How does Steinbeck use poignancy in ‘Of Mice and Men’? Essay

In Of Mice and Men we can see that people are very uncertain about their future and their careers appear to be unstable. Also relationships between people are unstable; there is a lack of trust between friends. Slim says (p36) “Ain’t many guys travel around together …I don’t know why. Maybe ever’ body in the damn world is scared of each other.” I think this shows that there were a lot of untrusting peoples living at that time. Also people may have been very negligent towards other people.

We learn from the novel that the kind of lifestyle the men lead is a very lonely, isolated one. They don’t have any family and their only friends are those living on the Ranch. Their only possessions are those held in the apple boxes above their beds. They only seem to live to spend their wages at the end of the month, on things such as Western Magazines which they like to fantasise of a perfect “American Dream” for example: (p18)”…secretly believe”.

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There is also a very clear hierarchy on the ranch. Those that think very highly of themselves (Curley who is at the top), also people that are envied because they have more (George has Lennie as a close friend and Candy has his dog). None of the other workers have a relationship as close as theirs. They would be at the bottom of the hierarchy. In the novel we get the impression that there is no room in the world for disabled people and the weak.

I think that Crooks’ ‘otherness’ made him isolated because people treated him with no admiration and he was completely ignored and loathed because he was different. He lived a very isolated life because of his skin colour and the fact that he was a cripple. Everything and anything to do with Crooks is separated from the other men on the ranch, even down to his living quarters. Crooks being the stable buck lives in the harness room out in the barn away from the other men who live in the bunkhouse. Crooks’ possessions tell us that he lives a very isolated life, having only the horses as company, he has: “a range of medicine bottles, both for himself and the horses”, “cans of saddle soap”

This suggests that he is devoted to the horses and takes great pride in his job, perhaps because they live in such an isolated world he focuses all of his attention on his job and the horses. Crooks’ initial attitude towards Lennie is that Lennie is white and he is black. Crooks says (p72) “You got no right come in my room.” I my opinion, this means that Lenny has no right going into his room, when he himself is disallowed to go into the bunkhouse. He may also be shocked because all his life he has been put down and separated, but now the very people that have been accusing him of being different are trying to become acquainted with him. He may think that Lennie can’t just be friends with him and that it is not as simple as that. He may feel that Lennie has to make up for all the torture that Crooks has been through.

Curley’s wife’s otherness of being the only woman forces her to be isolated on the ranch too. Woman around the 1930s had very few rights. At worst they were more or less kept prisoner by their husbands. This is similar in the novel because Curley’s Wife doesn’t appear to have much of a life on and off the ranch. We can recognise this because she is forever seeking attention from the other men on the Ranch. The novel gives the impression that she is dangerous to be around with because she is the boss’s daughter in-law and anyone who is interested in her faces the risk of being fired.

Therefore, because the men feel threatened by her they reject her and she becomes isolated, for example George says (p33) “I never seen no jail-bait worst than her. You leave her be.” George is warning Lennie to keep out of Curley’s wife’s way because if Lennie messes around with her they are sure to get the sack. She walks around the ranch, dressed inappropriately and seductively. Also she has only been married a couple of weeks. Already she admits to Lennie that she dislikes her husband and regrets marrying him. She appears to be of limited intelligence, as she was taken in by other men’s promises of film parts.

George is Lennie’s companion. George was asked to look after Lennie by Lennie’s Aunt Clara before she died, since then he has travelled around looking for work with Lennie. George appears has spent his life going from Ranch to Ranch and never belonging anywhere, in any social community. He seems to be too committed to taking care of Lennie. George often insults Lennie and “gives him hell”, but he doesn’t really mean it. Although he often talks about how well off he could be without Lennie he secretly doesn’t want Lennie to leave, and when Lennie offers to do so in the first chapter, George virtually pleads him to stay. This is also because George also depends on Lennie to a certain extent for his unconditional friendship. To Lennie the dream of owning a farm is an antidote to disappointment, and often asks George to recite the description of the farm to him.

An example of how close George and Lennie are is in chapter six when Lennie is killed. Subjectively, I think George had to shoot Lennie because he cared too much for him and realised that the alternatives were even worse. George’s kind, warm-hearted character ends up leaving him secluded after Lennie’s death. Although this could not be helped due to Lennie’s distinctiveness, if he hadn’t been mentally ill, he might not have let Curley’s wife provoke him, leading to her death. After Curley’s wife’s death Lennie had no choice other than to die, if George hadn’t shot him, Curley would have hunt him down and he’d probably of had a much more painful death.

Also the significance of the “heron and the water snake” is that life can be interrupted by unforeseen events. Dreams are one of the ways in which the characters combat the hopelessness of their existence. The most obvious example is the dream farm, a dream shared at first only by George and Lennie, but which later spreads to include Candy and Crooks. Crooks reveals that it is the favourite dream of the itinerant ranchmen, “Seems like ever’ guy got land in his head.’ It is a powerful dream, however, and even the cynical Crooks falls under its spell for a short time. Significantly, none of the characters ever achieve their dreams.

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