The​ ​American​ ​Dream in ​Of Mice​ ​and​ ​Men

The​ ​American​ ​Dream​ ​is​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​define​ ​exactly.​ ​ ​It​ ​means​ ​different​ ​things​ ​to​ ​different people.​ ​However,​ ​certain​ ​ideas​ ​and​ ​concepts​ ​are​ ​commonly​ ​held​ ​within​ ​most​ ​people’s interpretations.​ ​The​ ​idea​ ​of​ ​self-sufficiency,​ ​of​ ​having​ ​a​ ​home​ ​and​ ​not​ ​having​ ​to​ ​answer​ ​to anyone​ ​is​ ​a​ ​classic​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Dream.​ ​The​ ​simple​ ​concept​ ​of​ ​being​ ​in​ ​control​ ​of​ ​one’s own​ ​employment​ ​and​ ​livelihood​ ​has​ ​always​ ​been​ ​an​ ​aspiration​ ​for​ ​Americans.​

​In​ ​the​ ​novel​ ​Of Mice​ ​and​ ​Men​ ​by​ ​John​ ​Steinbeck,​ ​the​ ​protagonists​ ​George​ ​and​ ​Lennie​ ​exemplify​ ​this;​ ​their dream​ ​is​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​their​ ​own​ ​little​ ​farm​ ​and​ ​live​ ​off​ ​of​ ​the​ ​“fatta​ ​the​ ​land”​ ​and​ ​be​ ​in​ ​control​ ​of​ ​their own​ ​affairs,​ ​never​ ​again​ ​having​ ​to​ ​bend​ ​to​ ​the​ ​will​ ​of​ ​a​ ​ranch​ ​owner​ ​in​ ​order​ ​to​ ​make​ ​just​ ​enough money​ ​to​ ​survive.​ ​They​ ​do​ ​not​ ​achieve​ ​their​ ​dream​ ​in​ ​the​ ​end,​ ​their​ ​status​ ​as​ ​ranch​ ​hands​ ​making it​ ​extremely​ ​difficult​ ​for​ ​them.​ ​Steinbeck​ ​is​ ​pointing​ ​out​ ​that​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Dream​ ​is​ ​difficult,​ ​if not​ ​impossible,​ ​for​ ​people​ ​to​ ​achieve​ ​unless​ ​they​ ​are​ ​already​ ​in​ ​a​ ​position​ ​of​ ​power.​ ​However,​ ​the hope​ ​that​ ​the​ ​dream​ ​is​ ​possible​ ​can​ ​give​ ​one​ ​the​ ​strength​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​going,​ ​until​ ​the​ ​futility​ ​of​ ​the dream​ ​is​ ​realized. The​ ​American​ ​Dream​ ​is​ ​usually​ ​only​ ​feasible​ ​for​ ​people​ ​who​ ​are​ ​already​ ​fortunate economically.​ ​George​ ​and​ ​Lennie’s​ ​financial​ ​situation​ ​is​ ​the​ ​reason​ ​they​ ​have​ ​not​ ​achieved​ ​their goal​ ​long​ ​ago.​ ​When​ ​Candy​ ​is​ ​intrigued​ ​by​ ​George​ ​and​ ​Lennie’s​ ​plan,​ ​he​ ​asks​ ​them​ ​how​ ​much they​ ​have​ ​saved​ ​up​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​the​ ​farm.​ ​“George​ ​spat​ ​on​ ​the​ ​floor​ ​disgustedly.​ ​‘We​ ​got​ ​ten​ ​bucks between​ ​us’”​ ​(59).​ ​

​George​ ​and​ ​Lennie​ ​have​ ​had​ ​this​ ​dream​ ​for​ ​a​ ​long​ ​time.​ ​They​ ​have​ ​been saving​ ​up​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​the​ ​farm​ ​for​ ​a​ ​long​ ​time,​ ​and​ ​yet​ ​they​ ​have​ ​a​ ​fraction​ ​of​ ​what​ ​they​ ​need​ ​to​ ​buy the​ ​farm.​ ​They​ ​economically​ ​marginalized​ ​and​ ​completely​ ​at​ ​the​ ​mercy​ ​of​ ​their​ ​employers, forced​ ​to​ ​do​ ​work​ ​that​ ​offers​ ​little​ ​pay​ ​and​ ​security​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​from​ ​starving.​ ​They​ ​have​ ​no​ ​choice but​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​working​ ​as​ ​ranch​ ​hands;​ ​with​ ​their​ ​limited​ ​skills​ ​and​ ​education​ ​there​ ​is​ ​little​ ​else​ ​they could​ ​do​ ​for​ ​a​ ​living.​ ​When ​close​ ​to​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the​ ​novel​ ​Candy​ ​describes​ ​the​ ​plan​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​land with​ ​George​ ​and​ ​Lennie​ ​to​ ​Crooks,​ ​Crooks​ ​does​ ​not​ ​think​ ​they​ ​will​ ​do​ ​it.​ ​“Crooks​ ​interrupted brutally.​ ​‘You​ ​guys​ ​is​ ​just​ ​kiddin’​ ​yourself…​ ​you​ ​won’t​ ​get​ ​no​ ​land.​ ​You’ll​ ​be​ ​a​ ​swamper​ ​here till​ ​they​ ​take​ ​you​ ​out​ ​in​ ​a​ ​box…​ ​Seems​ ​like​ ​ever’​ ​guy​ ​got​ ​land​ ​in​ ​his​ ​head’”​ ​(75).​ ​Crooks​ ​has seen​ ​many​ ​ranch​ ​workers​ ​who​ ​dream​ ​of​ ​getting​ ​their​ ​own​ ​place​ ​with​ ​their​ ​own​ ​land​ ​and​ ​rules, and​ ​he​ ​has​ ​not​ ​ever​ ​seen​ ​anyone​ ​achieve​ ​this​ ​dream.​ ​Their​ ​inability​ ​to​ ​change​ ​their​ ​situation​ ​is​ ​an example​ ​of​ ​how,​ ​with​ ​unequal​ ​dispersion​ ​of​ ​wealth​ ​in​ ​America,​ ​for​ ​many​ ​people​ ​the​ ​American Dream​ ​is​ ​challenging,​ ​if​ ​not​ ​impossible.

Despite​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Dream​ ​is​ ​close​ ​to​ ​unattainable​ ​for​ ​many​ ​people, simply​ ​having​ ​hope​ ​in​ ​it​ ​can​ ​give​ ​people​ ​the​ ​strength​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​going.​ ​Despite​ ​George​ ​and​ ​Lennie’s fairly​ ​poor​ ​quality​ ​of​ ​life,​ ​the​ ​simple​ ​hope​ ​that​ ​someday​ ​they​ ​might​ ​achieve​ ​their​ ​dream​ ​brings value​ ​to​ ​their​ ​lives.​ ​Near​ ​the​ ​beginning​ ​of​ ​the​ ​novel,​ ​Lennie​ ​asks​ ​George​ ​to​ ​describe​ ​the​ ​land they​ ​hope​ ​to​ ​have​ ​one​ ​day.​ ​“He​ ​repeated​ ​his​ ​words​ ​rhythmically​ ​as​ ​though​ ​he​ ​had​ ​said​ ​them many​ ​times​ ​before.​ ​‘Guys​ ​like​ ​us,​ ​that​ ​work​ ​on​ ​ranches…​ ​They​ ​ain’t​ ​got​ ​nothing​ ​to​ ​look​ ​ahead to…​ ​But​ ​not​ ​us…​ ​Someday—we’re​ ​gonna​ ​get​ ​the​ ​jack​ ​together​ ​and​ ​we’re​ ​gonna​ ​have​ ​a​ ​little house​ ​and​ ​a​ ​couple​ ​of​ ​acres​ ​an’​ ​a​ ​cow​ ​and​ ​some​ ​pigs​ ​and—’​ ​‘​An​ ​live​ ​off​ ​the​ ​fatta​ ​the​ ​lan​’,’ Lennie​ ​shouted”​ ​(13-14).​ ​

George​ ​and​ ​Lennie​ ​have​ ​nothing​ ​in​ ​life​ ​except​ ​each​ ​other.​ ​They​ ​move from​ ​ranch​ ​to​ ​ranch​ ​without​ ​any​ ​security,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​only​ ​thing​ ​that​ ​stays​ ​constant​ ​in​ ​their​ ​lives​ ​is each​ ​other’s​ ​company.​ ​It​ ​would​ ​be​ ​easy​ ​to​ ​give​ ​up​ ​and​ ​just​ ​accept​ ​their​ ​poor​ ​quality​ ​of​ ​life. However,​ ​they​ ​have​ ​not​ ​given​ ​up​ ​on​ ​their​ ​lives​ ​because​ ​of​ ​the​ ​hope​ ​they​ ​still​ ​have​ ​in​ ​the​ ​dream. George​ ​says​ ​his​ ​speech​ ​about​ ​the​ ​farm​ ​often,​ ​almost​ ​like​ ​an​ ​incantation,​ ​to​ ​remind​ ​himself​ ​and Lennie​ ​that​ ​there​ ​is​ ​hope​ ​for​ ​the​ ​future.​ ​Later​ ​in​ ​the​ ​novel​ ​Lennie​ ​asks​ ​George​ ​to​ ​describe​ ​their farm​ again​ ​at​ ​the​ ​bunkhouse,​ ​and​ ​George​ ​does​ ​so​ ​and​ ​is​ ​silent​ ​for​ ​a​ ​little​ ​while​ ​afterwards. “George​ ​sat​ ​entranced​ ​with​ ​his​ ​own​ ​picture”​ ​(58).​ ​

Even​ ​after​ ​describing​ ​the​ ​dream​ ​over​ ​and​ ​over constantly,​ ​George​ ​is​ ​still​ ​struck​ ​with​ ​hope​ ​and​ ​longing​ ​and​ ​possibility​ ​every​ ​time​ ​he​ ​talks​ ​about it.​ ​The​ ​possibility​ ​of​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Dream​ ​can​ ​allow​ ​people​ ​to​ ​find​ ​happiness​ ​in​ ​their​ ​lives​ ​and find​ ​the​ ​strength​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​going. For​ ​many​ ​people,​ ​they​ ​will​ ​eventually​ ​realize​ ​that​ ​they​ ​cannot​ ​achieve​ ​the​ ​American Dream,​ ​and​ ​this​ ​will​ ​result​ ​in​ ​giving​ ​up​ ​on​ ​the​ ​possibility​ ​of​ ​a​ ​better​ ​life.​ ​Once​ ​George​ ​is​ ​forced to​ ​conclude​ ​that​ ​he​ ​will​ ​never​ ​achieve​ ​his​ ​dream,​ ​he​ ​gives​ ​up​ ​on​ ​any​ ​hope​ ​or​ ​chance​ ​of happiness.​ ​Near​ ​the​ ​beginning​ ​of​ ​the​ ​novel​ ​when​ ​George​ ​and​ ​Lennie​ ​are​ ​on​ ​their​ ​way​ ​to​ ​the​ ​new ranch,​ ​Lennie​ ​asks​ ​George​ ​to​ ​tell​ ​about​ ​the​ ​farm​ ​they​ ​hope​ ​to​ ​have​ ​and​ ​about​ ​why​ ​there​ ​is​ ​hope for​ ​the​ ​two​ ​of​ ​them.​ ​“Lennie​ ​broke​ ​in.​ ​‘​But​ ​not​ ​us!​ ​An’​ ​why?​ ​Because…​ ​because​ ​I​ ​got​ ​you​ ​to look​ ​after​ ​me,​ ​and​ ​you​ ​got​ ​me​ ​to​ ​look​ ​after​ ​you,​ ​and​ ​that’s​ ​why​’”​ ​(14).​ ​

George​ ​only​ ​has​ ​two​ ​real sources​ ​of​ ​happiness​ ​in​ ​his​ ​life:​ ​his​ ​dream,​ ​and​ ​Lennie’s​ ​companionship.​ ​ ​At​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the​ ​novel, after​ ​Lennie​ ​accidentally​ ​kills​ ​Curley’s​ ​wife,​ ​George​ ​decides​ ​there​ ​is​ ​nothing​ ​he​ ​can​ ​do​ ​to​ ​save Lennie,​ ​so​ ​he​ ​shoots​ ​Lennie​ ​himself.​ ​“And​ ​George​ ​raised​ ​the​ ​gun​ ​and​ ​steadied​ ​it,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​brought the​ ​muzzle​ ​of​ ​it​ ​close​ ​to​ ​the​ ​back​ ​of​ ​Lennie’s​ ​head.​ ​The​ ​hand​ ​shook​ ​violently,​ ​but​ ​his​ ​face​ ​seat and​ ​his​ ​hand​ ​steadied.​ ​He​ ​pulled​ ​the​ ​trigger”​ ​(107).​ ​By​ ​giving​ ​up​ ​on​ ​the​ ​idea​ ​that​ ​he​ ​could​ ​save Lennie,​ ​he​ ​gave​ ​up​ ​any​ ​chance​ ​of​ ​happiness​ ​for​ ​his​ ​life.​ ​Once​ ​he​ ​accepted​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would​ ​never achieve​ ​his​ ​dream,​ ​he​ ​gave​ ​up​ ​on​ ​hoping​ ​and​ ​trying​ ​for​ ​a​ ​better​ ​life.​ ​When​ ​people​ ​realize​ ​that​ ​the American​ ​Dream​ ​is​ ​fruitless​ ​for​ ​them​ ​and​ ​they​ ​lose​ ​hope​ ​in​ ​it,​ ​it​ ​loses​ ​its​ ​power​ ​to​ ​help​ ​them through​ ​life​ ​and​ ​give​ ​them​ ​something​ ​to​ ​believe​ ​in.

The​ ​point​ ​Steinbeck​ ​is​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​make​ ​about​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Dream​ ​is​ ​that​ ​it​ ​is​ ​nearly impossible​ ​for​ ​most​ ​people​ ​unless​ ​they​ ​are​ ​already​ ​economically​ ​stable​ ​and​ ​powerful​ ​enough. However,​ ​the​ ​mere​ ​possibility​ ​of​ ​achieving​ ​the​ ​dream​ ​can​ ​give​ ​people​ ​strength​ ​and​ ​the​ ​hope​ ​that they​ ​will​ ​someday​ ​have​ ​a​ ​better​ ​life,​ ​until​ ​they​ ​inevitably​ ​conclude​ ​that​ ​they​ ​will​ ​never​ ​achieve it.​ ​George​ ​and​ ​Lennie​ ​cannot​ ​achieve​ ​their​ ​dream​ ​because​ ​of​ ​their​ ​powerlessness​ ​in​ ​society​ ​and financial​ ​status.​ ​However,​ ​the​ ​mere​ ​possibility​ ​that​ ​they​ ​will​ ​someday​ ​achieve​ ​it​ ​gives​ ​them strength​ ​and​ ​the​ ​hope​ ​that​ ​they​ ​will​ ​someday​ ​have​ ​a​ ​better​ ​life.​ ​Despite​ ​this,​ ​their​ ​dream​ ​proves futile.​ ​Once​ ​George​ ​knows​ ​that​ ​he​ ​has​ ​to​ ​give​ ​up​ ​on​ ​their​ ​dream,​ ​he​ ​gives​ ​up​ ​on​ ​Lennie​ ​entirely, and​ ​the​ ​hope​ ​that​ ​his​ ​life​ ​will​ ​improve.​ ​American​ ​society​ ​makes​ ​it​ ​impossible​ ​for​ ​many Americans​ ​to​ ​achieve​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Dream.​ ​There​ ​are​ ​countless​ ​people​ ​who​ ​wish​ ​a​ ​place​ ​to​ ​call home​ ​and​ ​cannot​ ​achieve​ ​this.​ ​Even​ ​many​ ​members​ ​of​ ​the​ ​middle​ ​class​ ​who​ ​have​ ​a​ ​stable​ ​living situation​ ​cannot​ ​achieve​ ​the​ ​self-sufficiency​ ​that​ ​they​ ​crave,​ ​working​ ​at​ ​relatively​ ​unstable​ ​or dismal​ ​jobs​ ​because​ ​they​ ​have​ ​nowhere​ ​else​ ​to​ ​go.​ ​Many​ ​people​ ​can​ ​never​ ​achieve​ ​the​ ​American Dream​ ​due​ ​to​ ​our​ ​own​ ​American​ ​society​ ​and​ ​economy. …

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