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Symbolism Of Loneliness In ‘Of Mice And Men’ By Steinbeck

1860 words - 7 pages

Symbolism of Loneliness in ‘Of Mice and Men’ by Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s novel ‘of mice and men’ is set in the time of the Great
Depression after the stock market crash of 1929. The currency is
almost worthless and people can afford little possessions. Because of
the situation there are many people moving from place to place to find
work. This means they are never in one place long enough to form any
relationships, so this is a very lonely existence: “Guys
like us, that live on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the
world.” All that the men really ever spent their
money on was the cathouses and bars, so they can never break free from
their dire lives.

Steinbeck emphasises loneliness, powerlessness, and isolation, and his
hatred for it throughout the book. He contrasts this with the
companionship of George and Lennie. They are the only men who actually
travel together, and this is proved by the way everyone is suspicious
of their friendship, for example when they come to get the job at the
ranch the boss
says:
“you got a stake in him?!” He thinks that George must be taking
Lennie’s pay because it is so unusual. If not for each other, then
George and Lennie would be all alone, with no friends, like all the
men like them, who are itinerant workers - working from ranch to ranch
without making any friends, and living a solitary life. They have a
dream to get a place of their own together where they can be safe and
secure and live a good life ‘off the fat o’ the land’ and Lennie can
tend to the rabbits.

The first symbol of isolation in the novel is the setting for the
story, the town where the ranch is. It is called ‘Soledad’ meaning
‘Loneliness’ in Spanish. This is good imagery as the town is the place
where all the ranch hands blow their pay on alcohol and women. It is
very ironic how they go to ease their loneliness in a town called
loneliness. This kind of symbolism with words to do with isolation is
also used by Steinbeck when George, although the only one with a
companion, continuously lays a ‘solitaire’ hand, to play alone. This
emphasises that loneliness is something that cannot be escaped, shown
by a man with a friend still isolating himself.

The other ways Steinbeck gets his message across are through types of
segregation –

· Racism

· Sexism

· Ageism

Crooks is a black man, who is lonely because the society is racist. He
is so separated from the others because he is different: "A guy goes
nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't matter no difference who the guy
is, longs he with you. I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an he gets
sick.” Crooks is rejected from every group of people and cannot
socially interact with others, just like Lennie...

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