Of Mice and Men American Dream
How it works
The emotion evoking novella of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men highlights the unfortunate disparity between unfeasible dreams and reality. Two of the leading characters, George and Lennie share a similar sense of dissatisfaction with their lives on a lifeless ranch. As a result, they lure themselves into an appealing fantasy unaware of the dark and deadly events that will follow them while in pursuit of this hopeful dream. Alongside George and Lennie, other figures in this story such as Crookes, Curley’s wife, and Candy also envision living in ideal worlds to escape their current misery, which ultimately ends up as their destiny. Steinbeck alludes to the fact that the power resided within dreams remains inadequate to override one’s fate, and although having dreams may assist in overcoming present day hardships, they lack the power to foreshadow our predestined future.
The longing of fulfilling dreams followed by disappointment begins early on in the story where George recites a dream to Lennie while they rest by the river. George starts the story by replicating factual information that runs parallel with their own lives by stating that:
How it works
[g]uys like [them], that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re pounding in their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to (Steinbeck 13).
This depressing description of the lives that George and Lennie are bonded to indicates that George is well aware of the patterns embedded in the lifestyle that ranch men similar to them are certain to follow. He also initiates a sense of loneliness that they are experiencing when he says that “they got no family. They don’t belong no place.” In sum, George implies that him and Lennie are fated to live dull and dreary lives because “they ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.” However, George attempts to assure Lennie, his naive companion of a promising future by telling him that:
[they’ll] have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, [they’ll] just say the hell with goin’ to work, and [they’ll] build up a fire in the stove and set around it an’ listen to the rain comin’ down on the roof (Steinbeck 14).
At the end of George’s narration, he shouts “Nuts!” He then instantly proceeds to continue opening cans of beans for dinner. This sudden remark suggests that George experiences an epiphany near the end of the story, one that reminds him of the bitter reality from which there is no escape. He suddenly realizes that this dream which keeps Lennie functioning, and one in which he was also momentarily invested into is foolish as it practically has no chance of occurring amidst their current situation.
The sadness of unaccomplished dreams reappears in the life of Curley’s wife, who lives a lonesome life constantly excluded from those around her. Curley’s wife shares her misfortune with Lennie, describing her encounter with a man who “[said] he was gonna put [her] in the movies” (88). The devastation of not becoming an actress along with the misery of living on the ranch with her hostile husband causes Curley’s wife to reminisce about what her life could have been like. Steinbeck uses luxurious descriptions of the lifestyle that could have belonged to her if fate has been in the favor of her yearnings describing how she “[c]oulda been in the movies, an’ had nice clothes-all them nice clothes like wear. An’ [she] coulda sat in them big hotels, an’ had pitchers took of [her]” (89). Curley’s wife longs for the attention she believes she is deserving of but unfortunately, does not receive it from Curley or the ranch members who view her as a bothersome hurdle who constantly creates nuisance.
Just as Curley’s wife holds feelings of resentment towards her existing life, Crookes, a victim of racial prejudice is out casted from his neighboring workers which causes a great deal of animosity within him. Crookes discloses his dark and disheartening experience of constantly being left in isolation to his newly found friend Lennie to whom he says:
[a] guy sets alone here at night, maybe readin’ books or thinkin’ or stuff like that. Sometimes he gets thinkin’, an’ he got nothing to tell him what’s so an’ what ain’t so. Maybe if he sees somethin’, he don’t know whether it’s right or not. He can’t turn to some other guy and ast him if he sees it too. He can’t tell. He got nothing to measure by I seen things out here. I wasn’t drunk. I don’t know if I was asleep. If some guy was with me, he could tell me I was asleep, an’ then it would be alright. But I jus’ don’t know (Steinbeck 73).
Crookes highlights the fact that being secluded for such a long period of time has drove him to paranoia to the point where “… if he sees somethin’, he don’t know whether its right or not.” It is evident Crookes loses sight of reality and may possibly be experiencing hallucinations because of his exclusion fr0m others. Crookes eventually peaks interest in becoming a part of George, Lennie, and Candy’s plan to invest in a home that belongs solely to them. However, Crookes interest vanishes after Curley’s wife abruptly tells him to “keep [his] place” after he tells her that “[she] got not right comin’ in a coloured man’s room” (80). Crookes realizes immediately that he was way in over his head to even imagine living in a place where others saw him as an equal mate, resulting in the destruction of his one and only dream.
The dream of George, Lennie, and Candy goes to despair after Lennie encounter with Curley’s wife where he breaks her neck by mistake in attempt to stop her screaming. While the men on the ranch go on a hunt to find Lennie to kill him, George finds him in their emergency hideout and recites the dream to Lennie prior to shooting him. All in all, Steinbeck highlights the fact that fate cannot be reversed, and while dreams hold the power to imagine change and prosperity in the future, it is fate that one must learn to accept.