How does Steinbeck convey isolation and loneliness in of mice and men?
By Lucy McCormack
From the beginning of, of mice and men Steinbeck conveys isolation and lonliness- these 2 theames occurring frequently throughout the novel. In my opinion the most evident source of these themes are through the characters within their relationships between one another.
The first example of lonliness/isolation comes within the first 2 pages of the 1st section. Steinbeck describes a character through the use of metaphors aswell as descriptive language as “a huge man…shapeless…the way a bear drags his paws” already isolating a character in the first description the reader has of the character. Already we are open to thinking there is something unusual about this man who walks so slopply, in the foot steps of his “small bony nose friend”
Later on (still in the first section of the novel) we now know the tall shapless man is called Lennie and his small friend goes by the name of George. The small friend bosses around the tall shapeless man, which is unusual. He is also known as being forgetful “I forgot… I tried not to forget”. Despite the word “bastard” being in context for the 1920s its still offensive, Lennie is constantly reffered to as “crazy bastard” and Lennie seems to not take note of this as if he is used to it, or know the meaning of the world. This leads the reader to wonder why does Lennie just absorb this criticism? Is he really “a crazy bastard”? We see Lennie as a character that looks up to and obeys George “sure George I got it” and George congratulates Lennie when he remembers something “good boy” this emphasises to the reader that Lennie needs to be reminded and congratulated just as a young child would be.
This is continued throughout the novel, yet evident in section 2. George doesn’t feel as if Lennie is able to speak for himself. So when introduced to the boss George speaks for Lennie which is unusual to the workers. The boss picks up on this “he isn’t much of a talker is he” George defends this by telling the boss “Lennie was kicked in the head by a horse” this is a quick and prompt response- like it had been pre rehearsed. We later find that Lennie wasn’t kicked in the head by a horse “I wasn’t kicked in the head by a horse?” “Be damn good if you was”. This leads the reader to wonder why George has to answer for Lennie, we are aware he isn’t mentally 100 per cent however he can remember some things (such as he wasn’t kicked in the head. Why is George isolating Lennie from the conversations? How does Lennie feel because of this?
Later on in the novel- section 4 where we see Lennie get in a scruff with Curley. The fact Lennie is different from the others is emphasised again. George has to tell him exactly what to do. For example George shouts “get him Lennie” (towards Curley) and Lennie does exactly what his told “was lost in Lennies big paw” Steinbeck described this fight with the use of metaphors; giving Lennie bear like features to show his strength. Despite Lennie “crushing” Curleys fist, it is obvious Lennie did not want it this way. He feels as if he has done wrong, yet doesn’t quite now how. “I didn’t want ‘a hurt him… no trouble” which sows the reader he has this empowering strength yet doesn’t know how and when to use it and has to be told. At the end of this section we see Lennie really is harmless and all he wants to do is “tend the rabbits” and pet soft thing. He fears this will be taken from him. The reader sympathises for Lennie here as he does seem so much younger than the other ranch workers and can’t think in a similar mind set. So far the reader has gathered not only is Lennie marginalised in society for the way his huge with, uncontrollable strength, Steinbeck has also conveyed a character who has a fetish for petting animals accidenty killing them in the process.
In section 4 all characters, which are marginalised, are in the same