Of Mice and Men: The Death of the American Dream free essay sample
The American Dream has always been one of the most prominent ideals in American society. Of Mice and Men was written by Steinbeck in 1937. It focuses on the lives of two men, Lennie and George, as they try to fulfill their own American Dream of owning a small farm. While this seems like an attainable dream in the beginning, Steinbeck chooses instead to destroy this dream utterly with the death of Lennie. Curley’s wife had an American Dream of being an actress, but she was condemned to a life on a farm with a man she doesn’t love.
By destroying the American Dreams of Lennie, George, and Curley’s Wife in Of Mice and Men, prove Steinbeck believes that the American Dream is no longer an attainable goal. George and Lennie share an American Dream of owning a farm together. The audience learns of the dream when George tells Lennie about the farm: “Someday we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house and a couple and some cows and some pigs- An’ live offa the lan” (15).
The farm they describe would appear to come out of a fairy tale. In this book, proves to be exactly what it is.
After Lennie’s death George admits “-I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we’d never do her. He usta like to hear it so much I got to thinking maybe we would” (93). In this story, Lennie believed in an American dream, and in many ways, he actually became a physical embodiment of the American Dream. As demonstrated by Lennie’s excitement and wholehearted belief that it would occur. He believed that he and George were different because they work together, exemplified in the text: “With us it ain’t like that. With us we got a future!
”(15). Lennie and George possessed undying belief in the American Dream. However, through the death of Lennie, the dream of owning a farm died. This helps to prove that Lennie was a symbolic version of the American Dream. George also contains a symbolic meaning that can be associated with him. George’s embodiment is a representation of the faith the people place in the American dream. This can be proven both by the trust Lennie, who is symbolically the American Dream, places in George, and by the way Lennie needs George to succeed.
When George kills Lennie at the end of the novel, Steinbeck symbolically shows that by leaving your American Dream to faith and hard work is no longer something that Americans can do. Curley’s wife also had an American dream that ended in failure. She has the dream of becoming a movie star. She said that she “coulda been a movie star and have nice clothes and all of that-” (90). She had a tragic story: a young girl with a talent for acting who is forced to live in isolation on a farm married to a man she doesn’t love. This is one of the most blatant allusions to the fact that the American dream is no longer achievable.
Her story shows that opportunities are no longer easy to follow, and that society makes it difficult to succeed, especially for women. Steinbeck also supports this conclusion in his Nobel Prize Speech. When he speaks about the duties of authors he says, “He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement” (“Banquet Speech”). Steinbeck refers to his belief that the American Dream has become a corrupted ideal, and that it is his duty as an author to reveal that to the American public.
The phrase “dark and dangerous dreams” is references that American Dream, which has changed from its originally pristine beliefs into something that has the possibility to destroy. The character of Curley’s Wife is used by Steinbeck to illustrate his point that the American Dream has been corrupted. Throughout the book, Steinbeck uses characters with small roles to help point out his beliefs. He often uses these characters to illustrate his belief in the uncertainty of the American Dream. For example, Slim talks about how he “ain’t neven seen two guys traveling together before.
I don’t know why, maybe everybody in the whole damn world’s just scared of each other” (34). In this passage Steinbeck uses Slim to comment on how two guys traveling together is strange. The reason he gives is that people in the world are scared of each other. This can be related back to the American Dream. For a dream to succeed, you need help. The reason no one’s American Dreams are succeeding is because they don’t receive help from each other. Curley’s Wife never got help to fulfill her dream, so it never succeeded.
Steinbeck echoes this sentiment in a part of his Nobel Prize speech, “Humanity has been passing through a gray and desolate time of confusion” (“Banquet Speech”). From this quote, Steinbeck is saying that he believes that we are passing through a time without the ability to fulfill dreams. Gray and desolate implies that there are no dreams that exist. Another time a minor character shows Steinbeck’s beliefs about the American Dream is when Crooks and Lennie talk about the farm where Lennie wants to live on with George. Crooks says, “you’re nuts.
I’ve seen hundreds of men come by on the roads an’ on the ranches with their bindles on their backs an’ the same damn thing in their heads” (72). In that line, Steinbeck basically condenses all of his beliefs into one phrase. He states that the American Dream is just a dream, and that those who believe otherwise are deluding themselves. The American Dream began as a simple belief that those on the bottom of society had the potential to move up and become something better. In the book Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck shows that this is no longer the case. He represents this symbolically through Lennie and George’s relationship and outcome.
He also proves this with character of Curley’s Wife, by showing that the American dream is hard to gain, even with opportunity, and especially if you don’t have support. Finally, he uses his background characters to make his point with small phrases that warn the characters and the readers of the dangers of the American Dream. By extinguishing Lennie, George’s, and Curley’s Wife’s American Dream, as well as using the sentiment of the minor characters when these dreams are discussed, have shown that Steinbeck believes that the American Dream is no longer an achievable goal in American society.