Can someone give me examples for how loneliness in Of Mice and Men is caused by the Great Depression?  

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Steinbeck was committed to showcasing reality as how it truly was.  From his days as a journalist, this commitment to Social Realism enabled him to depict the often harsh conditions of reality during the Great Depression.  At the same time, Steinbeck also demonstrated in Of Mice and Men how individuals can find the fortitude to not be so determinant in capitulating to the conditions that surround them.  This idea of showing characters embrace what can be enables the loneliness of the Great Depression, but also shows the will to counter it through solidarity and community.

One aspect of loneliness that can be see in Of Mice and Men is in the mantra that George and Lennie repeat to one another about their dreams.  When George tells Lennie how they are different from "other guys," it reflects a rather lonely existence brought on by economic challenges:

Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no fambly. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go into town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.

The "loneliest guys in the world" that work on ranches is a reflection of life in the Great Depression.  The loneliness caused by the Great Depression involved men moving from ranch to ranch, finding work and simply moving on.  There is a sense of loneliness in this condition, caused by economic challenges within the Great Depression.  Individuals were so besieged with material limitations caused by the Great Depression that it prevented any type of unity and permanence.  This is seen when George and Candy talk about how ranch hands simply move on when they collect their money, a reflection of life in the Great Depression:

“I ain’t so sure,” said George skeptically. “What did you say he quit for?”

The old man put the yellow can in his pocket, and he rubbed his bristly white whiskers with his knuckles. “Why . . . . he . . . . just quit, the way a guy will. Says it was the food. Just wanted to move. Didn’t give no other reason but the food. Just says ‘gimme my time’ one night, the way any guy would.”

Steinbeck points to how lonely life in the Great Depression was.  People moved from job to job without much in way of commitment because of a lack of permanence:  "the way any guy would."  The lack of connection was one way in which Steinbeck communicated the loneliness within the Great Depression, something that Slim muses upon when noticing the connection between George and Lennie:

Slim looked through George and beyond him. “Ain’t many guys travel around together,” he mused. “I don’t know why. Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”

For Steinbeck, the Great Depression instilled a fear of connection and community.  It prevented individuals from acknowledging that solidarity and unity are the only antidotes to the isolation that economic disenfranchisement causes.  Through this depiction as well as characters such as George and Lennie that seek to overcome it, Steinbeck demonstrates his commitment to showing what is in the hopes of what can be.

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