Themes and message

John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men paints a grim portrait of humanity and of the social and economic circumstances in which the characters live. Throughout the novel, Steinbeck explores themes such as loneliness, friendship, and the American dream. The message is related particularly to Lennie and the story’s tragic end: that the good and the innocent are doomed to fail in this harsh world.


Loneliness is one of the novel’s main themes. It is notable that many of the characters in the novel are lonely. For example, Candy’s only companion is his old dog, which he has had since it was a puppy. When one of the others wants to shoot it, it is clear that Candy does not want to, but he doesn’t get any support from the other men. He allows them to take the dog. Later, he is drawn in by George and Lennie’s dream of owning a small farm and offers them his savings if they will let him join them (p. 56). It seems that part of the appeal of George and Lennie’s dream for Candy is that he wouldn’t be alone. 

The African-American farm worker Crooks also feels lonely, but unlike Candy he is actively excluded by the other men because of his race, both through the racism of the others and through the laws of segregation that require him to live separately. Crooks explains that he is the only African American on the farm and that there are hardly any African-American people in the area: “ ‘There ain’t a colored man on this ranch an’ there’s jus’ one family in Soledad.’ ” (p. 66)

Crooks feels lonely and left out: “ ‘A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya,’ he cried, ‘I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.’ ” (p. 68). Lenni...

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