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An Exploration Of Disability And Isolation In Of Mice And Men

1166 words - 5 pages

During the Great Depression, migrant farmers sought out work to stay alive. When they finally found a job to sustain them, workers were mistreated, starved, paid poor wages, and, worst of all, robbed of necessary human companionship. John Steinbeck captures the hopelessness of Depression-era farm life in his novella Of Mice and Men. Throughout the novella, most characters have a disability crippling them and pushing them away from other workers on the farm. Their disabilities are a physical embodiment of their isolation. Steinbeck uses his disabled characters to illustrate the depth of their loneliness, as well as to exemplify different types of loneliness.
Candy, an old ranch worker, is pushed away from the others due to both his old age and the fact that he lost one hand in a ranch accident. All Candy wants is to be seen as beneficial to the ranch, but his disabilities, age and injury, prevent it: “I ain’t much good with only one hand. I lost my hand right here on this ranch” (Steinbeck 59). Candy’s loneliness comes from his desire to be valuable. He knows that ranch workers are treated impersonally: like parts on a machine, they are necessary to keep the ranch in business, yet are also worthless and easily replaced if they are broken. Candy’s dog, his only companion on the ranch, exemplifies this mindset, for he was killed when most people viewed him as an annoyance instead of treasuring his company like Candy. Harold Bloom writes, “Candy sees a value in his dog that Carlson (and those like him) do not.” Although the dog was old and burdensome, Candy saw value in companionship and having another living being by his side. Moreover, Candy is afraid of becoming worthless like his dog. His loneliness stems from fear of becoming useless, for on the ranch, “lame and dependent creatures should be disposed of and replaced” (Bloom).
Curley, the ranch boss’ son, is also desperately lonely, even though he tries to cover it up by picking fights he will win no matter what, or bragging about his beautiful wife. Inherently, Curley is insecure about his small stature, and he makes up for it by wearing high heels and flaunting around his masculinity. The reader sees fleeting glances of his insecurities, such as when he runs into the bunkhouse, demanding, “Any you guys seen my wife?”, for as much as Curley may brag about it, his wife is hardly ever by his side (Steinbeck 53). Curley lacks self-confidence, and must bully the other workers to raise his own self-esteem. Picking fights with other men, which is the one thing that saves Curley from his internal lack of confidence, also causes his demise: “Lennie grabs his entire fist in mid-swing, stopping him, and then proceeds to crush Curley's hand” (Bloom). His hand, which he used to beat others, was his only savior, and now Lennie has crushed it, which disables Curley even more and pushes him further away from the tall, confident, masculine fighter he wishes to be. His loneliness stems from insecurity, and...

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