Explore the methods Steinbeck uses to demonstrate the effects of isolation on people in ‘Of Mice and Men’ – English GCSE assessment

‘A few miles away from Soledad…’ Soledad. Solitude. Within the first line of John Steinbeck’s novel, ‘Of Mice and Men’, a major theme is subliminally established; ‘Soledad’ translating directly from Spanish as ‘Solitude’, essentially setting the book ‘A few miles away from solitude’. Demonstrated here is a key method Steinbeck has used to develop his theme of isolation: Foreshadowing. Throughout the book foreshadowing occurs; Lennie killing the mouse leads to his killing of the puppy, which then escalates into the killing of Curley’s Wife, eventually leading to his own death. As is shown by this, many of the seemingly insignificant happenings of the book act a forewarning to the reader, warning of future events to come.

‘An’ he ain’t no good to you, Candy… And he ain’t no good to himself.’ This quote is a goldmine of information on the methods used, and a real example of how companionship is overlooked as a quality. Carlson, a typical farm worker, attempts to persuade Candy to put down his dog, due to it being useless and ‘Stinking’. Carlson pays no attention to the fact that Candy may want to keep his dog for company, having an attitude that when something has no use, it has no place. This attitude is a major reason used by Steinbeck to enforce the theme of isolation, due to each person having nobody who is dear to them therefore having nobody to talk to or share their inner thoughts with, a main element of a healthy society. The lack of conversation between characters ensues that they feel self-conscious, and apart from the majority; each character feeling protective and withdrawing from others. This is voiced perfectly by Curley’s wife, later on in the novel, talking about the men: ‘You’re all scared of each other, that’s what. Ever’ one of you is scared that the rest is goin’ to get something on you.’ Going back to the previous quote, foreshadowing is evident (the dog meeting its end when it has no use, in the same way that Lennie eventually meets his end when he reaches his apparent ‘expiry date’). There is a strong feeling of negativity felt in this statement, the words ‘no’ and ‘aint’ recurring frequently. This shows the mind-set of the characters, adding to the feeling of mistrust between characters.

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