John Steinbeck's novella, Of Mice and Men, contains many different themes which help to present his view of life on the ranch.
Idealism versus Reality
This theme helps to define Steinbeck's view of life on the ranch based upon the motif of the American Dream. Some of the men on the ranch have submitted to the fact that their life is what it is. For example, Crooks' conversation with Lennie shows Crooks' grasp on reality.
They come, an' they quit an' go on; an' every damn one of 'em's got a little piece of land in his head. An' never a God damn one of 'em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever'body wants a little piece of lan'. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It's just in their head.
Lennie, on the other hand, lives in his own idealistic world where he truly believes that he and George will have a little plot of their own land where he (Lennie) can raise his rabbits.
Alienation and Loneliness
While many men work on the ranch, all of them seem to feel a sense of alienation and loneliness. Candy feels alienated by Slim and the other men when they all agree that his dog must be put down. Crooks, on the other hand, is alienated because of his race and handicap. The idea of being surrounded by others, yet feeling alone is apparent in the novella.
Race and Racism
As mentioned above, race and racism is apparent in the novella. Crooks is isolated by the others on the ranch, forced to bunk in the harness room. Life for an African American on the ranch is lonely and isolated.
Life on the ranch is defined by one's class. In this text, class is defined by both wealth and ability. Both Slim and Curley are looked up to by the ranch hands--Candy for his wealth and Slim for his ranching ability. Without either wealth or recognition, one is considered lower than another and deemed unimportant.
The majority of the men at the ranch do not understand the relationship between George and Lennie. They question the relationship repeatedly. That said, this illuminates life upon the ranch--men are meant to be on their own, with strength enough to stand and survive alone. The loyalty between George and Lennie is not typical on the ranch, showing that life on the ranch is an isolated one.