ROHIT KALSY 10.V
How Significant is the concept of the dream in John Steinbeck’s of Mice and Men
The question above is asking us how the author, John Steinbeck, incorporates the American Dream in his novel, Of Mice and Men. To obtain the knowledge you must look at what the text is telling you in different aspects. The meaning of American Dream in this novel is to some day gain independence, to do this you must work hard. For quite a few the dream is someday achieve this goal, however this goal may change from an illusion to an ambition. In the following pages I will try to interpret the true meaning of The American Dream, to do this I will have to study the author himself, the way he has portrayed his characters, the language he has used and the structure of the novel itself.
First we have to define the terms used to understand the story and the characters.
The word Dream carries many meanings, which many people get confused about. A Dream can be an illusion, but if you believe it when it is not true you will become deluded. A Dream can also be an aim or a goal in life. By doing things towards your aim you will become closer to it. This will then become an ambition.
The Classic American Dream is to achieve freedom and independence through hard work; once this is accomplished your own land must be acquired to complete The Dream, “an live off the fatta the lan”. To almost everyone the dream is to be accomplished by itself; however George and Lennie have other plans they want to do it together. This is because loneliness is what makes a man become crazy, so a companion is needed even if he/she is black or white, dumb or clever just to make sure that you don’t become crazy, “With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us”. This quote assures you that they are seeking The Dream together and care about each other
This is a preview of the whole essay
The characters who want The Classical American try all their luck to achieve it, they include George, Lennie, Candy and Crooks. They want it before George and Lennie even have any contact with them, however it is split up into four beliefs: illusion, hope, ambition and delusion. George does not believe in The Dream at first, he only talks about it as it comforts Lennie to great extents; the dream is an illusion to him. However The Dream rapidly changes into an ambition when he arrives on the ranch. The only way he was near The Dream was because Candy overheard him talking to George about it, he asks if he can have a part in it, he also offers three hundred dollars towards the land that George was talking to Lennie about. The cycle for George starts of with illusion, hope, and ambition then back to illusion at the end.
For Lennie The Dream was never an illusion and never will be, with the childlike mind he has. The Dream is an ambition to him throughout the story until he hallucinates about his Aunt Clara and a big, giant rabbit. This shows that he is deluding. For Candy it is very upsetting and hard to cope with because of his old age and the death of his companion. The sudden cancellation affects him dreadfully and he is very upset about this. His cycle covers everything: illusion, hope, ambition and illusion with the sudden cancellation. Crooks has it hard to, he starts to believe in The Dream when Lennie tells him about it, he then confirms this with George he also asks for a place in the deal, but Curley’s wife walks in and he quits the deal. Crooks is still looking for equality, since he is black he knows that he cannot take part in the dream.
Another character called slim is also introduced into the story. Slim is portrayed as the ‘perfect man’, his build, looks, hair style, jaw definition etc are all perfect, “…he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen” this clarifies that slim is the perfect man. The Dream to slim is foolish so he does not believe in it. Another worker on the ranch is Carlson he is portrayed as ‘average Joe’. Carlson and Slim are both symbols and teach you a lot, Carlson is what people were like during The Great Depression, and Slim is what people should be like during The Great Depression. Carlson is the one who kills Candy’s dog once this is acknowledged we are forewarned about George and Lennie, this is a parallel.
The New American Dream is money, fame and power through as little as possible. To accomplish this you must go into Hollywood, become an actor. Hollywood was formed during the 1930’s – 1950’s, it was very successful. The only character that believes in The New American Dream is Curley’s wife. She is described as a tart and a lot of trouble, “Jesus, what a tramp”. She wears a lot of red, red is the colour of Satan i.e. she means trouble. Steinbeck immediately tells us that she will be the reason George and Lennie won’t accomplish The Dream, “Rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off” the rays of the sunlight in the story mean hope, light are referred to hope i.e. ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’. Her cycle starts of as ambition, when a young actor said he was in the movie business. She then married Curley and was on a ranch most of the time. He Dream then turned into an illusion as she knew that she would not achieve it. She, sadly, dies which brings her Dream to a crashing downfall. This means that The New American Dream should not be believed in.
John Steinbeck has used his own thoughts and translated them into text and characters. He has hidden a message inside the book. The only character in the novel that believes about The Dream the whole way through is Lennie. This is because of his childlike mind and through his character he shows how everyone who wants The Dream behaves. He is the voice of all the people that want The Dream, he is their spirit. However this is a message to say that this Dream is childlike as only a child would believe it, Lennie.
The Dream provides hope for all those people who want The Dream so badly. The Dream dies at the end with Lennie as no one believes The Dream at the end. The Classical American Dream has been taken over by The New American Dream. The aim is not for a few acres of land and a bunch of rabbits, it is now about wealth, fame, power and reputation.
If I were to read the book just like that I would thing it is a boring story now that I have looked deeper into what John Steinbeck is trying to tell us I seem to enjoy the book more. The structure of the book revolves around in a cycle, this supports Steinbecks views that The Dream cannot be achieved. There are many parallels in the book. The character Lennie is compared many times to an animal in the book, he is also shot like Candy’s dog in the same place. From the beginning to the end of the book there is no progress; including Crooks as his cycle is illusion, then hope but back down to illusion again.
The language that is used during the novel creates a perfect atmosphere to make the points about The Dream very clear. In the beginning he starts the book with a Garden of Eden atmosphere. By using his words like so he has turned California into a heaven like place, California being the Promise Land then. He starts with a nice atmosphere but soon brings you back down to earth when he describes the other places in the novel. “On the sandy bank…a lizard makes a great skittering among them”.
The Garden of Eden like atmosphere and the bunk house at the ranch have a very, very high contrast. The Garden of Eden is full of hope, but the bunk house is like a prison. The dream seems virtually impossible in the bunk house. So George has illusions through his time at the bunk house.
Another cyclic theme in the novel is when a water snake dies, but another just comes again.”…to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shallows…and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically…Another little water snake swam up the pool, turning its periscope head from side to side”.
The American dream is significant as it provides an aim for everyone in life whether it is The New American Dream or The Classical American Dream. The Dream is not about obtaining it or not, it is about the journey towards it. The search for a better life and the companionship in the times of need. The way we deal with the obstacles in front of us and the way we conquer them is what counts. John Steinbeck showed us this through his pen & paper and his great intelligence.