The Atavistic Nature of Human Existence
At their rawest, human beings will do whatever it takes to make it in this austere world. Of Mice and Men teaches a grim lesson of the nature of human existence. We humans don’t act very primitive at all, although there are some very defining atavistic traits that we all do tend to unwittingly follow. Key points are the causes and effects of loneliness and isolation, different types of strength and weakness, and the lifelong chase after the impossible American dream. We do not know what our nature permits us to be, and at times we do not even realize how enveloped in our feelings we can become.
Firstly, we all feel the sense of loneliness in our lives time from time, and in Of Mice and Men a grand handful of the characters can’t help but admit to feeling a profound presence of loneliness and isolation dragging behind them wherever they go. Each of them desire and deserve someone that will listen to them pour their heart out; and will settle for either a companion or a stranger. For example, beginning on page 70, Crooks looks to Lennie to finally have the chance to tell his story of desolation. “Sometimes he talks, and you don’t know what the hell he’s talkin’ about. Ain’t that so?” Crooks notices straight away that Lennie won’t quite understand what he is explaining and immediately begins describing his deep sense of solitude, even though that is the first time he and Lennie have ever interacted. After unwillingly letting his dog be shot and killed, Candy is immediately overtaken by deep regret and loneliness and lays on his bed and faces the wall, almost not speaking to anyone. He later admits that he wish he would have shot the dog himself. Possibly the most influential example of loneliness and isolation in the novella would be just the sole essence of the character of Curley’s wife. She is by far the most alienated; as displayed by her namelessness, her physical separation, and the way she is constantly being perceived by the men on the ranch. Curley’s wife openly admits to Candy, Crooks, and Lennie that she is unhappily married, even though none of them are interested in what she has to say and tell her to leave before she causes any trouble. Like Curley’s wife, all of the characters are rendered helpless by their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they.
Secondly, Steinbeck explores different types of strength and weakness throughout the novella. It is no surprise that, as humans, we naturally feel the need to cover up our weaknesses with false perceived strength and suppress those in one way we feel are lesser. It’s harsh, but it’s nothing but the truth, and Of Mice and Men demonstrates that in a simple and poetic fashion. Crooks, a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship, criticizes Lennie’s dependence on George and his dreams of the farm; zeroing in on his weaknesses. Crooks seems to be at his strongest just as he is nearly reducing Lennie to tears of fear that something terrible had happened to George, just as Curley’s wife feels the most powerful when she dehumanizes and insults Crooks or when she threatens to have him lynched. Another example would be how Lennie…