The Demise of the American Dream during the Great Depression in John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’

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Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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This essay focuses on the collapse of the American Dream during the Great Depression, as depicted in John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men.’ It will explore the central themes of hopelessness, economic despair, and the shattered dream of prosperity. The narrative of the main characters, George and Lennie, serves as a microcosm of the era’s struggles, reflecting the larger societal disillusionment. The essay aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of how Steinbeck captures the essence of the American Dream’s failure, and its implications for characters who represent the marginalized and downtrodden of that era. Additionally, PapersOwl presents more free essays samples linked to Of Mice And Men.

Category: Literature
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Pages:  1
Words:  426
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The harsh reality of life during the Great Depression was having no money, no food, no family, and no satisfaction. American life shifted from luxury to indigence, placing great economic, social, and psychological strains and demands upon families and their members. The rich reverted to the poor, and the poor became penniless. All that could be done was hope. In the novel Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, the author portrays the general theme that well-planned dreams can easily fall apart, leaving a person with nothing.

The main character, George, had a lifelong dream of someday owning a piece of his own land alongside Lennie. As George and Lennie were sitting next to the fire, George mentions, “Someday, we’re going to get the jack together, and we’re going to have a little house, a couple of acres, and a cow and some pigs. We’ll have a big vegetable patch, a rabbit hutch, and chickens” (Steinbeck 14). Steinbeck illustrates George’s dream of having his own piece of land and living independently. George wanted freedom from working as a migrant worker on itinerant farms and being able to grow his own crops and raise animals.

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He would produce food by growing crops in a vegetable patch, farming cows for milk, pigs for ham and bacon, and chickens for eggs. The moment that Candy hears about George’s dream, he immediately wants to become part of it. Candy offered his life savings to fund the purchase of the land and to be able to work and live on the property alongside George and Lennie. However, Lennie’s ignorance of his own strength destroyed George’s hopeful dream. When Lennie is caught in a compromising situation, he becomes agitated and clueless. George’s dream ended when Lennie was talking with Curley’s wife in the barn. Lennie wanted to touch Curley’s wife’s hair. Instead of patting her gently, Lennie patted her too hard, and she freaked out. Lennie grabbed hold of her and accidentally snapped her neck.

Lennie then tried to flee the ranch because he knew that Curley was pursuing him. George finds Lennie and, unable to circumvent trouble on Lennie’s behalf, he shoots Lennie. George ended Lennie’s life, knowing that nothing better would’ve happened to Lennie. He also ended his lifelong dream because George had relied on Lennie’s physical strength and assistance to fulfill the dream. Everything George had worked for and dreamt of crumbled in a matter of seconds, leaving him with the sole option of finding a new path.

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The Demise of the American Dream During the Great Depression in John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'. (2023, Feb 03). Retrieved from