– A Friendship Essay, Research Paper
? Of Mice and Men ? by John Steinbeck is a novel involving two extremely different main characters. George is a reasonably intelligent, hardworking ranchman. Lennie on the other hand always manages to find trouble. He is equally as hardworking and honest as George but his simple childlike mind always finds him trouble wherever he goes. However they have one thing that unites the two of them as close as any bond can. This is that they both share the same dream of owning their own ranch ? and after many hard working years, moving from ranch to ranch, living in complete poverty and working for next to nothing they finally try to achieve this life long dream.
I enjoyed this novel because I found the contrast between the two main characters very interesting and wanted to try to understand why Steinbeck has chosen main characters such as George and Lennie, as the rest of the book was mainly moulded around these two specific characters. I was very involved with most aspects of the book particularly that of the setting. However I have decided my task will be to focus on the themes of friendship and loneliness.
Steinbeck writes the novel ?Of mice and Men? using 3rd person narrative to show how emotionally remote the characters are and to show that they don?t get to know people intimately. This for me is enhances the success of the book as it gives an equal account of all the characters feelings.
In the opening chapter Steinbeck immediately introduces the idea of loneliness and the idea of the men living very temporary lives, with no real direction. Steinbeck cleverly uses the setting to convey these ideas. The path George and Lennie are walking on is described as
? A path beaten hard by boys? and beaten hard by tramps who came wearily down from the highway in the evening to jungle ? up near water ? and ? an ash pile made by many fires ?
These quotes for me convey the idea of the setting and the characters living very temporary, lonely lives. Not only do these quotes describe the setting, they also give us a detailed description of the men?s tragic, isolated lives as well. For example when Steinbeck tells us about an ash pile made by many fires. He is actually making the point that the ash pile occurred from lots of men passing through that point in the forest and so they live temporary lives and are always moving from ranch to ranch and this is just like all the men on the ranch. This also shows how hard work was to find as so many wonder from place to place.
Another point about the setting that I feel relates to the men?s lives is shown on p.g. 18. The description is that of the bunk house where all the ranch workers stay
? Over each bunk there was nailed an apple box with the opening forward so that it made two shelves for personal belongings ?
The manner in which Steinbeck describes the bunkhouse is very similar to that of the ranchman?s lives and it also shows us all they have for personal belongings is two shelves. Steinbeck shows us that by having only two shelves for belongings they live lonely insecure lives.
One man who suffers from the extremes of loneliness on the ranch is a man named Crooks
“A guy goes nuts if he ain?t got nobody. Don?t matter no difference who the guy is, longs he with you. I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an he gets sick”
Crooks is a black man that experiences isolation because the society in which he resides in is racist. Crooks is forced to live in the barn by him self and can not join in any social activities with the other men. The quote says ?don?t matter no difference who the guy is, longs he with you?. I feel this makes the point that although Lennie does rely on George a lot, George also rely?s on him to be a friend and the fact that Lennie is simple makes no difference because they have something which all the workers envy – friendship. Crooks is possibly the loneliest character on the ranch along side Curleys wife who is also very lonely.
Curley is the ranch owner?s son and likes to think everything he does is right. Curley likes to think he owns his wife and that he should tell her what she can and can?t do and consequently this is what makes her another very lonely character. If she tries to talk to the ranchmen they ignore her, because they fear Curley and she has no female friends so she is very isolated. His wife is never given a name in the book and is constantly referred to as ?Curleys wife?; this for me makes an important and bold statement to the reader. Steinbeck shows how lonely she is, as she is never given a name it shows that no one thinks of her as a friend, but more of an object. She shouldn?t really be as lonely as she is because she has a husband, but still she has no real friends. She has no real grip on life and lives in two completely different worlds. In reality she lives in an old ranch surrounded by ranchmen with no friends or companions to communicate with. However she longs and truly believes she can be a film star. She once told Lennie
? I aint used to livin like this. I coulda made something of myself? maybe I will yet ?
Curley?s wife is not the only one dreaming of a better life, all the characters struggling in this novel are dreaming of moving away and making something of themselves.
All the characters on the rank suffer from loneliness, and this is down to having no friends. They all in some way or other envy George and Lennie because no matter what happens George and Lennie have each other as friends; no one else on the ranch can boast this. It wasn?t normal for people to travel together like George and Lennie did and this is what brought about suspicion, for example the boss of the ranch thought George was taking Lennie?s wages ? showing that nobody really knew or understood friendship, as it didn?t really exist for anyone on the ranch.
Candy is an old ranch worker who was disabled a few years back while working. He has a little bit of money and feels he can contribute towards paying for George and Lennie?s little ranch, as long as he can be a part of the dream. This is a very strange peculiar part of the novel as it gives an unexpected twist to the story line. Throughout the novel the dream is always associated with George and Lennie, like the times when George explains the dream to Lennie and how they always keep the dream alive by talking about it. Candy an old lonely, isolated man changes this and George and Lennie need to make an important decision ? whether or not to allow Candy in on their dream.
? ?S?pose I went in with you guys. That?s three hundred and fifty bucks I?d put in? How?d that be? ?
Once again candy?s desperate attempt to be a part of the dream shows us the degree of loneliness that exists for him. Candy owns an old disabled dog, which is much like him in many ways. The dog is only used for labor and is not really needed around the ranch: very similar to the way the other men look upon Candy. In the end his dog was shot and I think this is also making the statement that candy?s life may be going in the same direction, even if this is contradicting the American dream. Candy worked hard all his live and all he had to show for it was nothing, not much when you consider how long he worked for.
Crooks dreams of a better life just like all the characters, but he dreams of a different life, he dreams of educating himself.
?And he had books, too: a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905. They were battered magazines and a few dirty books? A pair of large gold-rimmed spectacles hung from a nail on the wall?
John Steinbeck?s novel Of Mice and Men shows the reader how without friendship everyone can suffer from loneliness. A prime example of a strong relationship in the novel was between George and Lennie. At the end of the novel George shoots Lennie, many could preach and say he did this out of malice however I believe this shows how strong the bond was that George and Lennie had as friends. George shot Lennie for his own good, George couldn?t sit and watch Lennie die a slow cruel death to the hands of the other ranchmen instead he put Lennie out of misery in a quick and more humane manner. At first to the reader it seems George may live a better life without Lennie but he really will just end up as one of the other men ? with no real friends suffering from extreme loneliness and of course the dream will never come true. If this book has taught me one thing in life ? it is that everyone should have a friend; no matter what race, colour, or sex everyone should have a companion and that is why John Steinbeck?s novel is very successful.