Of Mice and Men Questions
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how is the american dream related to of mice and men?
Most of the characters in Of Mice and Men admit, at one point or another, to dreaming of a different life. Before her death, Curley’s wife confesses her desire to be a movie star. Crooks, bitter as he is, allows himself the pleasant fantasy of hoeing a patch of garden on Lennie’s farm one day, and Candy latches on desperately to George’s vision of owning a couple of acres. Before the action of the story begins, circumstances have robbed most of the characters of these wishes. Curley’s wife, for instance, has resigned herself to an unfulfilling marriage. What makes all of these dreams typically American is that the dreamers wish for untarnished happiness, for the freedom to follow their own desires. George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm, which would enable them to sustain themselves, and, most important, offer them protection from an inhospitable world, represents a prototypically American ideal. Their journey, which awakens George to the impossibility of this dream, sadly proves that the bitter Crooks is right: such paradises of freedom, contentment, and safety are not to be found in this world.
The American Dream is written into the Declaration of Independence: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Lennie and George’s dream of owning a farm and living off the “fatta the lan” symbolizes this dream. Of Mice and Man shows that for poor migrant workers during the Depression, the American Dream became an illusion and a trap. All the ranch hands in Of Mice and Man dream of life, liberty, and happiness, but none ever gets it. As Crooks says when he hears of Lennie’s dream to own his own farm, “Nobody ever gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.”
At the same time, while the dream may never be realized, Of Mice and Men suggests that in order for life to be full and meaningful, it must contain dreams. George and Lennie never achieve their dream, but the dream holds their remarkable friendship together. Their dream is real because it’s real in their imaginations. The dream keeps Lennie happy and stops George from becoming “mean” and lonely like most ranch hands. The dream gives them life, even if life never allows them to achieve their dreams
George and Lennie's desire to have a piece of property that is all their own and to "live off the fatta the lan'" is a recurring motif in the story (13). They build their dream up to such an extent that even if they managed to "roll up a stake" and buy a piece of land, their lives there would likely have never lived up to the ideal they envisioned in their heads (47). In fact, George admits that their dream was destined to fail: "I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her" (90). He remarks, because Lennie "[...] usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would" (90). Their very act of striving for the impossible is Steinbeck's way of showing how unattainable the American Dream had become for many Americans, especially during the time period of the Great Depression. While a century prior it seemed anyone could come to America, work hard, and see a tangible gain, the story of Lennie and George shows how things changed. They worked hard, but everything that they did always benefited others. While they received pay and lodging for their labor, they never had a place to call their own. Steinbeck ultimately demonstrates that working hard will not help people achieve either the financial success or emotional fulfillment they desire. Characters like Candy and Crooks, who have seemingly worked hard their entire lives, have gotten nowhere and are forced to be content with simply having a roof over their heads and three meals a day—though those privileges may be revoked at any time once the men are no longer deemed useful as is indicated by the "mercy" killing of Candy's old and crippled dog. This criticism of the failing American dream, which he often blames on the rise of industry and the spread of capitalism and a corresponding moral decline, appears in several of Steinbeck's works such as In Dubious Battle, The Grapes of Wrath, The Winter of our Discontent, Travels with Charley in Search of America, and America and Americans.
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