Theme of Loneliness and Isolation in Of Mice and Men

In Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, all the characters have their own unique ways of showing who they are through their sayings and actions. Each character has a different social identity, which oppresses them in some kind of way, making them lonely. In the novel Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck uses the lonesomeness of each character to convey that people suffer from their own type of loneliness based on their social identity.

One of the characters, Candy, was not lonely to start. However, once he lost the only thing keeping him from being lonely, happy was his dog,“Well-hell! I had him so long. Had him since he was a pup”(56). Candy’s loneliness was something he hadn’t seen in a while, but once it came to him, he wanted to figure out a way out of it. Candy realized that the loneliness has come back around to him and he tells George that “Jus’ as soon as I can’t swamp out no bunkhouses they’ll put me on the county” (60). To try and escape his loneliness, Candy started to become invested in George and Lennie’s big dream so he wouldn’t end up having to face the future all by himself. “S’pose I went in with you guys. Tha’s three hundred an’ fifty bucks I’d put in. I ain’t much good, but I could cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some. How’d that be?” (59). He was very attached to the idea of the farm with George and Lennie, and kept pushing to have the farm even after what had happened with Lennie later in the story. The farm would have helped wipe out his fear of being alone, and it would have created another relationship worth cherishing like his past relationship with his dog. His position in society, being old, had forced him to develop a mindset to break away from his inevitable loneliness.

Even with all the attention she asked for and received, Curley’s wife didn’t actually have anyone in the end. Curley’s wife expressed how lonely she really was when she was talking to Lennie, “I tell you I ain’t used to livin’ like this. I coulda made somethin’ of myself”(89). She didn’t like who she had become and it was almost like she was running away from who she was. By doing that she found herself in a position where nobody truly cared for her and the only thing that got her places was her appearance. The only person that Curley’s wife could truly talk to was Lennie, because he was not conscious of what she was saying and she knew he would forget. In her last moments with Lennie, she finally felt like she was being listened to. For the first time ever, she confessed that “I don’ like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella” (89). When she finally became susceptible and vulnerable to her humanity, she ironically died shortly after. Curley’s wife is a perfect example of the oppression against the women and the sexism in this era that often resulted in isolation.

One of the biggest issues in this time was racism, which Crooks was a victim of. He was physically disconnected from the other men, and because of that, and the racial inequality, he had very limited contact with others as well. Instead of friendships, he occupied himself with books. Still, he had admitted that “Books ain’t no good,” and “A guy needs somebody – to be near him. A guy goes nuts when if he ain’t got nobody” (72). Unlike Candy and Curley’s Wife, Crooks had to just accept his role in society because he knew that the color of his skin would never change, making him powerless in the field of oppressive forces of racism. He was fully aware that he was treated as if he was less important than the other men. “This is just a nigger talkin’, an’ a busted-back nigger. So it don’t mean nothing, see?” (71). He knew he didn’t have a voice in society so he kept to himself. The harsh reality of this era deprived Crooks from being treated like a real human. His acceptance of the situation amplified his loneliness, making him the loneliest character in the story.

Candy, Curley’s wife, and Crooks were three of the characters who represented the loneliness and isolation brought on by what their social identity was in this time. all these characters faced social issues like ageism, sexism, and racism which added on to their loneliness. Each character had recognized their loneliness in some type of way, and depending on what their situation or role in society was, they took specific actions to cope with it or fight it. Something Steinbeck made clear was that the loneliness caused by discrimination does significantly impact one’s behavior, mindsets, and actions. So for the people who do deal with loneliness, deal with it in their own type of ways based on their social identity.