In Of Mice and Men, how does Steinbeck present the lives of the workers on the ranch?
The life of the ranch hands is characterized by hard work, first and foremost, and also loneliness, isolation and powerlessness. Though most of the men work and bunk together, they are presented as existing in a situation where every man is on his own.
Loneliness is a recurrent theme in the novel. "Guys like us," George says, "that work on the ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong noplace."
Candy and Crooks are the best examples of the ranch hands being isolated and lonesome. Candy has just one friend, an old dog. He also has only one hand, so he can no longer do much work on the ranch. Without the ability to work, Candy is powerless in ways that are literarl and figurative. He has no property, no family, and no real wealth.
This state of affairs characterizes all of the ranch hands. Only Lennie and George can be said to have a friend.
Crooks is forced to stay in his own room in the stable and is not allowed to mix freely with the other ranch hands. There is a definite, if invisible, line between Crooks and the other ranch hands drawn due to race.
Crooks' racial identity parallels the economic or financial identity of the ranch hands. They are separate from the big house, separate from Curley and Curley's father. They are separated by the issue of wealth and land ownership.
Through these examples we can see that the ranch hands have a defined "place" on the ranch which serves to isolate them.
Steinbeck presents the lives of the ranch workers to be unfulfilling, lonely, and arduous. The transient workers are essentially powerless because of their economic situation and are forced to work long hours for little pay. Typically, workers travel alone from one farm to the next without staying very long, which explains their isolated lives. However, George and Lennie are the exception and travel together as friends while they search for work. Many of the workers on the ranch also have dysfunctional, difficult lives, which are portrayed in various ways throughout the novella. Candy is getting too old to be useful and fears that he will be let go soon. Crooks is marginalized because he is black, while Carlson is depicted as a coldhearted man, who lacks empathy for others on the farm. The only wise individual who is presented in an unambiguously positive light on the farm is Slim. Throughout the novella, the workers long to own their own property and become financially stable. However, their dreams are simply fantasies which will never be attained. Even George is forced to accept the reality of his disheartening situation after Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife. Overall, the lives of migrant ranch hands are difficult, isolated, and discouraging. The lack of significant personal relationships and financial freedom prevent the workers from living satisfying, comfortable lives.