Answers to questions on Prose should refer to the text and to such relevant features as characterisation, setting, language, key incident(s), climax, turning point, plot, structure, narrative technique, theme, ideas, description . . .
Show the impact of the theme of loneliness in Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”.
“Of Mice and Men” is a short novel, written by John Steinbeck in 1937. The novel tells the story of two itinerant ranch hands drifting through California during the great depression. The characters of the novel suffer from loneliness, and this essay will explore how their behaviour is changed by their isolation.
- Name of the text “Of Mice and Men”
- Name of the writer John Steinbeck
- Date of publication 1937
- Gist The story of two itinerant workers in California during the Depression, whose dream of independence leads them to tragedy.
- Intention Explore the impact of loneliness on the characters.
George suffers from loneliness throughout the novel because he is not allowed to pursue the friendships he wants – he must look after Lennie. He shouts in frustration at Lennie that “I could get along so easy without you on my tail!” Here, his frustration bubbles over and he blames Lennie for his life being so difficult – he is not free to have the life he wants. However, George does not suffer loneliness in the same way as the other men on the ranch because he always has companionship from Lennie. While he knows that itinerant labourers (“guys like us”) are “the loneliest guys in the world”, he also understands that his friendship with Lennie makes them different, and prevents them from suffering from isolation. As such, George’s loneliness is tempered by his friendship with Lennie.
Lennie is also…
The loneliness of Lennie…
While George is lonely, Lennie…
The experience of loneliness on the road…
Point Lennie also suffers from loneliness.
Example He panics when Crooks suggests George might not return. “Ain’t nobody gonna talk no hurt to George!”
Explanation Characterises Lennie as dependent on George for security and affection. Theme of weak relying on the strong/ compassion.
Point Lennie shows a longing for the comfort of animals.
Example Devastated when he kills the puppy. “Why’d you got to get killed. You wasn’t as small as mice.”
Explanation His loneliness is often due to his uncontrollable strength. Key scene?
The protagonists are also joined in loneliness by some minor characters…
Among the minor characters, Crooks…
Loneliness is everywhere in the world of “Of Mice and Men”…
While George and Lennie may escape their loneliness…
Point Crooks, though intelligent, is shunned by the farm hands.
Example He confesses to Lennie, “Books aon’t no good. A guy gets too lonely and he gets sick.”
Explanation Crooks is the first character to say aloud what all the men feel. He is separated from the other men because of his race, in a society which does not allow blacks and whites to mix as equals.
Point When Crooks sees he has the chance to make Lennie feel his loneliness, he grasps it with cruelty.
Example He teases Lennie, enjoying his suffering, asking him, “What if George don’t come back no more?”
Explanation He is able to have some little revenge for his mistreatment by the whites, making Lennie fear for a future without his friend. Here it is clear that the greatest fear Lennie (and the other men) has is the fear of being left isolated.
Defined by her womanhood, Curley’s wife is not even named, such is her low value to the men on the ranch…
Curley’s wife is crippled by loneliness despite her being married…
Considered a flirt and a “tart” by the hands, Curley’s wife fights desperately against her loneliness…
Point The men perceive Curley’s wife to be a “tart” because she flirts so much with them.
Example George remarks to Candy that “I can see why Curley’s pants is fulla ants”.
Explanation The men only understand her flirtatious behaviour in terms of the threat she poses to them. The truth is more complicated. She flirts because her ambitions have been denied and her husband does not love her. She craves attention.
Point It is because the men reject her that she sneaks around the ranch looking for conversation.
Example This is what leads to the climax of the novel when she talks to Lennie in the barn, calling him a “kinda nice fella”, even though he is a physical threat to her.
Explanation If she had not been so lonely, she would not have found consolation with Lennie, and her death would have been avoided. It is loneliness which kills her.
- Return to the question – what is your essay supposed to be about?
Show the impact of the theme of loneliness
- In summing up, you will need to state how significant loneliness is as a theme in the novel, and who is affected by it.
- Summarise how it affects some of the characters.
- Explain why this theme is effective – why do readers care about these characters and their situation.