Of Mice and Men is filled with irony, in fact, the sixth word in the book is Soledad which in Spanish means loneliness! Of Mice and Men is widely known for its powerful ending and fabulous descriptions of the lives of the migrant workers during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Of Mice and Men is about two men's unlikely attempt at the American dream which is shared by George Milton and Lennie Small. Everyone they met doubted their dream. John Steinbeck uses irony to develop the theme no one wants to be alone as they pursue their dream or in general. Steinbeck develops this theme through the ironic portrayal of George and Lennie, Candy and his dog, and Curley's wife and Curley.
George Milton and Lennie Small are the main characters in Of Mice and Men. George is a small, wiry, quick-witted man who travels with Lennie, a large lumbering child-like migrant worker. George and Lennie's relationship is somewhat awkward because a big man usually isn't best friends with a small man, but at the same time, it makes sense because Lennie suffers from mental retardation and needs a caretaker. Regardless of his disabilities, George stays with Lennie and they pursue their dream together, the dream to own their own farm. Throughout the book they meet many people that believe that they can achieve this dream and want to join them and some people that have their doubts. People that have their doubts are people like Crooks. Crooks is a very ironic character that Steinbeck added in Of Mice and Men. For example, in Chapter 4 Crooks plays a mean game with Lennie, saying that George is gone and obviously without George, Lennie can't pursue his dream. Steinbeck puts this scene in the book for a couple of reasons, some of them being loneliness and irony. Steinbeck wants the reader to feel that Crooks is putting someone else down because George and Lennie's dream used to be his dream, to own a farm. Steinbeck uses reverse phycology to show how lonely Crooks is. He portrays Crooks as a scrooge who doesn't care about the American Dream but deep down he is simply jealous. Steinbeck also portrays Crooks as a scrooge because he might have lost a friend along his journey to achieving his dream, which is ironic. This is ironic because he doesn't want anyone else to achieve their dream, which is a direct connection to George and Lennie's situation.
As for people that want to join and help them achieve their dream you have Candy. Candy is a very interesting character. Steinbeck wrote him with a ton of irony and loneliness. In Chapter 3 Candy is willing to give George and Lennie his whole life's savings if they allow him to live on their farm. He clearly states "S'pose I went in with you guys. Tha's three hundred an' fifty bucks I'd put in. I ain't much good but I could cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some. How'd that be?" (Steinbeck 59). This quote clearly states how Candy wants to join them and help them achieve their dream but, also has a tinge of loneliness in it. Candy sounds desperate. You can't blame him though, he lives on a ranch and probably gets treated poorly because of his disability and he also just lost his only friend, his dog. Candy just wants another friend and is offering his whole life savings for it, which says a lot. Candy is a very ironic character for many reasons some of them being how Candy's dog and Lennie's dog are extremely alike characters in the way that they are both useless and old. This is ironic because it wrong in the way that Lennie's dog is actually a major character. If Lennie hadn't killed his dog Lennie might not have killed Curley's Wife which could have drastically changed the ending. Another interesting topic that arises while on the topic about Candy and his dog is how the death of Candy's dog and the death of Lennie are very similar. Candy felt very guilty after letting someone else kill his dog just as George felt guilty about killing Lennie although it had to be done, which is an example of irony. In fact, what is even more ironic is how Candy's dog and Lennie were both killed with the same gun!
Perhaps the loneliest person in the book has to be Curley's Wife. Firstly, she is a girl surrounded by boys. Hell, she lives on a ranch. Secondly, and most importantly, she seeks friendship in other men. When she first meets George and Lennie she notices Lennie gawking at her. She immediately identifies Lennie as a prime target. After all, she just wants a friend, which is an example of loneliness. In fact, in Chapter 5 Steinbeck says that "She moved closer to him and she spoke soothingly. 'Don't worry about talkin' to me. Listen to the guys yell out there. They got four dollars bet in that tenement. None of them ain't gonna leave till it's over'" (Steinbeck 87). She just about sounds as desperate as Candy, which is an example of irony. Something else that is ironic about Curley's Wife is how she says that she dosen't like Curley. This is interesting as well as ironic and also makes sense. It's ironic because you aren't supposed to marry someone unless you absolutely love them. It also makes sense because she wanted to get away from her mother and she needed a caretaker, in her case it was Curley and this brings up an extremely interesting example of irony. Lennie is to George as Curley's Wife is to Curley. This strongly connects the thesis in the way that Steinbeck shows Curley's wife's loneliness through irony. Although there are many more reasons, the final reason that Steinbeck uses irony to show Curley's Wife's loneliness is so simple that people skip over it. Curley's Wife has no name!! Steinbeck is clearly trying to tell us something and that something is how Curley's Wife is supposed to be a symbol and not a person. Although, this is hard to grasp, what Steinbeck is trying to say is that it wouldn't be as ironic or powerful if Curley's Wife had a name. A true work of a great writer.
In conclusion, Steinbeck's impeccable use of irony throughout Of Mice and Men is none the less the work of a true genius. He brilliantly uses irony to portray some of the most memorable characters in modern literature, George Milton, Lennie Small, Candy and his dog, and Curley's Wife and Curley. Of Mice and Men will forever go down in history as a story of two men's struggle to grasp, reach, embrace, and understand the great American Dream.