The American Dream in of Mice and Men Essay Example
The story Of Mice and Men is an American classic, telling the story of two young men working during the Great Depression, and towards the American Dream. In the novella the theme that is represented is how different people fit into the American Dream and how different groups of people can struggle to achieve it. This theme is represented by the characters Lennie, Curley’s wife, and Crooks. These characters represent people of color, the disabled, and women of the time period. In the story we are first introduced to the character of Lennie who is very clearly mentally slower than the average person his age. In the story, George and Lennie are out of work because of the Great Depression, and are heading to a farm in search of work and lodging. George has to keep repeating to Lennie about where they are going, because Lennie keeps forgetting. George states, “You remember where we goin’ now? Lennie looked startled and then in embarrassment hid his face against his knees. I forgot again” (Steinbeck 6). This evidence is important and gives the reader an insight into Lennie’s mind and mental state. He forgets statements that were told to him only three minutes ago. He also tends to accidentally fatally harm mice, puppies, and even people, without realizing the damage he’s done until its too late. Steinbeck portrays this through the scene, "Don't you go yellin', he said, and he shook her; and her body flopped like a fish. And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck. He looked down at her, and carefully he removed his hand from over her mouth, and she lay still. "I don't want ta hurt you," he said, "but George'll be mad if you yell" (Steinbeck 91). He killed Curley’s wife because she started to yell when he wouldn’t let go of her hair. Although accidental, it shows just how troubled Lennie’s mind was which would make it that much tougher to reach his dream, especially during the Great Depression.
Lennie’s apparent mental disability contributes to the theme of how the American Dream is a struggle for certain groups of people to achieve it. Another character who is a prime example of the interpreted theme is Curley’s Wife. In the story, we never learn Curley’s Wife’s name which shows the position women held in society during the time period. Women at the time were treated like property, a prize to be won. Curley’s wife confides in Lennie about her dreams and aspirations in the barn. She explains, “ ‘Nother time I met a guy, he was in the pitchers. Went out to the Riverside Dance Palace with him. He says he was gonna put me in the movies. Says I was a natural” (Steinbeck 88). Curley’s Wife is telling Lennie about how she could have been successful, all on her own. She expresses her dismay when she claims, “I tell you I ain’t used to livin’ like this. I coulda made somethin’ of myself.” (Steinbeck 88). But the best she could be was just Curley’s Wife, when she could have been so much more. When she is explains her dreams, and her reality, it helps the audience understand the struggle women had trying to reach the American Dream. And how their realities were far from a dream. A character who also fits this way into the “American Dream” is Crook’s. Earlier on in the story, we are given a glimpse at Crook’s. A black, lonely stable man with virtually no hope of achieving his American Dream especially during the time period in which this story is set. Although it would be an uphill battle for him to achieve the American Dream, it is implied he would like to have it and is possibly jealous of people with a better chance than him of reaching the American Dream. In the scene with Lennie and Crooks when Lennie is discussing his dream Crooks exclaims, "You guys is just kiddin’ yourself. You’ll talk about it a hell of a lot, but you won’t get no land. You’ll be a swamper here till they take you out in a box. Hell, I seen too many guys. Lennie here’ll quit an’ be on the road in two, three weeks. Seems like ever’ guy got land in his head" (Steinbeck, 37). He also states, "I seen hundreds of men come by on the road an' on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an'...every damn one of 'em's got a little piece of land in his head. An' never a God damn one of 'em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever'body wants a little piece of lan'...Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. They're all the time talkin' about it, but it's jus' in their head"(Steinbeck 81).
When Crooks is ranting, it shows harboring resentment to George and Lennie. He resents them for having a chance at the American Dream, and is probably jealous of their companionship. Because Crooks is black, the other guys don’t let him stay in their bunker house, or play cards, and don’t let him be seen as part of society. Loneliness is a big underlying theme in Of Mice and Men and is expressed by characters like Crooks and Curleys wife, being that they are considered less than in society which makes it harder for them to achieve their dreams. In the end, John Steinbeck was trying to address the inequality different groups of people faced during the time period, and the struggle to reach the American Dream.