In his novella Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck's isolated character of Crooks, who is separated from the other itinerant workers who stay in the bunkhouse, tells Lennie, another character how insecure he has become by being alone:
"...A guy set alone out here at night....Sometimes he get think', an' he got nothing to tell him that's so an' what ain't so....He can't turn to some other guy ans ast him if he sees it too. He can't tell. He got nothing to measure by...."
Humans are such that they measure themselves by others. When they experience misfortune of any kind, they feel conquered, or supressed, as does Norman Grotsby who counts himself among the "defeated," having fought for success and "lost." This sense of failure from measuring oneself by the perceived merits of others can, then, only be mitigated by the attainment of those same merits.
These merits can be in financial areas as well as in human relations. Grotsby, who has failed in a more "subtle ambition," perhaps love, is equally sick at heart and disillusioned by life. For, the failure in any aspect of life does, indeed, conquer a person as he begins to doubt his self-worth and abilities. So often confidence in oneself comes from success, however one defines this word. If one is stalwart enough and has set the measure of success within one's own consciousness, there may be less comparison to others, and, therefore, less a sense of failure when one does not achieve one's goals. However, if, as most human beings are, a man measures success by his winning in competition with others, then he feels vanquished by not having outdone those with whom he has vied for success.