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John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men exhibits many characteristics basic to others created by authors of the Lost Generation. One that comes to mind immediately is Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. The characters in both novels are lonely, isolated, and filled with longing. There is an aimlessness to their lives, and they find it difficult, if not impossible, to establish true connection with other people, for reasons both within themselves and in their environments.
In Of Mice and Men, Lenny and George are itinerant ranch hands with no place to call their own. They dream of having their own place, but though they work tirelessly, they do not achieve it. Lenny and George are more fortunate than many because they have each other's companionship. Still, that companionship limits George's ability to connect with others, as he has taken on the responsibility to care for Lenny, who is developmentally handicapped. Lenny's handicap makes it necessary for the two to move around constantly; his propensity for not knowing his own strength gets him into trouble time after time.
A parallel character in Winesburg, Ohio, is Wing Biddlebaum in the story "Hands." Wing's "handicap" is that he uses his hands in ways that are misunderstood, and are considered by some to be inappropriate. Although he means no harm, his inclination to touch makes others uncomfortable, and ultimately leads to his banishment from his hometown. He spends the rest of his days in Winesburg, where, afraid of his own natural tendencies, he lives friendless and alone. The only one who even talks to him much is George Willard.
The theme of isolation in both books extends beyond the main characters. In Of Mice and Men, Candy is old and disabled, terrified of reaching the point to where he can no longer work, Crooks is set apart because of his race, and Curley's wife is hungry for freedom, adventure, and love. In Winesburg, Ohio, Enoch Robinson is consumed with fear over how others perceive him and his family, Dr. Reefy is a lonely man who falls in love with a married woman, Elizabeth Willard, whose life is similarly unfulfilled and lonely. Sherwood Anderson directly names the characters he has written about, calling them grotesques. Grotesques are people who are doomed to live in isolation because of forces they cannot control; it is clear that the characters in both books are grotesques.
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