In this novella, Steinbeck illustrates ways the every-man-for-himself ethos of capitalism isolates people and causes them to be lonely and fearful.
Candy is lonely and fearful because he is old and disabled. He cannot save enough money for retirement. When his bunkmates want to shoot his old, blind, smelly dog, Candy mourns losing his companion. More than that, he sees in the killing of a creature that is no longer useful a picture of his own end.
Curley's wife, a newlywed teenaged girl already dissatisfied with her marriage to a swaggering bully, is lonely and isolated as the only woman on the ranch. She wants to be admired as a sex object, yet the ranch hands wish very much to steer clear of her because of fear of tangling with Curley. She has utterly unrealistic dreams and fantasies of going to Hollywood and getting into movies. In the meantime, she dresses up in tawdry ways with no one to admire her.
Crooks is a more complicated case, as he is a victim of racism. He is lonely because...
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