The Solitaire Metaphor in Of Mice and Men Steinbec

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The Solitaire Metaphor in Of Mice and Men Steinbec

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In Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, George Milton is shown many times playing the game of Solitaire, a card game which requires only one man and a pack of playing cards. His companion, Lennie Small is never asked to play cards or other games because George knows emphatically that Lennie is incapable of such a mental task. Although Lennie and George are companions, George has the idea of being “solitaire” to be no longer burdened by Lennie’s company. Solitaire, meaning alone, is a metaphor for the loneliness that many of the characters feel in the novel. John Steinbeck shows in Of Mice and Men, that all human beings are essentially alone.

“I ain’t got no people. I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain’t no good. They don’t have no fun. After a long time they get mean. They get wantin’ to fight all the time… ‘Course Lennie’s a God damn nuisance most of the time, but you get used to goin’ around with a guy an’ you can’t get rid of him” (45). George proclaims his view on loneliness to give a reason for his connection with Lennie. This connection George has with Lennie makes the two of them unique to the rest of the characters. Many of the men on the ranch have a dream, but only Lennie and George have a chance of obtaining it. Essentially, John Steinbeck wants to show that although George and Lennie have the advantage of being a team, they will never accomplish it because all human beings are in essence, alone. Thus, George’s constant playing of the game of solitaire foreshadows his eventual decision to become a solitary man.

John Steinbeck demonstrates loneliness of Crooks, the black handicap. He has a strong difference from the rest of the crew, as he must live in a separate room from the rest of the workers. He attempts to explain this to Lennie, “S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunk house and play rummy ’cause you was black. How’d you like that? S’pose you had to sit out here an’ read books. Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody-to be near him. 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, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick” (80). Nobody in the novel ever feels any sort of empathy or even try to comprehend what Crooks is saying. This is Steinbeck’s mechanism for displaying isolation and solitariness.

Another character who feels loneliness because of discrimination is Candy. Not only is he old, but he is also missing a hand. After his only truly prized possession is taken away from him because of bad odor and old age, Candy himself feels worried that the crew will do away with him. Candy feels very unaccompanied and useless. “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog.” (61). The connection between Lennie and George and Candy and his dog is very similar. The same gun is used to break the relationship in both scenarios and the same method is used as well. Steinbeck seems to be saying that laborers are always going to be lonely and rootless.

Of Mice and Men has a very common theme that all men are ultimately lonely. Steinbeck’s characters; George, Crooks, and Candy all experience a sense of loneliness everyday in their lives and although friends can be made, they will always conclusively have no one to be with. So what is the source for the loneliness? Poverty is a great element. Crooks is the only one with money and that is resulting the loss of his hand. Another is discrimination of age, sex, or race. The final factor for the theme of loneliness in Steinbeck’s writing is the lack of a true home, which causes isolation and solitariness.