise to feelings of Selfishness and cruelty. Crooks is insecure he has no family or friends around him- this generates the loneliness he feels. When Crooks makes Lennie try to understand him, he does it in a cruel way. Lennie tells Crooks about their dream, and Crooks says to him, “S’ pose George don’t come back no more. ” This makes Lennie very angry, Lennie is forced to stand up and become very annoyed with Crooks.
Crooks then apologises and tells Lennie that he only wanted to make him understand how sick he is of being lonely. Crooks explains to Lennie how lucky he is to have George, someone who he can talk to, play rummy and share a dream with. This also generates the loneliness Crooks feels, and the jealousy he feels towards Lennie. Candy the old swamper, is a character who gets drawn into George and Lennie’s dream. This is because Candy has lost the closest thing to him, his dog. Maybe this means a lot to him, but it is amazing to see how little it takes Candy to be revitalised- just 10 acres of land and a few animals.
Candy has only one hand, he lost the other whilst working at the ranch, and that’s the only reason Candy is still working at the ranch. He has one of the worst jobs- swamper, his duty is to clean the ranch inside and outside. Crooks is anther character who is insecure, he has no family at the ranch. He is very lonely. Like Lennie and George, he needs to have a dream to cope with his loneliness. Another character with a dream is Curley’s wife. Her dream unlike Candy’s, is of a past life which she never managed to experience.
She tells Lennie that when she was younger, she dreamed of working in the movies and when her chance came, it had blown away. She was convinced that her old lady mother had got hold of the letter from her agent before she had, and never gave it to her, because she did not allow Curley’s wife to be able to work in the movies. Curley’s wife does not love Curley she married him to get away from her old lady. We never find out what her real name is. This is because she is an object that belongs to Curley; she has no name and therefore no identity. She is referred to as ‘Curley’s wife’.
She is lonely mainly because she is the only woman on the ranch. Curley’s wife is described as having, “Full rouged lips, wide spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little red clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers. ” From this description, we can tell that she is completely overdressed to be at a ranch. Though she is not a movie star, she likes to dress like one, so she can try to live her dream. Curley’s wife has been known to be ‘giving the eye’ to some of the ranchers. Married two weeks-and got the eye”? Curley’s wife is a troublemaker, she has the power to accuse the ranchers of raping her. It is because of her screaming and shouting that lead to her death. Her false accusations stop the ranchers complaining about her. “Listen, Nigger” She said. “You know what I can do if you open your trap”? This is the reason why the ranchers are afraid to talk to her, and for this reason they could be ‘canned’ or sacked. Her sexuality is the only weapon she has to gain the ranchers’ attention. So most of the time she’s on her own and she is the loneliest out of all the characters in the book.
In conclusion, I can say that I agree with the title to an extent. However there is one character who seems to be able to cope with his loneliness in ways nobody else can. Slim the head rancher, is someone that everybody looks up to for answers, help and advice. Slim earns respect from many of the ranchers, even Curley doesn’t dare to pick a fight with him. Slim is someone whose feelings and emotions are not talked about much. When he has to drown the pups, it is like he has been doing it for years and years and was used to it. “She slang her pups last night,” said Slim. “Nine of ’em.
I drowned four of ’em right off. ” Slim is a very caring character, he understands what the other ranchers go through. When George kills Lennie, we know this is the right thing to do because Slim tells him, “You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. ” Meanwhile, the other ranchers did not understand that the death of Lennie had affected George. “Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys? ” They were just ready to have a drink. To sum up Slim, I could say that he is his own man and therefore unemotional. On the other hand, he does not show his feelings and emotions.
He is someone who would get the last say, because his words are reliable. Slim is someone who is lonely from the inside, this is because he has locked all his feeling and emotions up. On the outside, Slim has many friends who look up to him, and in this sense he is not lonely. At the end of the book, Slim offers George a drink. This could be a sign that he is also offering him his friendship. As such then, this maybe an indication that the novel ends in a positive note-that George may finally have found the kind of companion he needs.