Is the fear of one man for another the biggest fear of all in John Steinbeck's novel, Of Mice and Men?
Note Slim's comment about everyone being afraid of one another and Curley's wife's reference to them all being scared of each other.
In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Slim's mention of fear is more directly associated with the themes of isolation and alienation.
After the Great Crash of 1929, the economy is destroyed. People lose jobs, life savings, businesses, and their homes. Many people take their own lives because they cannot face their losses. During the Great Depression, these circumstances cause thousands of people to leave their homes and cities (generally forced out) to find a better way of life. The movement is continuos as people try to find work—when the work is finished, they move on to find other jobs.
This (and Lennie's unpredictable nature) are what bring George and Lennie to the ranch. Crooks reports the passing of people to the ranch and then on their way. Crooks is afraid of being alone. No one deals much with him because he is black. He fondly remembers the days of his youth surrounded by his brothers. He must live in a shack because as a black man he cannot bunk with the white men. This deepens his sense of isolation. And when Lennie and Candy discuss their dream of owning a place, Crooks desperately wants to go with them so that he may be connected to other people.
Curley's wife feels the same way. She is "only" a woman, and a trouble maker at that. Most of the men stay away from her in order to avoid getting into trouble with her husband, Curley—the guy in charge. She greatly resents her husband's lack of attention and having no company, and is always finding an excuse to hang out where the men are. She is a lonely young man, living in isolation on a ranch in the middle of nowhere.
Slim would seem to be the man least likely to be lonely. He is considered something of a god—very talented in his work: he is an excellent mule driver and can kill a fly with his whip. He is admired by others, but is grounded and understanding of others. His quote refers to the loneliness of people in general.
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."
Because Slim does not seem to experience the fear he describes, his comment is an observation. He has seen people pass through, as Crooks remarks, and he realizes by studying them—with his ability to measure a person—that with the world the way it is, without any guarantees and a great deal of uncertainty, that people are afraid of one another. Perhaps it is why George and Lennie traveling together makes the most sense to Slim. They are able to harness their fear of isolation and loneliness in watching out for each other.
Loneliness and isolation are the things that people fear, not fear itself.
^ Good answer :)
I am studying this right now, and believe that the main concern is not the fear for another man, but in fact the fear of the human character (i.e. mankind).
Each character is burdened or crippled in one way, and the main focus of the novel is to reveal how this not only creates fear, but reveals the cruelty of the human character.
For example, the killing of Candy's dog generates an enormous amount of fear in Candy. As the men kill the dog that they feel is now useless, Candy comes to realise that he could possibly become a victim of age discrimination, and could be asked to leave the ranch.
Every other character has their own flaw; in short:
Lenny - mentally challenged
Curley - Ex-fighter with no recognition
Curley's wife - Trapped in an unhappy marriage and isolated by her husband
George - Carrying Lenny's Burden
Thus, it is not fear of another man, but the fear of a man's fundamental character that people fear. The fact that humans generate cruelty from their own weakness (essentially bullying) is a shocking revelation and is eventually what all the characters fear, and what shatters their dreams.