During the 1930s, John Steinbeck wrote the novella “Of Mice and Men” in California. His thesis was inspired by people’s tough lives, which resulted in a lot of sadness. The motif of mutual wishes and desires is central to “Of Mice and Men” (Zilberstein 89).
The novella’s primary protagonists, George and Lennie, are seen to be spearheading the main visions. Both had aspired to own land and live for themselves. George aspired to be self-sufficient by living in his own home and to be known as “something tall.”On the other hand, Lennie wanted to be a great farmer by keeping rats due to his liking for objects with fur. They greatly believed in their dreams. It was through this dreams that the relationship between George and Lennie was developed. It is also a convincing point for readers wishing to understand what went on in the book.
There are dreams of other characters in the novella. The death of Candy’s dog made him feel insufficient. In the novella, he is seen trying to bring back his lost responsibility and re-establishing the security for his old-age at George’s place. This is the reason why he draws his savings and gives them to George and Lenny for the purchase of the land to make the dream a reality. Crook, on the other hand, has a great aspiration of establishing his own homestead for his respect and feeling of acceptance. He also thinks that living on his own will boost security around him. Curley’s wife seems to be lonely and she thought that the only way she can end this is by becoming an actress. She laments that she had lost her fame the time when she got married. Most characters had great dreams that never came to be at the end of the story. They still remained as they were in the beginning while still hoping that all shall be well. George felt that he was burdened caring for his friend Lennie and thought that life could be very simple if he was relieved from this burden. He is quoted saying, “If I was alone I could live better.” (Steinbeck 12).
All these characters possess different private dreams and aspirations in life. With themes of dreams and hope, it is prudent for everyone to recognize their abilities and compare them with their dreams. They should also be aware that in life, not everything is achieved. When a stage passes through life without achieving a dream meant for that stage, one may never achieve it. However, no one should regret about their past but focus on what they can be able to achieve now. In the novella, many characters did not achieve their dreams despite not giving back but because there were other factors beyond their control. The biggest deterrent to these characters realizing their dreams is to do with intellectual, economic and social circumstances caused by the Great Depression. All these characters were economically powerless which made them unable to achieve their dreams and ambitions. Some like Lennie had the greatest strength of all but his intellect was so low that he could not manage to emerge better than others.
The dreams of the main characters in this book illustrate the bigger American dream pertaining freedom, liberty, the pursuit of self-accomplishment and happiness. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that they are endowed by their creator equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of self-accomplishment.” The protection for freedom, equality, and liberty as enshrined in the dream for all the people regardless of a person’s race, gender and religion show that all the people can dare to dream and hang onto their dreams even when they don’t materialize.
The dreams of George and Lennie about buying land to call home and living “fatta the lan” (Steinbeck 16) is the full symbol of this bigger American dream by her citizens. This is a metaphor to suggest a biblical meaning like the Promised Land where all their dreams could come true. In the novella “Of Mice and Men” it is portrayed that the ideals of the dream are a big illusion and a trap for the poor migrant workers that can never be achieved. Every single one of the ranch workers in the novella dream of life, freedoms, and fulfillment but not one cannot achieve them. Crooks is first pessimistic on hearing of George and Lennie’s dreams of owning their own piece of land he says “Nobody ever gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.” (Steinbeck 26).
Even though Lennie’s dreams might not come true, it is important to have dreams for one to make his or her life complete. George and Lennie, at last, did not realize their dreams but their friendship remained firm throughout the story and this helped to drive out loneliness that is evident in other characters like Curley’s wife. For them, this dream was real even if it was just there imagination because the dream enabled Lennie to remain happy and it made George a kind, generous and a fulfilled guy, unlike the other ranch workers. Their dreams help to give them life even though the life never allowed them to achieve their dreams. Even with these dreams, there never missed self-doubts.
Lennie asks George why they seem not to be like the rest of the ranch workers. George tells him “we got future guys like us.” He told him that working on the farm made people fearful and lonely, without families and without their own pieces of lands to farm. He tells him that with them, they are different because “we got a future….An’ why? Because…. Because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.” (Steinbeck 28). In other words, George and Lennie are different from other workers because they share a strong bond of friendship and more so, a common dream of being self- reliant. The word “future” is a metaphor for something bright and so much greater than what they have got now, which could be interpreted as the big American dream. The hopes and dreams for a better life in future help George and Lennie to endure the hardship they face each day and to help them not to give in to despair. Usually, the men who worked on these ranches would have no family and friends and so the future for them is bleak. Candy offered to pitch in some money to make George and Lennie’s dreams which he has now joined to be fulfilled so that they could allow him to live with them (Halldorsdottir 240)
Curley’s wife is trying very much to attract the attention of the men on the ranch because she feels so much left alone especially because her husband does not cherish her. She wants to use her power of beauty to distract men in the ranch and she keeps castigating them. Again, Curley’s wife aspires to be a great actress to bring back her fame that she felt lost after she married Curley. Though unsuccessful, she symbolizes the American dream of shining fame for upholding the ideals of liberty, freedom, and democracy. This, in essence, will make its citizens happy and highly productive. Curley’s wife feels that she is not living up her ideas and that’s why in the new farm bought by George and Lennie, she yells at Lennie to leave her when he was caressing her hair. Curley’s wife also keeps flirting with men in the ranch because Curley is jealous and very abusive of them. This is what makes Curley’s wife lonelier because men run away from her. Even though she has totally lost any hope of her dream of becoming the best actress could be achieved, this helps her to overcome her unhappiness caused by loneliness and failure to be fully loved.
The American dream is about giving equality to all people, but more importantly controlling them using the factors of production. Evidently as shown by George, Lennie, Candy, Crooks and other characters in the novella, majority of people tend to hang onto their hopes and dreams in order to move forward and live a happy life, perhaps knowing those hopes and dreams can never become real. Indeed, life must be full of dreams to make a person work hard towards achieving self-actualization.
Halldórsdóttir, Ragnheiður. Moral Issues, Loneliness and Friendship in Of Mice and Men: John Steinbeck’s Portrayal of the Life of Migrant Ranch Workers in 1930s America. Diss. 2017.
Steinbeck John. Of Mice and Men: Who, What and Why Do Children Study “Of Mice and Men?” BBC 116, 2010.
Zilberstein, Karen, Brandell, Jerrold R. Of Mice and Metaphors: Therapeutic Storytelling with Children. Sage Publications, Inc., 2018.