How does Steinbeck present loneliness and isolation in “Of Mice and Men”? Free essay! Download now
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How does Steinbeck present loneliness and isolation in “Of Mice and Men”?
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| Words: 1700 | Submitted: 24-Nov-2006
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DescriptionEssay responds to previous AQA question: How does Steinbeck present loneliness and isolation in “Of Mice and Men”? 1680 Words
[Written by university-medal winner and current English teacher]
In the case of Candy, certain narrative events and elements of foreshadowing reflect not only his lonely, isolated journey but also that of the protagonists, George and Lennie. For example, Candy, an elderly, half-crippled ranch hand, accompanied by his one and only companion (a dog), shares the same American Dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, which concurs with the same dream of George and Lennie. In this sense, Steinbeck arguably utilises the emblematic character of “the swamper”, Candy, to embody a generation of discarded American workers after the ‘salad days’ of the booming 1920s (unemployment rates of 25%). Moreover, Steinbeck employs the metaphorical parallel of human disability with emotional misery or loneliness through such instances as Candy’s missing hand (now virtually useless as a worker), Crooks’ back injury (reducing his status among the hierarchy of men on the ranch) and Lennie (intellectually deficient). Furthermore, in a world largely bereft of women, the “old man”, Candy experiences profound loneliness as he has no one to keep him company and his age restricts him from joining in the young crowd, especially after Carlson’s rushed killing of his dog (foreshadowing George’s later mercy killing of Lennie) where he is left feeling like an outsider only sitting in, and listening (“I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog”).
Similarly, Steinbeck’s presentation of loneliness - a central motif in the novel - and isolation is encapsulated in Candy’s sense of alienation from everyone else in the ranch: “Jus’ as soon as I can’t swamp out no more bunk houses they’ll put me on the county”. Steinbeck has thus poignantly illustrated Candy’s isolation given that he feels he has nowhere else to go beyond the life of the ranch. To this end, Candy saves money, but unlike others, his money is not saved for any particular reason, the wages he is earning appear to have no clear destination. “I won’t have no place to go, an’ I can’t get no more jobs [page 88]” insisting Candy, wanting to contribute towards a new home with the money he has saved up and money he is earning, and trying to make a future for himself with George and Lennie. By the end of the novel, Candy is again left lonely and feeling isolated as his dream of a better life is in ruins following Lennie’s killing of Curley’s wife – “You an’ me can [still] get that little place, can’t we, George?... can’t we, George?” Here, Steinbeck uses Candy’s pleading repetition to reflect the inevitable futility of hope, dreams of a less lonely life on the farm and an escape from the stark, purgatorial reality of ranch life. Such isolation is perfectly embodied in George’s recognition that, “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world”.
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