Explore the themes of loneliness and isolation in John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men

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This essay explores the themes of loneliness and isolation in John Steinbecks novel Of Mice And Men

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Tom Dyson 10L
English essay
Explore the themes of loneliness and isolation in John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice
and Men
In this essay I am going to analyse the novel Of Mice and Men, published in 1937 and
written by the American author John Steinbeck. The novel is set in a time of economic
depression which in America was recognised to start at the stock market crash in 1929. The
economic slump left many people with nothing left, out of work and mentally depressed. So,
many were forced to go into hard labour agriculture jobs, much like the characters in the book.
The title of the book was taken by Steinbeck from a poem called `To a mouse' by
Robert Burns written in 1785, one of the main lines in the poem is `The best laid schemes o'
Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley' which translates as `The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
often go awry', this quote gives clues to the plot of the book in which the plans of the main
characters do go wrong.
The novel is set in California in the Salinas valley which is also where the author John
Steinbeck grew up, the valley also known as the `Dust Bowl' due to the hot climate is where
George and Lennie got to find work near a place called Soledad. Soledad is the Spanish word
for Solitude and the town is purposely chosen by Steinbeck to tie in with the themes.
The main plot of the novel is as follows, George and Lennie two companions traveling
together to find work go to the a ranch in the Salinas valley for work after being chased off their
last job.
I will mainly be analysing the themes of loneliness and isolation which are obvious
throughout the book and effect many characters.
George and Lennie's relationship is unusual in context to the time in which the book was
written. Many people were out of work, had no money and just generally depressed so it was
common practice for people to search the country jumping between jobs all on their own. The
fact that people switch between jobs very quickly is made apparent at the start of the book
when the path that George and Lennie take is described as "A path beaten hard", and the place
where they choose to sleep the night has an "...ash pile made by many fires". So the fact that
George and Lennie travel together as companions is very unusual. Also you wouldn't expect to
find two men with opposing characters and different degrees of intelligence together, so it is
hard to imagine how Steinbeck could justify having these two characters as companions.
However it becomes apparent early on in the novel that they have a mutual need for each other,
Lennie needs George to guide him and almost be his Father, and George needs Lennie because
he feels its his responsibility to look after and whilst carrying out that responsibility he has grown
to him and needs him as that companion.
Steinbeck also uses the other characters based at the ranch to make it distinct that
George and Lennie's relationship is not a usual one. From when they first arrive at the ranch the
Boss immediately questions them when he accuses George of having different motives for being
with Lennie just for companionship: "I said what stake you got in this guy? You takin his pay
away from him?" This quote shows that the boss is confused at George and Lennie's motives
for traveling together and because of this is jumping to conclusions about George. The Boss's
son Curley also appears surprised at George and Lennie's company together, during Curley and

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Page 2

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George's first meeting when Curley asks George "What the hell are you gettin' into it for",
George replies with "We travel together" this surprises Curley and he responds as if it is not
common when he says "Oh it's that way is it".…read more

Page 3

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One of these is his habit of wanting to hold and stroke soft things, this is a sign of his fear of
loneliness. Being alone for Lennie would mean being without George, and his need for George is
shown when Crooks scares Lennie by putting thoughts into his head about George not coming
back.
George and Lennie are together because they have a mutual need for each others
companionship but they also stay together because they share a dream.…read more

Page 4

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The simplicity and lack of desire for anything of real riches in Lennie and George's
dream is what singles it out to what the American dream was about in the day of the novel.…read more

Page 5

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He lay on his bunk and crossed his arms behind his head and
stared at the ceiling". These movements by Candy add to the somber mood Steinbeck tries to
create with the other characters attempting to offer distraction to themselves and Candy as well
as to break the silence that is described as to of "came out of the night and invaded the room".…read more

Page 6

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Lennie and George's dream, he wants to
be free from isolation and being degraded by everyone else and Lennie and George's dream of
a ranch offers him some hope. He only offers himself up for a small role on the ranch but even
this would give him freedom from his current job and situation.…read more

Page 7

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Lennie is that of being "in the movies, an'
had nice clothesall them nice clothes like they wear".
The dream that Curley's wife has would be a combination of doing something she
wants to do, freedom from the ranch and freedom from any loneliness and isolation she
experiences, but during the novel her dream remains a dream.…read more

Page 8

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Candy fast tracking the dream with his own money,
this all added to the overall climax and sadness experienced by the reader at the end of the
dreams demise and George's return to deeper loneliness.
The themes of loneliness and Isolation are portrayed very well in the novel with the
context and desperation of the time adding to the lonely trudge of the lives that Steinbeck makes
the characters life.…read more

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