This is one of the summer assignments I had to do for 9th Grade ELA I Honors. The prompt was to discuss the theme of isolation from the Novella Of Mice and Men.
The experiences of every person are different. This can be seen in John Steinbeck's historical fiction novella Of Mice and Men. The novella starts off with two friends, George and Lennie, who go and apply for work at a ranch during the Great Depression. There, George tries to keep Lennie, who is not very smart, out of trouble while they work to achieve their dreams. Lennie and George meet the other farm workers, who have their own set of problems to share. Eventually, Lennie gets himself into trouble and he ends up running away. The novella frequently brings up themes of being isolated from one’s fellow peers. In the novella Of Mice and Men, three characters who are isolated from the rest of the group are Lennie, Candy, and Crooks.
Lennie Small, George’s friend, is one of the characters that experiences mental isolation. He is big and unusually strong, but has a mental disability. He has a short memory and is sometimes childish, so as a result, no one except George and a few others care about him. George recognizes this when he says, “You jus’ stand there and don’t say nothing. If he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won’t get no job, but if he sees ya work before he hears ya talk, we’re set.” ( 4-5). Lennie’s disability makes it harder for him and anyone he is associated with to get work, and as a result, he is isolated from everyone else. George and Lennie meet Curley, the son of the owner of the farmhouse. Lennie says to himself: “ ‘George gonna wish he was alone and not have me bothering’ him… If George don’t want me… I’ll go away. I’ll go away.’ ” (65). Towards the end of the book, Lennie unintentionally kills Curley’s wife. He knows he did something bad, and he panics before running away. Lennie realizes that he is unwanted everywhere he goes and becomes sad at the prospect of George not wanting him as a friend. He is isolated by his own disability and lack of awareness of the world around him.
Unlike Lenny, Candy, an older farm worker, is physically isolated. Candy is an aging man who lost his hand in an accident. As a result, he is concerned that his time working on the ranch will soon be over. He says to George: “ ‘I ain’t much good with on’y one hand. I lost my right hand here on this ranch’ ”(39). After Candy lost his hand, he is not very useful as a worker. He is uncertain he will be kept as a worker and naturally feels isolated from people who have a better job security. Candy is also old, which makes his future uncertain. He also tells George: “ ‘They'll can me purty soon. Jus’ as soon as I can’t swamp out no bunk houses they’ll put me on the county’ ”(40). Candy is aging and when he is no longer able to do his job, he’ll be fired and have nowhere to go. Candy is isolated because of his age and the fact that everyone around him is able to be a better worker than him.
Lastly, the stable-hand Crooks is isolated because of his race. Crooks is a black man. Since the story takes place in a time where slavery was abolished, but segregation was in place, Crooks is often excluded from doing things with other people because of his race. He explains his situation to Lennie: “He hesitated and when he spoke again his voice was softer. ‘There wasn’t another colored family for miles around. And now there ain’t a colored man on this ranch and’ there just one family in Soledad.’”(46). Crooks tells Lennie that there were no other African American people like him when he was growing up. As a result, he learned from an early age that he was different, and he would be treated differently. Crooks became bitter and frustrated that no one cared about him. He also gives Lennie a piece of advice: “ ‘A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long he’s with you. I tell ya,’ he cried, ‘I tell ya, a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.’”(48). Crooks tells Lennie that lonely people become like Crooks: bitter and resentful towards others. He suggests to the reader that because he was discriminated against, Crooks is now unhappy towards everyone else.
In conclusion, John Steinbeck's historical fiction novella Of Mice and Men the characters who face isolation are Lennie, Candy, and Crooks. Lennie is mentally challenged, so as a result, he is prone to get himself in trouble without realizing it. Candy is an old man so he is isolated by age: Everyone believes him to be useless. As an African American, Crooks is racially isolated, and he is excluded from being with everyone else. As a result of their situation, Lennie and Candy feel sad that few people care for them, while Crooks is angry that he had no friends. At some point in their life, each person will feel alone in some way or another.