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I think that the idea of loneliness impacts the characters in Steinbeck's novel in a variety of ways. To a great extent, the ranch hands are all lonely. The entire collection of people on the ranch are lonely. The workers are transients, moving from job to job. The way Steinbeck opens the second chapter in describing the living conditions makes one recognize the loneliness on the ranch. The opening dialogue between George and Candy centers on why someone left the job, reflecting how lonely the people who work there are. Their only comfort is a temporary one, something that can distract them from the pain that strikes at the heart of their lonely being. It is for this reason that nearly every character remarks on how different George and Lennie are in that they are completely together in a world where others are so distant. Crooks is lonely being isolated in his own world of darkness, literally and figuratively. Curley's wife is immersed in a painful being of loneliness, something she confesses to Lennie before her death. The other ranch hands are lonely, clinging to their own work and collegiality in a transient setting. In the end, loneliness becomes the critical element that defines the pain of characters and a part of their existence could not be escaped.
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