An Exploration of Disability and Isolation in Of Mice and Men

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During the Great Depression, migrant farmers sought out work to stay alive. When they finally found a job to sustain them, workers were mistreated, starved, paid poor wages, and, worst of all, robbed of necessary human companionship. John Steinbeck captures the hopelessness of Depression-era farm life in his novella Of Mice and Men. Throughout the novella, most characters have a disability crippling them and pushing them away from other workers on the farm. Their disabilities are a physical embodiment of their isolation. Steinbeck uses his disabled characters to illustrate the depth of their loneliness, as well as to exemplify different types of loneliness. Candy, an old ranch worker, is pushed away from the others due to both his old age…show more content…
The reader sees fleeting glances of his insecurities, such as when he runs into the bunkhouse, demanding, “Any you guys seen my wife?”, for as much as Curley may brag about it, his wife is hardly ever by his side (Steinbeck 53). Curley lacks self-confidence, and must bully the other workers to raise his own self-esteem. Picking fights with other men, which is the one thing that saves Curley from his internal lack of confidence, also causes his demise: “Lennie grabs his entire fist in mid-swing, stopping him, and then proceeds to crush Curley's hand” (Bloom). His hand, which he used to beat others, was his only savior, and now Lennie has crushed it, which disables Curley even more and pushes him further away from the tall, confident, masculine fighter he wishes to be. His loneliness stems from insecurity, and his disabilities cause that insecurity. Curley’s wife, on the other hand, is not insecure, but suffers from ostracism and isolation because she is a married woman. Michael Meyer points out, “…the hardship for a woman to live on the ranch as presented in the novel should not be ignored”. Curley’s wife only wants someone to talk with her, but the men on the ranch mistake her trying to start conversations as sexual advances: “I never seen nobody like her. She got the eye goin’ all the time on everybody… I don’t know what the hell she wants” (Steinbeck 51). They also ridicule her, calling her a

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