How does Steinbeck present the hope of dream in contrast to the bitter reality of 1930s America?

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How does Steinbeck present the hope of dream in contrast to the bitter reality of 1930’s America?

Steinbeck’s Of mice and men Steinbeck builds up the hope of dreams and foreshadows failure of the ‘American dream’ as the story develops.

 Through several characters in the novel he presents the hopes and dreams that are in constant conflict with the bitter reality, The novel is set on a ranch where it is used by Steinbeck as a microcosm of the American Society during ‘The Great Depression’ . George, Lennie and Candy (3 migrant working friends) challenge the harsh reality of 1930’s America to earn money so that they can acquire their own farm. Steinbeck introduces the harsh reality of life through Crooks’ cynical character, which doubts the ‘American Dream’ and makes it seem futile. Finally Curley’ wife, a victim of the 1930’s society, presents the theme of shattered dreams towards the end of the novel where she speaks of her dream to earn fame and escape the harsh society of 1930’s America.  


In chapter 1, Steinbeck introduces the dream when George and Lennie speak of their dream ‘live of the fatta the lan’ and be independent. Steinbeck introduces this idealised dream and sense of hope to achieve the ‘American Dream’ at the start of the novel through George’s description of the dream farm. George describes the details of the dream to Lennie who is forgetful; how they’ll have ‘cows and some pigs’ and ‘ a vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens’ reinforcing their hope for freedom and independence from the harsh society of 1930’s America. This is a strong motivating force for migrant workers like George and Lennie who had very little control over their own lives. Later in the novel, Lennie repeats this dream using the same words to suggest his desperation to acquire the ‘American Dream’. His tone in this quotation also indicates his happiness in speaking of this dream. However, Steinbeck ‘s use of visual imagery when George describes ‘how thick the cream is on the milk you can hardly cut it’ creates a sense of the dream being over-idealised and unrealistic for migrant workers for George and Lennie who lived in such a predatorial world where the rich subjugated and controlled the weak.

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Steinbeck also presents the sense of hope and confidence that George and Lennie have building towards their dream farm in chapter 1. George differentiates them from other migrant workers by stating that ordinary workers work and ‘blow their stake’ .The statement ‘With us it ain’t like that’ here provides the clear suggestion that they perceive themselves as better off than other migrant workers. ‘ Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world’. Steinbeck re-introduces and anchors the possibility of the dreams. The use of the superlative ‘loneliest’ reinforces the isolation which ...

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