“Of Mice and Men” is Steinbeck’s original creation of two men living in the 1930’s. There are many themes in “Of Mice and Men” such as Loneliness/isolation and Dreams. In this essay I will be using the characters of Curley’s Wife and Crooks to explore the concept of these two themes. Curley’s Wife is a flirtatious, lonely and misunderstood woman, and Crooks is a Stable buck who no-one talks to and who suffers the extreme racism of the 30’s. Just from these two descriptions of the characters, you can clearly see how the concept of loneliness and isolation comes into the story.
The main theme of “Of Mice and Men” is dreams. Every character has one. Curley’s Wife wants to be in the movies and to have a husband that treats her like a person, and not just a possession. Crooks’ dream is to be treated as an equal and not just as a “Nigger”.
You can tell that this is Crooks’ dream because in chapter 4, there is a section that says “And he had books, too; a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905”, the verbs “tattered” and “mauled” exaggerate the fact that he knows his rights and yet he can’t do anything about it. The use of these verbs has told the readers that Crooks has read them both a lot. Also in chapter 4, Crooks has a long conversation with Lennie and tells him” I ain’t wanted in the bunk house, and you ain’t wanted in my room.”, and when Lennie asks why Crooks isn’t wanted, he scowls back “Cause I’m black.”. This proves that because he’s black he isn’t wanted to go in the bunk house so he decided to say the same thing and won’t let anyone in his room except Slim. The way he scowls at Lennie also tells us that Crooks knows he should be treated better but isn’t treated as an equal. This point also backs up the theme of Loneliness and isolation which I am talking about later in this essay.
Curley’s Wife’s dream is to become a movie star or to have a husband who is nice to her. Her first dream is shattered by her mum “He says I could go with that show. But my ol’ lady wouldn’t let me.” She would rather be off in a show than with Curley and by the way she is dressed this quote is backed up perfectly. If she was comfortable living on a ranch then she would be wearing dungarees and rubber boots, not dresses and high heels. But if you read this section you will realise that she never was going to be a movie star. The man that told her this probably only said this to get her in bed. This shows how naive she is by basing a whole dream on what someone said.
Her second dream would never come true. Curley’s Wife wanted a husband who respected her and not one that just talks about giving someone “the ol’ one-two”. In chapter 5 Curley’s Wife has a deep conversation with Lennie, and tells him “I don’t like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella.”. This is the first time we feel sympathy for Curley’s Wife and realise just how young and unhappy she is. Lennie is the only person she’s told about this so she must feel safe around him. That is until he breaks her neck. This section in the story shows she is a bad judge of men. She marries Curley who will try and beat up anyone and then tries to be friends with the person who kills her. She only married Curley because she wasn’t patient enough to work towards her dream of becoming a movie star.
The second main theme in “Of Mice and Men” is loneliness and isolation. Every Character in the book faces it. Crooks faces it because he is Black, Curley’s Wife faces it because she is a female. Everyone suffers it at least once in the book. Crooks and Curley’s Wife seem to face it more than the others because of these two features.
Chapter 4 is the first and only scene where Crooks is spoken to which basically shows just how separable he is from the ranch workers. But you can tell Crooks is isolated from the group earlier in the book, when Candy is talking to George and Lennie just after they arrive. Candy tells them “They let the nigger come in that night. Little skinner name of Smitty took after the nigger. Done pretty good, too. The guys wouldn’t let him use his feet, so the nigger got him. If he coulda used his feet, Smitty says he woulda killed the nigger.”. This shows that the one time Crooks is actually aloud to socialise with the Ranch guys, one of them tries to beat him up and no-one seems to realise how wrong this is, which shows just how much racism was around in the society. Crooks stays in the barn all by himself and has no-one to talk to, therefore the theme of Loneliness and isolation applies to him.
Curley’s Wife isn’t treated well either. When all the guys are working, she is left all buy herself in the house. This makes her dislike Curley and want to be out of the house all the time flirting with the other guys. Candy is talking to George and Lennie in Chapter 2 and tells them “I seen her give Slim the eye.” This proves that she flirts with most of the people on the Ranch because she is lonely. At the beginning of Chapter 2 when George and Lennie meet Candy he tells them a lot of things about Curley’s Wife, some of which are not necessarily true.
By doing this the readers are automatically prejudiced against her. The way she is described by Candy and some of the other ranch workers shows just how badly she is treated. Candy calls her a tart, George thinks she is a tart even before he meets her and so on. She isn’t even treated with respect by her husband. He just uses her as a pet and as someone to tend to all of HIS needs. He tells her to stay in the house all day and to wait there for him. This means the theme of loneliness and isolation applies to her.
Steinbeck uses a small bit of contrast to the Loneliness and isolation theme, by having Slim as the only person who knows Crooks and Curley’s Wife’s right and treats them as equals.
The conclusion to my essay is that Curley’s Wife and Crooks have been affected by the two main themes of “Loneliness and isolation” and “Dreams” all because of two characteristics. These characteristics are being black, and being female. This proves that in the book, if you are different you are treated differently to everyone else.