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Discuss the Presentation of the American Dream in John Steinbeck's Novel, "Of Mice and Men".

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Introduction

ENGLISH COURSEWORK: THE DIVERSE CULTURES AND TRADITIONS UNIT Discuss the Presentation of the American Dream in John Steinbeck's Novel, "Of Mice and Men". "The American Dream", the leap from "rags to riches", is a dream that has always been thought of as achievable through hard work. To achieve the American dream you must leave all you have and be willing to give up everything for excitement, adventure and a better life. It is a romantic view of life where someone can leave his or her troubles behind and find happiness. The concept of the American Dream is often viewed in conjunction with the Western Frontier. For many years, America was a country with a frontier. Early colonisation took place on the East Coast and the frontier played a pivotal role in American thinking where it stood as a boundary beyond which civilisation ceased to exist. Beyond the frontier lay many miles of land, which was for the taking, and a life of excitement and adventure, where men could have free of the cares of urban or modern life. People rarely took advantage what the frontier lands had to offer, but it acted as a safety valve as people felt they could follow the American Dream if they wanted. The Dream and the frontier could be referred to in any time of need for Americans. Many authors have explored the concept of the American dream in their work, including John Steinbeck. I am going to explore how Steinbeck has presented the American dream in the novel, "Of Mice and Men". The novel is set in the great depression of the 1930's. At this time, the country's economy was going through a severe drop and thousands found themselves with nothing. Many looked to the American Dream and a vision of the western frontier, as a means for a better life. The novel represents a microcosm of America at this time, with various characters representing a different group of people in the time of the American depression. ...read more.

Middle

The land offers Candy a place of safety like for Lennie. But unlike Lennie, Candy's safety is in retirement. The land will be a peaceful place to live after his retirement. He knows that when he stops swamping he will be "canned", just like how his dog was shot. But the dream has other features of appeal for Candy. It gives him a sense of self-respect and dignity. Being thrown out with nothing would kill his self esteem at the end of his life, but owning his own land would restore his confidence in himself so he could die a happy man. The last main feature of appeal for Candy is companionship. He always has people around him on the ranch but because he's permanent and all the others aren't, Candy never really gains their friendship. Owning the land with George and Lennie would mean he has people to spend the end of his life with: "I'd make a will an' leave my share to you guys". This is obvious but the fact that he has no one else he could give the money to is proof of his loneliness, a key theme of this novel. Candy's involvement in the dream no doubt gives it a more realistic dimension. The fact that George's "eyes were full of wonder" when Candy becomes involved suggests is more realistic. The time scale involved until the dream's completion has been decreased and it is in the near future. The problem of Lennie not being able to be kept under control was seemingly dealt with, as Candy ands Lennie could move on to the land and set up the farm whilst George works for the rest of the money needed. It seems as if the dream is very likely, however, we find that the time scale to get the land is a month. This doesn't seem a long time, but we know there's no way Lennie can be kept under control for a whole month. ...read more.

Conclusion

Curley's Wife's dream is shattered in her restricted lifestyle and finally in her death. Her death ironically frees her from the cycle she has developed, whereby she tries to escape from her life. The manner of her final escape is therefore poignant and we finally see her for who she really is an innocent young girl: "She was pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young". Steinbeck must step in here and portray her in this way because her previous appearance would suggest otherwise. She is seen before through the eyes of the men who use only derogatory terms to describe her such as "jail bate" and "tart". The question remains as to whether to condone or condemn her. Steinbeck steps in to direct us to sympathise with her in case we may have already condemned her. The protest is made by the author against the treatment of women at the time and shows that this along with the resulting characteristics it develops, is a repeating cycle of action then reaction. Steinbeck does more than present dreams; he shows how they are smashed and disintegrated. So does this mean that "Of Mice and Men" is a pessimistic book? In my opinion, it does not. Dreams are inevitably smashed, or rather; this does not deprive them of value. More importantly the novel raises the issue that American society of the 1930's was problematic and in some ways corrupt: it represents real groups of people who lead pessimistic lives. At this time in American history, America was suffering depression so the country would be split into optimists and pessimists. In my opinion, Steinbeck is saying that it is hard to reach the dream. Having a burden like Lennie is an extreme of the problems the road to the dream poses. However, it must be remembered that Lennie was half of the reason that the dream was even thought about. Steinbeck is making a statement that the American dream is a goal, and whether it is achievable or not, it is very good incentive for the capacity to hope and inspire. James Tookman ...read more.

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