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How is the American Dream, the idea that everyone can achieve their fortune, presented in the novel?

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Introduction

How is the American Dream, the idea that everyone can achieve their fortune, presented in the novel? John Steinbeck wrote his novel 'of mice and men' in 1926, and it was published in 1937, during the time of the American depression. The New York Wall Street stock marked collapsed in 1929, leading to the United States entering a prolonged period of economic depression. During this period there were failed businesses, a lot of poverty and unemployment and many workers went to California in search of work. Most men travelled alone, were poorly paid, and had very short term contracts. George sums this up in the repeated conversation he has with Lennie, "guys like us that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place." George and Lennie want to improve their lives and fantasise about this. This is where the American dream derives from. It is the idea that everyone can achieve their dream of a better life if they try hard enough. Of mice and men shows that for most men like George and Lennie, the dream can not be realised. The title comes from Robert Burns's poem 'To a mouse' in the like "the best - laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft agley," which means even the best plans often go wrong. Once again this is suggesting the unrealism of the American Dream. ...read more.

Middle

This again, shows she's not happy with her marriage. Curley's wife explains her dream to become an actress to Lennie, "I coulda made somethin' of myself...a show came through, an' I met one of the actors. He says I could go with that show. But my ol' lady wouldn't let me. She says because I was on'y fifteen. But the guy says I coulda. If I'd went, I wouldn't be livin' like this, you bet...He says he was gonna put me in the movies. Says I was a natural...coulda been in the movies, an' had nice clothes - all of them nice clothes like they wear." This is yet another example of a failed dream, as Curley's wife does not become an actress, she is killed. This also shows the novel's approach to the American dream, and how it is unrealistic and won't work. Another character in the book who has an aspiration is Crooks, the stable buck. I think that he has a dream to be part of the other men working on the ranch and to be accepted into the society. Crooks seems to be aware of the fact that this is unrealistic, "Crooks said darkly, 'Guys don't come into a coloured man's room very much.'" I think he wants to be treated fairly. Throughout the book Crooks is referred to as "the nigger" by everyone accept for Slim. ...read more.

Conclusion

At the very end of the Novel, when Lennie has killed Curley's wife, George knows he is going to have to kill him as he is his best friend. After the incident with Candy and his dog, where candy states "I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog" George realises that it is a lot better to be killed by someone you're close to than a complete stranger. I think this is why George kills Lennie, because he knows it is the best way for him to end his life. As he is shooting Lennie he goes back to their dream. Telling him about how they're "gonna do it soon" and "ever'body gonna be nice to you. Ain't no more trouble." This means that Lennie dies in the best possible way; thinking about what he wants most in life and with the person he loves most. However, the plan still goes very wrong, leaving George with "nought but Grief an' pain" as the Robert Burn's poem states. Their dream symbolises the fact that the American dream is not realistic and won't work. In 'Of mice and men' The American Dream is a reality in the minds of most of the characters and the optimism and hope they have of changing their lives for the better helps them going. However, as the story unfolds, the grim reality is that the American Dream is simply that - a dream. ...read more.

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