The 1930’s was desolate time for the California ranch life and many workers were eager to find comfort in others. In his novel Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck describes a handful of the characters who are reclusive and isolated. Each desires the amenity of a friend, but will be contented with the conscientious ear of a stranger. Steinbeck has incorporated a lack of names for characters such as “Curley’s wife” and “The Boss”. The Boss has no real name because the men could care less for him and don’t like him. All they want from him is money and a job, and after that is taken care of they just forget him.
As for Curley’s wife, the men see her more as an object than a actual person. They don’t even take the time to know her as a person and automatically assume whatever they want about her. George describes in a disrespectful manner, saying, “Jesus, what a tramp,’ he said. ‘So that’s what Curley pick for a wife’ (17). To the men a tramp is someone who will anything for attention and fro some company. Unlike the other characters in the book, George and Lennie are the only ones who aren’t lonely because they have each other to keep them company.
George and Lennie first meet through Lennie’s Aunt Clara, who was a friend of George’s. Since lennie didn’t have any other family and George was already alone, they decided to travel together for work. Since then Lennie has always looked up and protected Geroge. Many references in the book suggest seeing Lennie as a sort of pet to George. In one incident George found out that Lennie killed a mouse ad was hiding it in his pocket, and like a dog George demanded Lennie to give it to him. “Slowly, like a terrier who doesn’t want to bring his ball back to his master, Lennie approached, drew back, and approached again” (5).
This is a good example because Lennie sees George as very high authority and he will do anything he say, just like a pet would. George is happy to have Lennie by his side even if he doesn’t seem like it sometimes. To George the loneliest people in the world are ranch workers because they have no family, they don’t belong anywhere and they have nothing to look forward too. They just seem to float around like ghost at times, going from ranch to ranch. Another character who seems to be consumed by loneliness is Candy. For a long period of time Candy had a companion which was his old sheepdog.
He was very fond of his dog and loved to keep him around even if he smelled bad, because he was his only friend. “Yeah. I had ‘im ever since he was a pup. God, he was a good sheepdog when he was younger. “(13) They shared so many years and memories together that Candy feel a strong attachment to him. One night the men pressured Candy to give up his dog. They took him out into the fields and shot him in the back of the head. After this Candy was depressed because he lost a friend who he has always kept by his side. He doesn’t talk to anyone until he overhears Lennie and George talking about a ranch they want to own.
Candy jumps right into the conversation saying he has enough money to help them get the land, and that he wants to be part of it. The reason Candy feels the need to be part of this plan is because he want to leave the ranch and find something to fill his loneliness. Buying a ranch with Lennie and George would do just that because he’d be able to live with freedom and happily. Candy is also very nice to Lennie. He understands that Lennie doesn’t know or understand much. Candy enjoys Lennie’s company and shares his thoughts with him because he knows Lennie won’t judge him or put him down like the other guys.
The most isolated character in the story is Crooks, the African American worker who lives by himself in the stable. Crooks is separated from the other men because of his color. Back in the 1930’s many African Americans had no rights and were discriminated against because of their color. He understands the men don’t like him around and he would rather be isolated instead of ridiculed for something he simply can’t change about himself.
Because Crooks is so disliked he doesn’t often get much company. When Crooks first meets Lennie he doesn’t p ennie he doesn’t push him away like the other because he also realizes that Lennie doesn’t understand much and will just listen to anyone. Crooks explains to Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times of confusion and need. “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya. ” he cried, “I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an he gets sick” (35) He believes that everybody needs a friend and being lonely is one of the worst feelings in the world.
Just like Candy, Crooks also wants to share the farm because he also wants to feel free and wanted. He knows that if he were to leave the ranch and have his own place that he wouldn’t be so discriminated against. He would actually be able to live a carefree life. Curley’s wife is another character in the novel who is so desperate for someone to pay real attention to her. Constantly throughout the novel Curley’s wife is always going around claiming she is looking for Curly, but in reality she’s just trying to find someone to talk to or who will keep her company.
Curley’s wife feels as if Curley could care less about her, and only uses her. Therefore she goes looking for something more but gets rejected every time. She flirts with the workers but they feel as if she just wants to ruin other people’s lives and drive them crazy. She admits her loneliness to Lenny, Crooks, and Candy at the barn saying, “Think I don’t like to talk to somebody ever’ once in awhile? Think I like to stick in that house alla time? “(38) She also confesses she is unhappily married as well. She admits to feeling a kind of shameless dissatisfaction with her life.
She feels such a strong need for companionship that she even starts to cuddle up to Lenny in the barn. She seems to enjoy Lennie a lot because of his small mind and his ability to listen, just like everyone else. She confesses to Lennie that she could have been a movie star but never got a letter and instead settled for Curly. Knowing that she could have been something huge in the real world and loved by many defeats her. She’s constantly craving for something close enough to make her feel like a star again. Along with being alone, many hope to find companions, and sometimes is lucky enough to get it.
Sometimes when they find companions they can be removed and they feel like they have fallen back into the depression of solitude. George and Lennie have been with each other since the beginning. They had a dream to go and live on a ranch of their own. Their dream kept them together and kept them going. Sadly they lost a dream larger than themselves. George gives up his dreams and his best friend to protect Lennie. As for Candy his only companion seemed to be his dog. He kept him company and loved him. When the men took out his dog and shot him because he was “old and stank,” Candy became miserable.
Candy was so upset about his dog because he thought they might do that to him as well when he’s no longer useful. Crooks is desperate for a companion of his own. His only companion so far seems to be his books, but books can fulfill his need for a friend and only do part of the job in keeping him company. Steinbock seems to incorporate the 1930’s ranch life as the loneliest time ever. All characters in the novel can be seen begging from attention to secretly craving it. Every single one of them is desperate for a friend and companion.