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Steinbeck wrote “Of Mice and Men” during the 1930s at a time when significant social and economic problems where arising, prompted by the Great Depression, which forced the general workforce of America to become itinerant workers. As a result the characters of the novella live limited existences dominated by the loneliness of a repetitive cycle of earning a large enough “stake” so that they can spend it in a “cat house”, where they can drink “whisky” and “play cards”.
Crooks is excluded from the rest of society in his own “bunk” as a result of the oppressive violence and prejudice he has been the victim of. Experiencing such a plight has resulted in him retiring behind a façade of aloofness. This can be seen by the proud way in which he takes care of his bunk, “the room was swept and fairly neat”, in stark contrast to the bunk houses of the other ranch workers. When actually faced with the presence of others, Lennie and Candy, he gains a large amount of self confidence, which encourages him to try to counter the intrusion of Curley’s Wife, “you got no call foolin’ aroun’… causin’ trouble”. Of course, this is highly out of character and it demonstrates how unusual it is for him to find himself in the company of others.
Similar to Crooks, Curley’s Wife also experiences extreme exclusion from society. However, in her case, it is her gender and her husband that are the obstacles in her search for companionship. This is because, as was the characteristic prejudice towards women at that time, the other characters are suspicious of her and they fear that because of her they might “get canned”. Consequently, she is attracted to Lennie and she devises a complex arrangement to ensure that she could safely be alone with him in the barn. When she gets the chance to talk to him, the words pour out of her in a “passion of communication”. In addition, the interaction reveals a compassionate side of her, which her separation was concealing, when she consoles Lennie after he has killed the puppy, “don’t you worry non’”.
Both characters symbolise lonliness because they are both isolated from the rest of society. Curley's Wife is the only woman in the ranch and none of the ranchers would interact with her because she is,as Candy puts it 'trouble'. Also, if they get into trouble with her, then the ranchers would have to answer to Curley, who prefers to use his physical strenght to straighten things out.
Crooks is a Black man in American society and at that time, white people discriminated blacks, and Crooks smbolises this. Crooks is the only Black person in the ranch, so he has no one to defend him. Though, Crooks sometimes talks to Slim, so unlike Curley's Wife, he has someone to talk to. Crooks has to live in the stable to avoid any fights to do with racism. Therefore, making him lonely.
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