With a backdrop of Depression-era destitution, Steinbeck's novella, "Of Mice and Men," presents a tableau of desperately lonely and alienated men, separated from their homes as they search for work outside of Soledad [which means "solitude" in Spanish] California.
Some are further alienated by their color, such as Crooks who is relegated to the stable, or by their age, such as Candy. They suffer even more than the others. When Candy loses his old dog, he loses the only creature that loves him. They and the other men suffer from the loss of companionship, from the destruction of Nature's social union by Man's corrupt domain. Steinbeck illustrates that humans cannot live in isolation without consequences. The character Curley exemplifies what happens to a man who has no friends. He becomes callous and insensitive, brutal and violent--out of his vulnerability in being alone. His attempt to have someone by marrying is a failure and Curley is even more alienated from the other men as he worries that they may flirt with his wife.
George and Slim speak of the suffering of the men:
'I ain't got no people,' George said. 'I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain't no good. They don't have no fun. After a long time they get mean. They get wantin' to fight all the time.'
'Yeah, they get mean," Slim agreed. 'They get so they don't want to talk to nobody.
Crooks says, "A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you.
Of course George has Lennie, but Lennie gets them into trouble, so there are worries in their relationship. Along with these worries is the uncertainty of the future and the men's feelings of powerlessness in the face of economic injustices. Only dreams are what give meaning to the men's lives.When Candy is invited to share the dream of a place of George's and Lennie's own, his spirits lift. After Lennie kills the girl, Curley's first thoughts are with the dream of the ranch. He looks at George and knows that the dream is extinguished. With the dream goes human dignity.