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How does John Steinbeck explore the theme of loneliness in Of Mice and Men? I am...

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rangikerr | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 19, 2012 at 2:21 AM via web

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How does John Steinbeck explore the theme of loneliness in Of Mice and Men?

I am doing an essay on the characters' desperate struggles against loneliness and this is one of my points, I have writers block and I'm running out of ideas. Thanks in advance for any answers. :)

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 25, 2013 at 2:08 PM (Answer #1)

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In discussing loneliness in this novel, we should take note of the universal nature of this feeling among the underclass. The underclass, defined by class concerns as well as gender and race, is depicted as almost hopelessly isolated - powerless, lonely, and often nearly desperate. 

Curley's wife and Crooks are isolated for purely demographic and superficial reasons. She is a woman. He is not white. These factors are highly significant to their characters and to the characterization of the society depicted in the novel. 

Both these characters crave company and, as Curley's wife says, "someone to talk to."

George and Lennie are isolated as a result of class. They are forced to toil for a living making a meager wage, challenged to save any of the money they make, and often impelled to move from place to place to find work. The itinerant farm worker of the era was isolated from power as well as from his fellow laborers via the mechanisms of competition in the labor market. 

These dynamics translate into a common despair, which we see inverted in the shared dream of owning a ranch (discussed by George, Lennie, Candy and Crooks). Curley's wife has her own dream that serves as a mirror image of her social despair and isolation. She dreams of becoming a Hollywood star. These dreams are not likely to be fulfilled. 

Actually, the dream was doomed from the start, because fraternal living cannot survive in a world ruled by loneliness, homelessness, and poverty. (eNotes)

The final layer of isolation then is one that keeps these people from improving their lives. The dreams they dream are no more than comforting fantasies, offering a temporary mental escape from the reality of social and material powerlessness.

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