Loneliness is a common theme that is evident in all aspects of the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’. Steinbeck has presented his views of loneliness by using the background information and appearance of the setting. From within this chosen location the author creates characters; all of whom show different views of isolation. Of those characters created by Steinbeck many have individual dreams to escape from their isolation and fulfil their lives.
Soledad, California, which translates to solitude or loneliness, was specifically chosen along with the time period as the setting to lead back to the main theme of isolation. The setting of the novel is important as it allows the author to further explore the theme of loneliness. It seems to be the linking cause of each of the character’s situations, solitude and in turn unachievable dreams throughout the story.
Steinbeck sets the story in the 1930’s famously known as the ‘Great Depression’. During this time the financial market fell forcing many men to travel the country looking for work. This forced travellers away from their families and they would often spend great amounts of time alone. It was because of this lack of employment that Lennie and George were required to travel from ranch to ranch in search of work. By using this, the author was able to further explore the theme of ‘friendship’ through Lennie and George. While many people travel alone in search of jobs Lennie and George travel together, causing Slim to comment, “I hardly never seen two guys travel together. You know how the hands are, they just come in and get their bunk and work a month, and then they quit and go out alone. Never seem to give a damn about nobody.” Pg.40, Slim.
By contrasting Lennie and George travelling together to the other characters in solitude Steinbeck was better able to show the value of friendship and the effects it had on both Lennie and George.
Another important feature used by Steinbeck from the 1930’s was the physical appearance of the land. Referred to as the ‘Dust Bowl’ it created the perfect image of ‘isolation’ through its barren, dusty, empty and unliveable landscape.
By using this setting Steinbeck has ensured that each character would develop their own isolation issues simply due to their surrounds and history of the time.
Steinbeck’s characters not only develop a sense of isolation through their desolate landscape but also by how the author develops each character separately. Steinbeck manipulates the characters to do certain things in order to display his views, ideas and values throughout the novel. Their individual actions, personality, how other characters interact with them as well as imagery and symbols are some of the more common ways the author puts his point across and can freely express themes in the story such as isolation. The author reinforces the feeling of isolation by manipulating characters individual actions, personalities and interactions. He adds to this feeling by using imagery and symbolism.
George, a main character, has been developed throughout the story by the author greatly. This development comes through a combination of his actions and the symbolisms behind them. These actions include how he interacts with other characters and the language he uses as well as how other characters talk about him. A basis for these actions comes from his travelling companion, Lennie.
Constantly, when he is travelling with Lennie, he complains “God a’mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could get a job an’ work, an’ no trouble. No mess at all, and when the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go into town and get what ever I want.” Pg. 12
Although he and Lennie travel together, George often has to take care of Lennie and he seems more of a burden than company. By pairing Lennie and George together the author seems to show one version of loneliness through George. Although he has company he is