In John Steinbeck's novel, Of Mice and Men, what details of loneliness and isolation prevail in the setting?
Consider the description of setting: the ranch, the journey to get to the ranch, the bunkhouse, Crooks's room.
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In John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men, loneliness and isolation are predominant themes, supported by the physicality of the story's setting, in California, during the Great Depression.
George and Lennie's trip to the ranch is a long one, on foot. They pass through country that has been well traveled by others also passing through, but they are alone as they arrive, except for animals hidden in the brush.
They camp the evening (before joining the ranch hands the following morning) in a secluded area next to a pool of water. It is an isolated spot. George says he prefers it that way, but it may simply be a chance to redirect Lennie in what he will say the next day. George is not a man who enjoys forever being on the road or the loneliness of it, as seen in his dream of owning his own place one day, but dealing with Lennie is a difficult task in that Lennie often cannot keep his mouth shut, and they need to get jobs at the ranch the next day.
When the men arrive, the bunk house is made up of bunks along three walls. Each set of beds is the same, with a shelf made out of the side of shipping boxes, to hold personal items. There is no individuality shown in any of these beds, and workers come and go too often for it to be anything more than a hotel. In the middle of the room is a large table, but even this offers nothing welcoming, just old playing cards abandoned across the table top.
Crooks' room is attached to the barn and is very small. He lives there, alone, isolated because he is black. The room is certainly more his, containing materials to mend harnesses and such, but it is a prison in that he is cut off from the fellowship of other men. The only visitors he ever has are Slim and the boss.
The ranch does not offer anything that would make it much different than other ranches of the same kind. Like the people who live and work there, there is little depth and less character to the place.
All of these areas approaching the ranch and the ranch itself, reflect the isolation and loneliness brought to so many people who have been devastated by the Great Crash of 1929. The line of individuals passing through is endless—they are a faceless blur, all searching for a better life, a place to live and work and settle down. None of these are to be found in the story's setting.
Not far from Soledad, a town whose name means alone, George and Lennie walk "in single file" for miles on a solitary road until they come to a path "beaten hard by tramps who come wearily down from the highway." There by the river, the two men stay the night away from the large ranch set away from the town. On the next day, they trek to it, where all the men have already gone out to harvest; only an old swamper remains, cleaning the bunkhouse. At the end of the day, the men arrive and gather in the bunkhouse, awaiting dinner time. Afterwards, they return to play cards or talk.
Interestingly, in this setting of the bunkhouse, the men seem isolated from the rest of the ranch since none of it is described other than Crooks's room. For, whenever someone appears, he or she stands in the open doorway as though not really from anywhere. Or, when the men enter, they come one at a time, rather than together. Even Steinbeck's description of the men's recreation is also described with a tone of isolation as only through the open door comes the sound of the horseshoe game, "and now and then the sound of voices raised in approval or derision. Inside the bunkhouse where they could hear "a little cheer of voices," Slim moves back "slightly so the light was not on his face" as he asks George about Lennie and himself.
When Candy dog is taken out to be shot, Candy lies alone on his bunk, covering his face with his arm, then turning to the wall in his private misery. Of course, Crook is completely alienated from the men as he is forced to stay in the harness room near the mules. A proud man, Crooks keeps "his distance and demanded that others keep theirs." In this isolated setting of Crooks's, Steinbeck writes of the separation of Crooks:
It was Saturday night. Through the open door that led into the barn came the sound of moving hoses, of feet stirring, of teeth comping on hay, of the rattle of halter chains. In the stable buck's room a small electric globe threw a meager yellow light.
Throughout Of Mice and Men, there is clearly an isolation connoted in the aparteness of each man, alone with his feelings, the remote setting of the ranch with only a town called Soledad miles from it.
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