John Depression. The theme of The American Dream

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.

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