How is loneliness presented in this novel? and what is John Steinbeck trying to say about the theme of loneliness?
The theme of loneliness is evident in the novel Of Mice and Men. George and Lennie move from ranch to ranch, trying to escape problems Lennie has created. George and Lennie can never seem to establish roots. They only dream of having their own farm. George admits that men who live as he does live a lonely existence:
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 no place."
George admits that Lennie keeps him company. If it were not for their companionship, George and Lennie would really suffer from loneliness. They at least have each other as Lennie suggests:
Lennie replies: "But not us. And why. Because . . . because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why." The alternative to the companionship that George and Lennie share is loneliness.
While loneliness is a recurring theme in the novel, the setting makes life even lonelier. Set in the Great Depression, economic times were tough. Ranch hands are working for low wages. Times are depressing. George and Lennie are trying to save up for a dream of theirs. They dream of owning their own farm one day. Until then, George and Lennie must live form ranch to ranch, seeking work. George shares with the boss the relationship that he and Lennie share:
George tells the ranch boss. "I told his old lady I'd take care of him " The boss is suspicious of the bond between George and Lennie, and the other characters in turn also question this friendship: they have simply never seen anything like it. In their world, isolation is the norm.
Truly, isolation is the norm. George and Lennie are fortunate to have one another. Of course, that all comes to an end by the novel's final chapter. George has to shoot Lennie. Now, he will experience loneliness like never before.
No doubt, the author is sharing a view of what times looked like in the Great Depression:
Implicit in the theme is the ironic idea that maturity involves the destruction of one's dreams. George "matures" by killing Lennie, thus destroying the dream that could not survive in modern civilization. George survives because he leaves behind his unrealistic dreams. Dreaming, however, is humanity's only defense against an indifferent world. The title of the novel itself implies that people are at the mercy of external forces beyond their control. Steinbeck writes with sincere compassion for the victims of these chaotic forces.