Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. . . . With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.
Toward the end of Section 1, before George and Lennie reach the ranch, they camp for the night in a beautiful clearing and George assures Lennie of their special relationship. In this passage, George explains their friendship, which forms the heart of the work. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck idealizes male friendships, suggesting that they are the most dignified and satisfying way to overcome the loneliness that pervades the world.
As a self-declared “watchdog” of society, Steinbeck set out to expose and chronicle the circumstances that cause human suffering. Here, George relates that loneliness is responsible for much of that suffering, a theory supported by many of the secondary characters. Later in the narrative, Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife all give moving speeches about their loneliness and disappointments in life. Human beings, the book suggests, are at their best when they have someone else to look to for guidance and protection. George reminds Lennie that they are extremely lucky to have each other since most men do not enjoy this comfort, especially men like George and Lennie, who exist on the margins of society. Their bond is made to seem especially rare and precious since the majority of the world does not understand or appreciate it.
At the end, when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife, Candy does not register the tragedy of Lennie’s impending death. Instead, he asks if he and George can still purchase the farm without Lennie. In this environment, in which human life is utterly disposable, only Slim recognizes that the loss of such a beautiful and powerful friendship should be mourned.