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

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Introduction

Discuss the presentation of the American Dream in John Steinbeck's novella, "Of Mice and Men". The American Dream is a prominent theme in the novella "Of Mice and Men". The essence of the dream was that of self-sufficiency and the unalienable right of self-definition. Though the dream was continually changing the essence of it remained the same as that of the Founding Fathers in the 17th Century. The Founding Fathers, an assembly from Britain who were at odds with the religious status quo left for America in search of a more egalitarian society. The landing of the Founding Fathers sparked at first the notion of self-definition and followed by this what could be considered as the ideal of "rugged individualism". Eventually, as the eastern coast of America became densely populated these original ideals evolved into The Dream of the Frontier. People answered the cry of "Go west, my son" and sought both the unclaimed lands on the fringes of civilisation and the freedom and economic opportunity they represented. In this essay I will concentrate not only on the theme of the American Dream and the way Steinbeck presents it but also on the bastardisation of the dream and its continuing evolution. The original American Dream was one that was centred on individuality and freedom, though in the novella we see it presented through a variety of characters as a dream that has become materialistic and essentially corrupt. Throughout the novella there are a multitude of dreams. The most obvious and probably most important is the true ideal dream of George and Lennie which is representative of the Dream of the Frontier and even the truly spiritual ideals of the Founding Fathers. Their dream, later also to be the dream of Candy and Crooks, is one that mirrors the original American Dream of self-sufficiency. However, we doubt the true nature of this dream especially because George never reveals the location of this ranch. ...read more.

Middle

Whit also treasures the magazine: "And then he went to his box shelf and laid the magazine carefully in" Furthermore one of the main appeals of the dream not only to George but later to also Candy is the idea of reaping what you sow which I have discussed earlier. Bearing this in mind, we must consider whether the dream is realistic. At first the dream may seem an attainable target; it is not until we see the harsh reality of ranch life and its itinerant workers, who all have a dream, that we recognise that this dream is not going to materialise. However when Candy gets involved and a significant sum of money made available the reader may feel that it is going to become true. Nevertheless the dream does not realise and upon re-reading we see the reasons for this. Even from the title of the novella however we are predisposed to feeling that the dream will not be realised. The title "Of Mice and Men" initiates a sense of tragic inevitability, recalling the popular poem by Robert Burns "To a Mouse". The poem states that the "best laid schemes of mice and men ... often go awry". In the novella this is representative of the dreams of George and Lennie who are also searching for a place to live instead of the nomadic lifestyle. However, due to the cruel exigencies of Fate and the mechanised world these dreams are shattered. The mechanical plough in the poem is mirrored in the novella with Carlson's Luger pistol. This poem is in fact in complete contrast with the American Dream which George and Lennie so desperately yearn for. So even from the title we are presented with the images that the world is cruel and fate is harsh. The dream of George and Lennie also soon becomes the dream of Candy, the "old swamper" of the ranch. ...read more.

Conclusion

an' had nice clothes" This materialistic dream of Curley's wife is extremely different to that of the other dreams in the novella as it is centred on wealth. Her dream's ideals are not that of companionship and freedom like those of the dream of George and Lennie but self-gratification. It is a debasement of the original American Dream and is also representative of the harsh lifestyle of women. It is ironic that Curley's wife must use men in order to fulfil her dream and that they only need her because she is "real purty". It is clear that these men who claimed to be in the movies only wanted her as a sexual object. Though she is incapable of accepting that she will never be in the movies, she easily blames it on her mother. By her blaming her mother we see it is a convenient way of deluding herself into thinking she could have been in the movies. This is another example of self-deception. The clothes and wealth are what really appeal to her, as she is young and na�ve. Curley's wife's dream of a career in Hollywood is very unrealistic, in contrast to George and Lennie's basic dream, which also did not come true, this dream is totally impractical. Her dream is eventually shattered by her death, but in truth it had been denied her by society a long time before. Tragically she is perhaps the least free of all the characters as even her superficial and na�ve dream of escape was in the past and entirely reliant on the men who ere in fact exploiting her. In conclusion "Of Mice and Men" is a deeply pessimistic book. It at once demonstrates how dreams are necessary to make life worth living and at the same time demonstrates that in the barren environment of Depression hit America they are inevitably destroyed. Discuss the presentation of the American Dream in John Steinbeck's novella, "Of Mice and Men". Bimal Sualy 10L Page 1 of 7 ...read more.

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