Dreams and visions that motivate the characters of "Of Mice and Men"

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Fatima Salman

The British School of Bahrain 90306

“Other Cultures”

    What dreams and visions motivate the characters of "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, and what obstacles, if any, prevent them from becoming reality?

       No matter how well we plan the future, things often go wrong. 'Of Mice and Men', a novella by John Steinbeck, highlights the despair and misfortune of the American citizens in the 1930s. Following the collapse of the New York Wall Street stock market, the US entered a prolonged period of economic depression. During this period of failed business, harsh poverty and long-term unemployment, thousands of migrant workers came to California in search for work. In attempts to escape the 'dust bowl' (a series of droughts and failed crops) workers migrated west, but to find themselves in no better state; slaving in ranches from day to day, poorly paid, poorly fed with nothing to loose but their hopes of pursuing "The American Dream" and indeed, as Steinbeck illustrates, these hopes can be lost.

       Having lived and experienced this lifestyle, Steinbeck presents his views of society in the 1930s in the form of the characters of this book. He shows that the simplest elements of identity can be the reason of the shattering of one's dream. The luxuries of "The Promised Land", the dream of being rescued of fear and loneliness and the desire to live a happy life are but visions of a supernatural future for the characters of this novel.

       Loneliness is a common quality that a ranch- hand would possess, however, weather or not it is an advantage can be argued. In the 1930s, Workers were never in one place long enough to even make friends; these men would grow impassive and often set aside their ambitions. Characters like Carlson and Wit have no emotional depth; they are not touched or motivated by anything. Steinbeck doesn't describe Carlson's feelings, but instead just the way he is 'thick-bodied'. Carlson's first conversation in this book is one where he plots to kill Candy's dog. Here we immediately recognise Carlson's indifferent nature. He is one of the best survivors at the ranch because of this; he wastes no time in planning out 'dreams' for himself. Steinbeck uses Carlson's character to model a typical ranch- hand, loneliness a key for his survival. However, in contrast to Carlson, Lennie and George are the main pursuers of the "American dream". Their vision of their future motivates them every day; and has become the reason and main influence of their decisions. Together, George and Lennie carefully plan their dream and work hard on the ranch to earn money for their future. George has repeated their plan to Lennie so many times that Lennie has actually learnt the dream off by heart. George tells Lennie of how they are each going to get what they want; George freedom and Lennie "gets to tend the rabbits". The two characters believe that each cannot seek their dream alone. Evidently, George says, "We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us... because I got you to look after me and you got me to look after you," and for Lennie especially, it has been the main reason for their survival.

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       The recollection of this dream is met several times throughout the novel. This shows that even the weakest of people can be stimulated by the image of their "perfect life". Even George, though he seems quite tough, weakens when he visualises their future, his voice becomes "deeper" when he tells the dream and he "repeats his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before". Steinbeck's use of language here convey George's feelings, his rhythmic tone and deep voice suggest that he is in an almost trance- like mode, fantasising about his dream.  This is very ...

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