In John Steinbeck s Of Mice and Men, loneliness is one of the many underlying themes that is expressed in the novel through many of its characters. Some of the factors of this human isolation are age, sexism and racism. Despite the on-going struggle to prevent its occurrence, loneliness is also a feeling a large number of people experience from day to day in our society. In the novel, Candy is a lonely and disabled, elderly man who feels isolated from the rest of the younger workers on the ranch. Candy knows that society rejects seniors such as himself because they are stereotyped as useless and unproductive citizens. Carlson symbolizes society in the novel as Candy s dog is a symbol for the elderly: “He ain’t no good to you, Candy. An’ he ain’t no good himself. Why’n’t you shoot him, Candy?” (44). Candy s dog, old and frail like his owner, is his only companion and once he is put out of his misery, Candy is left completely alone in the world. He turns to George and Lennie who, reluctantly at first, agree to include him in on their plans of one day owning their own farm. Today, seniors are still slightly perceived as somewhat incompetent for they are frail and lack the muscle power they once possessed. They often have trouble walking the same distances they walked when they were younger. Many also cannot exert the same strength they once were able to. When they are no longer capable of tending to themselves, many relatives have them placed in senior homes to be taken care of by complete strangers. This puts them in isolation away from the rest of the world. The reason why many elderly people are owners of pets is because they long for their company and unconditional companionship, something the rest of the world is blindly incapable of offering. The only difference: Animals are not dismissive and uncompassionate creatures. They don t know any better than to love and accept people who treat them with the same respect they are paid.
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Curley s wife is another character who struggles with isolation for she is just a woman, a minority to the many workers who have invaded her home. Just newlywedded to Curley, she is the only female on the ranch and therefore, is granted no social power. Furthermore, Curley s wife is not given a name in the novel. This is the author s attempt to draw the readers attention to the fact that she is viewed as unimportant or of lower status to the males. Because of her flirtatious manner, Curley has forbidden her to speak to anyone but himself and she has since approached the ranchers with excuses to find her husband . All the ranchers consider her to be somewhat of a prostitute often referring to her as a tart . However, I see her behaviour as a desperate cry for attention, something she is greatly deprived of. All she wants is someone to talk to and be able to converse with. Slim is the only one who does not hold her seductive actions against her and judge her as the other men do. His character is a symbol of the kind and compassionate citizens of our society who recognize sexism and make an attempt to try and improve the situation. I am quite astonished at how sexism hasn t improved in many countries such as India for example. In some parts of India, the dowry system is a depressing tradition. This is a system where the bride s family gives her gifts such as cars, money and livestock to attract men. More recently, dowries are demanded by the groom and in many cases the bride s family is forced to take out loans with great interest to satisfy his demands. Another example of sexism comes from the poorer regions of India where female infanticide is common. Female infanticide is the illegal act of abortion when the pregnant mother acquires knowledge that her child will be born a girl. Crooks, in my opinion is the most isolated character in this novel for one reason and one reason only: his skin colour. He lives alone in the stables with the horses and is only allowed into the bunkhouse with the rest of the workers during Christmas. Most of the men are prejudiced against Crooks and he is constantly reminded of his fault as he is often called a nigger : “Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny” (81). We are told by Candy that the boss takes his anger out on Crooks even when he is not at fault. As a result of the discrimination against him, Crooks has become a bitter and cynical old man who scoffs in disbelief at George and Lennie s future plans. Racism is a very tender issue for there are hundreds of different races that make up our world. The level of racism has generally decreased in most parts of the world compared to a century ago. It may be very difficult to completely rid the planet of racism but it is definitely possible. As one of the underlying factors of World War Two, it is something that lived and still lives in some people. Racism is driven from the clash of cultures and ideologies of different nationalities. I believe this is something that can eventually be overcome if people can learn to keep an open mind about other races cultures and ideologies. This does not mean everyone must follow beliefs other than their own, that is something the individual should have the right to decide upon. Having an open mind means to accept various views and principles and be able to respect them. Of Mice and Men is only a metaphor for the loneliness and isolation that occurs on a daily basis in our global village where people of all ages, sexes and races merge together in one big pot of cultural soup. Although the examples given in the novel may be to the extreme in today s society, it gives the readers an idea of the different types of loneliness and isolation that have corrupted our society over the years. Though we are closer to reaching a peaceful and understanding world with each passing day, there are a number of things we all as individuals must strive to improve on. Some of these things include being more empathetic to others feelings, having a more open-minded attitude to other cultures, and becoming more respectful toward all sexes. With improvement in these areas, we may have the ability to achieve our ultimate goal of living in a peaceful and accepting world of harmony. (By Hina Yamauchi, English 12)