Steinbeck examines the themes of isolation, trust, friendship, and fear throughout the novella Of Mice and Men. In a conversation between George and Slim, Slim says,
"Ain't many guys travel around together...I don't know why. Maybe ever'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other" (Steinbeck, 17).
Slim is essentially saying that the majority of individuals in the world choose to reject close relationships because people fear that others will harm them in some way or form. During the Great Depression, many Americans lost their jobs and were forced to contend with one another in order to survive. In this hostile atmosphere, individuals became wary of one another and often feared their neighbors.
Steinbeck expands on Slim's comment by exploring the nature of Curley, George, and Lennie. All three characters fear other individuals on the farm throughout the novella. Curley fears that each of the workers, most notably Slim, will attempt to sleep with his wife. His bravado is an attempt to conceal his inner turmoil. George fears that he will be fired from the ranch, leaving him jobless in a competitive environment. He fears that Curley's wife will ruin his current situation. Lennie, who would be helpless without his only friend and guardian, fears that George will leave him.