Of Mice And Men

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade November 2001

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Friendship: The Escape of Loneliness America in the mid 1930's was a lonesome place to be, mostly as a result of the amount of discrimination that was present during the time. In his touching novel, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck expresses that friendship is a precious asset for people to possess with one another, allowing them to escape loneliness. George and Lennie, after many years of traveling and bonding together, find jobs on a solitary ranch in Salinas, California. Here, the people are secluded from one another because of their disadvantages, leaving them with no support in their life, and are essentially driven towards George and Lennie's friendship because of this. Crooks, black and crippled, and Candy, old and useless, are two of the ranchers who seek to fulfill a friendship by showing interest in the relationship between George and his retarded companion, Lennie. Steinbeck portrays that isolation can be avoided because of the great value of friendship, through the loneliness of two underprivileged ranchers, Crooks and Candy, compared to the strong bond maintained by two men, George and Lennie, regardless of their weaknesses.

Crooks experiences isolation due to the racist society he resides in. Being an African American significantly separates him from the others on the ranch, and his crooked back does not make his situation any better. Acting proud and aloof is Crooks' method of protecting himself, though he suffers from lonesomeness. The full extent of his suffering is made clear when he lashes out at Lennie for unexpectedly entering his room. Viewing Lennie as a symbol of all the white men who had hurt him, Crooks strikes out in anger by telling Lennie that his room is only for himself, and nobody has permission to come in. In actuality, Crooks' anger is just a cover for the pain he experiences from constant isolation. After permitting Lennie to cross the threshold, knowing that he needs someone to talk to, he bitterly comments that he is not allowed to live in the bunkhouse with the other laborers, and cannot even play cards with them. "I can't play cards because I'm black. They say I stink."�(68) This quote illustrates that Crooks feels the anguish of rejection more than he lets people see, and more importantly he longs to have a closeness with someone; anyone. At another point, after Candy enters the room, Crooks discovers George, Candy, and Lennie's plan to own a ranch. Hearing their plan, he reveals his desire to have a friendship by proposing to work for them, for free. Working for them on their ranch would fulfill his dream for acceptance and he could truly be proud to say that he has friends. The character of Crooks reflects the universal need for human connection, which he lacks primarily because of his skin color, as does Candy because of his age and physical handicap.

Being a rancher itself is lonely, yet the old, one-handed swamper, Candy, finds his life far more solitary due to his physical condition. Like George and Lennie's companionship, Candy keeps himself occupied with his elderly, handicapped dog. Due to the stench and uselessness of the dog, Candy is persuaded into giving up his bond with it and allowing it to be killed. He has nobody to assist him in saying "no"� to giving up his only comrade and the death of his dog leaves him in a mental state of solitude. After the termination of Candy's dog he realizes the vast extent of his loneliness, which leaves him to believe that he too could be fired, due to his disabilities: "I got hurt four years ago. They'll can me purty soon, Jus' as soon as I can't swamp out no bunk houses they'll put me on the county."�(60) Another factor that makes Candy even more isolated is the fact that he believes he is insignificant as a result of his age and disability. Since Candy feels old, he places himself in a state of mind that handicaps him more than his missing hand ever will. Throughout the novel, Candy never goes out with the other ranchers because of this negative aspect he has towards himself. Without a friendship he does not have anyone to encourage him. Eventually, Candy tries to find a real friendship by attempting to join the dream of George and Lennie, which is to own and run their own ranch. He desperately discloses his fear, loneliness, and also offers his services to George, in his attempt to find a place in society and meaning in life. Ultimately, Candy attempts to overcome his loneliness and regain a positive outlook on life by seeking out a substantial position in the solid relationship of George and Lennie.

George and Lennie's lasting friendship allows them to overcome many hardships, differentiating them from the lonely individuals living on the ranch. Without one another the two characters would have absolutely no chance at success, considering for what one of them is lacking the other has an ample amount of. Although it does no become apparent until later in the story, George has an abundance of mental strength, but he is not very strong, whereas Lennie is physically "strong as a bull"�(22) and has a mental capacity of a child. Unlike the isolated beings on the ranch, such as Crooks and Candy, George and Lennie's amity with one another allows them to feel no disappointment in themselves because of their flaws. The two comrades share their hard times and their good times, their victories and their defeats, but most importantly they share a common dream. That dream is of having "a little house and a couple of acres an' a cow and some pigs an' live of the fatta the lan'."�(14) Owing to their companionship and devotion to each other, George and Lennie can actually have dreams that are within their grasp. This dream prevents them from ever feeling alone. Another instance, which represents the friendship between the two, is when George helps Lennie escape the consequences of his actions in Weed. Due to the combination of Lennie's lack of common sense and love for soft things he causes himself to become a wanted man in Weed. Because of his friendship with George he escapes the life-threatening circumstances. Together, George and Lennie represent that the significance of friendship is to experience life without the worry of being lonesome.

The comparison of George and Lennie's undying companionship to the isolation of Crooks and Candy proves that the value of friendship is to prevent a life of sullen loneliness. George and Lennie overcome adversities together, making their bond with one another stronger, whereas Crooks and Candy suffer from discrimination and prejudice which prevents them from escaping their solitary lives. Crooks and Candy learn to cope with their loneliness to some extent through their interest in George and Lennie's friendship. John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men truly depicts the significance for friendships through his use of deep characters and the typical disadvantages during the 1930s in America. The reader becomes aware of the magnitude of having a friend, and the fact that a victim of isolation will have a never-ending strive to fulfill a friendship.