Explain how the theme of loneliness is presented via Crooks, Candy, Lennie, and Curley’s wife in chapters 3 and 4.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter three we are introduced to Candy and his dog. The men in the bunkhouse, specifically Carlson were going on and on about how the dog smelled and should be put down. Candy is seemingly non-confrontational and repeats that he had the dog far to long. As Carlson presses,

Candy looked about unhappily. "No," he said softly. "No, I couldn’t do that. I had ‘im too long.”

He was hoping someone would come to his dog’s rescue when

Candy looked helplessly at him, for Slim’s opinions were law. "Maybe it’d hurt him," he suggested. "I don’t mind takin’ care of him.”

This was the only constant in his life for so long because of how lonely he was. As an old man, this was all he had since when we first are introduced to the bunkhouse, we see how little these men have. When the men continue to press, “Candy said, ‘Maybe tomorra. Le’s wait till tomorra.’” as Carlson grabs his Luger pistol. What is really heartbreaking is that Candy didn’t go with, instead he “lay rigidly on his bed staring at the ceiling.” The men attempted to console him in the way men during that time attempted to and finally

A shot sounded in the distance. The men looked quickly at the old man. Every head turned toward him. For a moment he continued to stare at the ceiling. Then he rolled slowly over and faced the wall and lay silent.

All Candy could do was to roll over. He was now all alone in this world having lost his only constant-- that stinky, toothless dog.

Now Curley’s wife, she is a woman trapped in marriage to, well, to Curly. She expresses that she was chasing her dreams and ended up having to marry Curley, but she really wanted to be an actress. From the interactions we see of Curley and the crew, one can see that he is a cantankerous man. He is too busy asserting himself to the hands that he is not connecting emotionally to his wife and she is searching for attention from anyone that will give it. Because Whit tells George

“Ever’ time the guys is around she shows up. She’s lookin’ for Curley, or she thought she lef’ somethin’ layin’ around and she’s lookin’ for it. Seems like she can’t keep away from guys. An’ Curley’s pants is just crawlin’ with ants, but they ain’t nothing come of it yet”

as a way to warn him away from her. Curley thinks everyone is trying to sleep with his wife and she is trying to connect with someone, so the guys stay away from her actively which means she searches harder. It is a vicious circle for her as the men stay further away from her as Curley gets handier with the men. If he would just calm down and pay attention to his wife, she wouldn’t be sniffing around the men and angering him. Everyone would be happy.

Lennie and George’s dream is what keeps Lennie going. He doesn’t really notice his loneliness. He is happiest around the animals, probably because he has never been bothered by them. Between the mouse in his pocket, the dead puppy at the end and everything in between, Lennie seems to be attracted to the small, pretty things (Curley’s wife fits here pretty well, too) because the men in his life have been rough and hard on him. He knows that George is a constant for him, but he wants to get on that farm so he can have his rabbits. That is why he is always asking George,

“George, how long’s it gonna be till we get that little place an’ live on the fatta the lan’—an’ rabbits?”

He wants so badly for George to “‘Tell about the house’” because that his is dream--to be with George, his rabbits and relish the loneliness and solitude away from the mobs, the temptation to pet soft things, and to just live his life. He doesn’t recognize loneliness as other men do and wishes for the solitude as that brings him peace.

Crooks, on the other hand, was isolated and became violently protective of it:

For Crooks was a proud, aloof man. He kept his distance and demanded that other people keep theirs.

He was a black man on a migrant farm. There were men who hated him based on his skin color and found it is much easier to be cantankerous to stave away the attention and affection of others than it was to face rejection. When Lennie came into his room, Crooks reprimanded him by saying “You got no right to come in my room. This here’s my room. Nobody got any right in here but me.” Since he was a black man and was notably not allowed some places such as the bunk house, he said “I ain’t wanted in the bunk house, and you ain’t wanted in my room.” The thing is, Crooks is a black man from the south who was a slave and then freed. He had known freedom. He came from a stable home. He didn’t see a problem with color until he was older and it was used against him. He recounts to Lennie:

“I ain’t a southern Negro,” he said. “I was born right here in California. My old man had a chicken ranch, ‘bout ten acres. The white kids come to play at our place, an’ sometimes I went to play with them, and some of them was pretty nice. My ol’ man didn’t like that. I never knew till long later why he didn’t like that. But I know now.” He hesitated, and when he spoke again his voice was softer. “There wasn’t another colored family for miles around. And now there ain’t a colored man on this ranch an’ there’s jus’ one family in Soledad.” He laughed. “If I say something, why it’s just a nigger sayin’ it.”

He only shares this with Lennie after realizing he was slow. He figures he is a safe white man since he doesn't seem to have the faculties with which to even grow hate. Crooks has to hang onto his loneliness in order to avoid the rejection he has been subjected to because of racism, but Lennie can break through because they are both outcasts in this man’s world.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial