Discuss the theme of isolation and loneliness with reference to the characters in 'Of mice and men' by John Steinbeck.

Essay by lisaatk May 2004

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John Steinbeck's novel 'Of Mice and Men' is based on events that followed World War 1 and the collapse of the New York Wall Street stock market in 1929. The United States entered a prolonged period of economic depression. During this period of harsh poverty and long-term unemployment, hordes of migrant workers headed for California. Men, mostly travelling alone migrated from ranch to ranch on poorly paid, short-term contracts. President Roosevelt created a way to counteract the problem, the New Deal economic regeneration policy which included employment agencies - like Murray and Ready mentioned in the novel. These agencies had the task of directing migrant workers to ranches and farms where work existed. This meant a lonely and often isolated existence for the migrant workers.

The theme of loneliness is shown by the way George talks about the way life is for the workers.

"Guys like us, that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world.

They got on family. They don't belong no place."

(Section 1 page 31-32)

George means that if not for each other, then he and Lennie would be all alone, with no friends, like all the men like them, who are nomads working from ranch to ranch without making any friends and living a lonely, solitary life. They cling to each other in their loneliness and alienation. George and Lennie desperately believe in the notion that they are different from other workers.

"With us it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us." (Section 1 Page 32)

George and his simple-minded friend Lennie dream, as drifters will, of a place to call their own. George and Lennie are very different, physically as well as mentally. George is a smart, quick-witted man, who...