To what extent does Steinbeck portray dreams as futile in Of Mice and Men?

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To what extent does Steinbeck portray dreams as futile in ‘Of Mice and Men’?

In Of Mice and Men, the hopes and dreams of the men on the ranch are a continuous focus and theme throughout the novel. John Steinbeck portrays the effects that dreams, or lack of them, have on the lives of the characters and the outcome of the novel. Steinbeck uses the concept of dreams at once to show hope and aspiration, as they invoke companionship with united determination for a better future, and to illustrate the difficulties of survival, with unrealised dreams illuminating the dark despair of society at that time.

Steinbeck presents dreams as a tool to aid the men of the ranch’s survival and happiness. They give a sense of purpose, a reward for long days of hard labour on the ranch. They give the men the incentive to struggle on with the life of a migrant worker, the men use the dreams to differentiate themselves from hundreds of other migrant workers in the same position; if a man keeps his dream to himself, without allowing anyone to dismiss his aspirations, he can convince himself that he his dream will be realised and he will have a better life. Even if the dream is not realised, it still offers an escapism from the mundane, monotonous, repetition of the bunkhouse, where ‘the walls were whitewashed and the floor unpainted’.

The idea of dreams prolonging survival and happiness is best portrayed by the dream and relationship shared by Lennie and George. George started looking after and traveling with Lennie on the request of Lennie’s Aunt Clara, and their joint dream to ‘ live off the fatta the lan’ has formed a strong bond and friendship between the pair, unusual in this hostile, competitive working environment .They need each other’s companionship to alleviate isolation and loneliness, and to make their dream seem more realistic. Lennie describes their relationship as such ‘We got each other, that’s what gives a hoot in hell about us’. They need each other and their dreams to survive, therefore in this instance Steinbeck does not portray dreams as futile.

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The dream is also useful for keeping lennie out of trouble, to some extent, George threatens ‘You aint gunna get in no trouble...I won’t let you tend the rabbits’. Getting to tend the rabbits’ is the most exciting prospect for Lennie, and George frequently tells the story of their dream to Lennie, to help distract and entertain him. When the story of their dream is told, it seems more attainable for both of them. The dream becomes even more realisable when Candy asks to be part of it with them. He offers ‘S’pose I went in with you guys. ...

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