why does carlson ask the last question

Carlton's comment "Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys? " is not typical of any gender. P Rather, it exemplifies the desensitizing that living by oneselfPeffects in the "bindle stiffs. " In Chapter 2 when Slim and George first meet, Slim comments,
"Ain't many guys travel around together. I don't know why. P Maybe ever'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other. " Further, in Chapter 3, as Slim and George play cards, George remarks, "I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. P That ain't no good. P They don't have no fun. P After a long time they get mean. P They get wantin' to fight all the time. " "Yeah, they get mean," Slim agreed. P "They get so they don't want to talk to nobody. " The predatory human tendencies emerge in men who do not socialize. P And, ironically,Pthe strength to oppress others is itself born of weakness.

The characters such as Carlton are rendered helpless by their isolation; however, even at their weakest the men seek to destroy one another or speak callously. For, their powerlessness makes them cruel, as is Carlton. Curley and Carlson of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men represent the alienated men who become brutish and cruel as a result of their separation from friends and family with whom they can empathize. P Alone and among strangers, these men lose the sesitivity that comes withPsharing with others. P As a socialist, Steinbeck believed deeply in the importance of the brotherhood of man; he felt that left to his own, man becomes heartless, cruel in his fear of others in their lonely vulnerability. P Thus, Steinbeck's motif, the strength to oppress others is itself born of weakness, is again interposed in the final scene that sees the cruel and alienated men, Curley and Carlson, asking what is wrong with Slim and George with ridicule in their tone.

P They understand nothing of the fraternity of men; they have lost their very souls to the cruel circumstances of the isolated ranch and the alienation of the itinerant worker in the Depression era. P They are but brutes; the one always ready to fight, the other ready to shoot old dogs. PMuch of their humanity has been lost in the mouse maze of life in which they live, going from lonely place to lonely place, whether it be a new location or toPlonely home and unfriendly bunkhouse, as is the case with Curley. Curley and Carlson,Punlike Slim, with his "God-like eyes," and George, "small and quick,with restless eyes and sharp features" whom they watch walk away,Prepresent the isolated men.

P These are the men who have spent too long alone, and the predatory features of their nature have emerged. PPCurley and CarlsonPdo not understand, as Slim does, that the dreams of Lennie and George are what have sustained them and protected them from the inhospitable world of men such as they. PThis line underscores the theme of distrust that arises from the alienation and loneliness of the itinerant workers of the Great Depression. It is fitting that these men stand, "looking after" George and Slim, for they represent the callous, insensitive, brutal, and violent destructivess of isolated man that George must now face without Lennie to share his "dream"Pin John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

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