Loneliness In John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath

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Many scholars regard John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men as two of his most important works. In both novels, an omnipotent third-person narrator follows the story of those related to the farming population during the Great Depression. Their similar setting and writing style allows each to share a multitude of comparative qualities, including themes, symbols, historical context, plot, and other literary devices.
Themes in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath include many moralistic ideals, such as selfishness, cruelty, and inhumanity to others. The third chapter of the novel narrates an exchange between migrant customers and owners of a used car dealership on the road to California. As one salesperson states, “Listen, Jim,
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In this novel, the idea of male companionship is paramount in each character’s life, except Curly, who uses his wife in place of a male companion. Being one of the two unnamed characters in the novel, Curley’s wife proves to serve as a mere alternative to loneliness in his life. Comparatively, Candy’s ownership of his dog represents an alternative to loneliness. When the dog’s depleting health compels the workers on the ranch to shoot it, Candy assumes a weak pathos approach to persuading the ranchers otherwise, stating, “‘Well—hell! I had him so long. Had him since he was a pup. I herded sheep with him.’ He said proudly, ‘You wouldn’t think it to look at him now, but he was the best damn sheepdog I ever seen’” (Steinbeck; Of Mice and Men 23). When faced with the loss of his dog as Rose of Sharon was with the loss of her fiancee, he succumbs to thoughts of suicide, stating, "You seen what they done to my dog tonight? They says he wasn't no good to himself nor nobody else. When they can me here I wisht somebody'd shoot me. But they won't do nothing like that. I won't have no place to go, an' I can't get no more jobs" (Steinbeck; Of Mice and Men 30). Like Curley’s wife, the dog was not a true intellectual companion of Candy’s. Therefore, Steinbeck chooses those characters to remain unnamed. In contrast, George and Lennie present the true value of male companionship; George’s care for Lennie is…show more content…
Implications of the impossibility of the American Dream are common throughout the work; the characters of both Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath portray unfortunate truths regarding loneliness and the attempt to reach an unattainable dream (Critical Reception). For example, in Of Mice and Men, Curley’s wife states, “Coulda been in the movies, an’ had nice clothes—all them nice clothes like they wear . . . Because this guy says I was a natural” (Steinbeck; Of Mice and Men 44). However, this opportunity was replaced with the bondage to her husband, Curley. Similarly, Rose of Sharon’s baby represented the American Dream in The Grapes of Wrath until her fiance left the Joads and the child was stillborn, therefore breaking her promise to the American dream (Steinbeck; The Grapes of Wrath 305). The characters in The Grapes of Wrath learn to value their family in order to accept their failure in attaining the American dream. In contrast, those in Of Mice of Men each experience an unpleasant disruption in their personal goals. For example, Lennie’s sudden death halts his aspirations of owning a rabbit farm with George (Steinbeck; Of Mice and Men 52). Likewise, the task of killing his best friend greatly hampered George’s wish for stability (Steinbeck; Of Mice and Men 52). In turn, this act affects Candy’s desire to own his part
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