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Loneliness in Of Mice and Men

Instructor: Shana Van Grimbergen

Shana teaches high school English and has her master's degree.

In this lesson you will learn how the main idea of loneliness in John Steinbeck's novella 'Of Mice and Men' affects the characters in different ways and advances the story's plot.

Social and Historical Factors

Have you ever been in a crowded room and yet felt incredibly lonely? Even though they lived on a ranch teaming with people, many of the characters in Of Mice and Men were lonely and isolated from each other. This wasn't strange for this time period; in fact, during the 1930s in America, there were plenty of ways to be lonely. People were lonely due to their fight for jobs, their poverty, their age, their race, and even their gender.

George and Lennie

Companionship was rare for migrant workers, so when George and Lennie arrive on the ranch, many question their situation. How can they be friends if they might be fighting for the same job? Their friendship is unusual, and yet the small, sharp George and the big, simple Lennie show the others the benefits of friendship. They have a brotherhood that is linked by a common goal of one day owning their own ranch, and the reader sees this dream unite them and cement their friendship because together they could make their dream a reality. The reader sees several characters who are in sharp contrast to the camaraderie and companionship of George and Lennie, and this showcases for the reader the negative effects of loneliness.

Racism and Loneliness: Crooks

Crooks is a character whose loneliness demonstrates the effects of racism in the 1930s. A black man, Crooks is segregated to the barn and not allowed in the bunkhouse with the other ranch hands. Due to his race, Crooks does not have the luxury of companionship and must live out his days on his own, making him a solitary, aloof character. When he learns of George and Lennie's dream ranch, he wants to be a part of it, and for just a moment, he has a path away from being an outcast. However, after Curley's wife humiliates him, he realizes that because of his race, he will never truly fit in and will always be a solitary man, forsaken by society.

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