John Steinbeck in his novel Of Mice and Men demonstrates the harsh reality of the unfulfillment of The American Dream through the interactions and experiences of George, Lennie, Crooks, Candy, and Curley’s wife. Dreams are something that people look forward to, an overall goal in life. A dream is something that one indulges in to temporarily escape from their own lives, much like Lennie did with the imaginary rabbits. Each character seems to dream and long of something. George and Lennie, they want land and a life of their own. A life where they don’t need to take orders from anybody. George and Lennie are ranch workers in the time of the Great Depression.
The theme of The American Dream is very evident throughout the novel, as it keeps the main characters going in their otherwise potentially boring, uneventful lives. The two of them aspire to live in their own home and keep a farm and property that they upkeep themselves. The novel says, “‘Well,’ said George, ‘we’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we’ll just say the hell with goin’ to work, and we’ll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an’ listen to the rain comin’ down on the roof…'” (Steinbeck 14-15). This quote from the book shows George describing the kind of life he and Lennie are going to have once enough money is saved up.
This is the dream that the two of them have, to live off of the land and to be able to rely on nobody but themselves and the land they live on. Their idea of a perfect world is one of independence. Another quote in the novel that shows George and Lennie’s dream is, “Sure, we’d have a little house an’ a room to ourself. Little fat iron stove, an’ in the winter we’d keep a fire goin’ in it. It ain’t enough land so we’d have to work too hard.
Maybe six, seven hours a day” (Steinbeck 58). This quote is showing how Lennie and George aspire to not have to work extensively for a living like they’re doing in the moment. They want to build a life for themselves after having enough money saved up.
Itinerant workers like themselves have little control over what they do, they are told by their boss what to do in order to earn enough money to purchase food and clothes. The only thing keeping them afloat is their dream, their idea of ideal happiness.The farm that George and Lennie hope to own is a large symbol of The American Dream.
A large part of Lennie’s dream is to tend to rabbit on this farm. Throughout the entire novel, Lennie keeps a large focus on the rabbits he hopes to tend to. These rabbits and Lennie’s love for stroking soft things symbolizes Lennie’s innocence as well as the death of his innocence. This conversation between Lennie and George shows how George takes somewhat of an advantage out of Lennie’s love for said rabbits, “But you ain’t gonna get in no trouble, because if you do, I won’t let you tend the rabbits” (Steinbeck 4). This quote shows Lennie’s dream of having rabbits one day on the property. Throughout the novel there is a trend of Lennie using these imaginary rabbits as a representational security blanket.
To Lennie, they represent home, love, and safety. These rabbits are an essential part of the dream for him. The novel says, “How long’s it gonna be till we get the little place an’ live off the fatta the lan’ –an tend the rabbits?” (Steinbeck 56). This quote is from Lennie, asking George when they are going to take off from their current job to pursue their dream. The quote illustrates the American Dream, one of which Lennie is showing here, to save up enough money to purchase a property.
This dream that they have provides a distraction to their current life situation, which is traveling around finding work wherever they can. When George is first telling Lennie the story of the dream farm in the novel, Lennie is begging him to “tell about what we’re gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove” (Steinbeck 1). For Lennie, the farm is simply being able to pet all these soft things, the one thing in the entire book that he focuses on the most. For George, the farm represents freedom. George and Lennie weren’t the only characters in the book that longed for a different life. After George and Lennie had described the land that they were going to have to Candy, Candy wanted to make “George and Lennie’s Dream” into “George, Lennie’s, and Candy’s Dream.” It is shown in this quote, “S’pose I went in with you guys. Tha’s three hunderd 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 shows how once Candy had heard about the dream that Lennie and George had, he wanted a part of it now that he was older and didn’t have anything in store for himself. They were all so excited that now, sooner than ever they were closer and closer to their dream finally coming true. They expressed their newfound excitement with Crooks and he responded in a negative way at first, “I seen hunderds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads. Hunderds of them.
They come, an’ they quit an’ go on; an’ every damn one of ’em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it” (Steinbeck 74). This quote is showing how Crooks is telling Lennie that he and George aren’t the first ones to have the idea of saving up enough money to purchase land. His comment foresees their eventual disappointment. His negativity can be extended as a comment on the death of the American Dream.
After further hearing their dream and realizing that they indeed did have enough money to go through with it, Crooks was intrigued, “…If you…
guys would want a hand to work for nothing–just his keep, why I’d come an’ lend a hand. I ain’t so crippled I can’t work like a son-of-a—–” (Steinbeck 76). In this moment, Crook starts to believe in George and Lennie’s dream. He forgets his ‘supposed’ place in society and just longs for company. After Lennie explained his dream to him, he became one of the more hopeful characters for a few moments. The power of the dream captivated someone as cynical as Crooks. Curley’s wife also had a dream. She dreamed of being a movie star one day, “I tell you I ain’t used to livin’ like this.
I coulda’ made somethin’ of myself” (Steinbeck 88). Curley’s wife said this quote to Lennie while explaining that she could have become a big-time actress instead of being stuck on the ranch all the time being married to Curley. This ties into the theme of dreams because her dreams were crushed when a man from Hollywood told her that she was a natural, but never sent her a letter like he told her he would (Steinbeck 88). In this same scene in the book, Lennie’s love for soft things got in the way. Curley’s wife showed Lennie her soft hair after he was focusing so much on the rabbits while the two of them were talking. Steinbeck narrates, ”Don’t you go yellin’,’ he said, and he shook her; and her body flopped like a fish. And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck.
” Lennie realizes he has killed Curley’s wife and decides to cover up her body with the hay while he runs to the hiding place that George told him to go to.” This quote shows when Lennie accidentally killed Curley’s wife, but not out of meanness. He was scared that she was going to yell too loud and George was going to hear and not let him tend the rabbits. The death of Curley’s wife had made George’s, Lennie’s, and Candy’s dream impossible. Candy said, “I could of hoed in the garden and washed dishes for them guys.” He paused, and then went on in a singsong.
And he repeated the old words: “If they was a circus or a baseball game…we would of went to her. Never ast nobody’s say-so.
An’ they’d of been a pig and chickens… an’ in the winter…the little far stove…
an’ the rain comin’ …an’ us jus’ settin’ there.” His eyes blinded with tears and he turned and went weakly out of the barn, and he rubbed his bristly whiskers with his wrist stump” (Steinbeck 96).
Although Candy is not directly interacting with a character, he was addressing Curley’s dead wife. In this quote, Curley is let down and angry because his new-found dream of living on the farm with Lennie and George. He was looking forward to living a life where he didn’t have to take orders from anybody. Before hearing about George and Lennie’s dream, Candy didn’t seem to have a dream of his own. Once he heard of their dream, he offered to put up some of the money for a place where he could live out the rest of his days and help out the best he could, but Curley’s wife and her death had ruined that for him. She was starved for companionship and knew she could manipulate Lennie into doing something bad, so she did. Although Lennie was responsible for her death, he knew it wasn’t ultimately Lennie’s fault, that he would never kill her on purpose (Steinbeck 95). Now Lennie and George had to flee ultimately making all of their dreams impossible.
After Lennie had killed Curley’s wife, he knew he had done a bad thing, so he fled to the bush where George had told him to go if he got in any trouble. He started to have hallucinations while he was near this said bush. The rabbit in his hallucinations said, “If you think George gonna let you tend rabbits, you’re even crazier than usual.
He ain’t. He gonna beat hell outta you with a stick, that’s what he’s gonna do.” “But the rabbit repeated softly over and over, “He gonna leave you, ya crazy bastard. He gonna leave ya all alone. He gonna leave ya, crazy bastard” Lennie put his hands over his ears. “He ain’t, I tell ya he ain’t.
” And he cried, ” Oh George–George–George!” (Steinbeck 102). These hallucinations that Lennie is having fully reflect on his real weaknesses and fears. The rabbit is Lennie bringing up what Crooks had said, that George might want to leave Lennie one day (Steinbeck 72).
This quote shows how Lennie suffers from the fear of disappointing George and being punished. Part of Lennie’s dream is being with George, living on a farm and tending the rabbits with George at his side. He is scared of not being able to fulfill his dream. George had then found Lennie near the bush and tried to calm him, as George knew that all of the other men were hunting him down. Lennie begged, “Lennie begged, “Le’s do it now. Le’s get that place now.” “Sure, right now. I gotta.
We gotta.””And George raised the gun and steadied it, and he brought the muzzle of it close to the back of Lennie’s head. The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied. He pulled the trigger. The crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again.
Lennie jarred, and then settled slowly forward to the sand, and he lay without quivering” (Steinbeck 106). In this moment was when the dream of Lennie and George’s was no longer attainable. Although Candy and him would have been able to financially attain property, the heart in it was gone. The dream was kept alive through Lennie and his imaginary rabbits. Lennie was the person who gave George a sense of purpose in life.
He killed him because he didn’t want his pain to be cause by Curley. The dream was a place where Lennie and George could go and relax and get away from being told what to do all the time. George’s dream with Lennie was only a bedtime story to calm a very childlike imagination. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a novel that illustrates the entity of The American Dream. Throughout the book the theme of dreams is shown through the main and supporting characters, those of which have large dreams for their lives that end up being unattainable. Their idea of unconditional happiness after working hard was gone. The death of Lennie not only represented the death of a person, but the death of a dream. In this case, Crooks was right, such freedom and a state of happiness are not to be found in such a harsh world.