The Pursuit Of The American Dream In John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men

2053 words - 8 pages

Of Mice and Men is a short novel about the story of two migrant workers who are best friends during the Great Depression (Goldhurst 49). The setting is the Salinas Valley in California, and the majority of the characters are unskilled migratory workers who do what their name implies. They travel from towns and ranches and farms looking for work and eventually move on to find another job. John Steinbeck puts the spotlight on two migratory workers who dream to finally settle down by saving money to buy their own land. One of the main characters is George Milton, a smart, small, sensitive, and kindhearted man, who is the leader of the duo. The other main character is Lennie Small, who is oversized, mentally challenged, physically powerful, and inclined to getting into serious trouble. Towards the beginning of the story the twosome’s dream seems were distant, but as the story goes on they meet people who make the likelihood of their success within their reach. With the help of their new friends they plan to quit the ranch where they are currently working and move to their own land. Steinbeck refers to this place as a place of abundance and a refuge from the hardships of life. Overall this story is about the nature of man’s fate in a fallen world. John Steinbeck’s use of diction, dialect, and characterization in Of Mice and Men shows how the different themes of the story shape a person’s life.
One of the most common themes throughout the novel is the pursuit of the American Dream. Of Mice and Men is a novel of defeated hope and the harsh reality of the American Dream (Van Kirk 1). The American Dream is to have a place of your own, the opportunity to work for yourself, to reach your full potential, and to be recognized in a good way (1). Dreaming was most prevalent during this time, the Depression era, because it was the only thing that kept people going. An anonymous quote is that “Dreaming is humanity’s only defense against an indifferent world” (Of Mice and Men (Themes) 1). George’s and Lennie’s dream was to own a farm, to have rabbits, to be their own boss, and as Lennie would say to “live off the fatta tha lan” (Owens 145). A central metaphor in Steinbeck’s work is that America is represented as an imperfect world, a Garden of Eden (Hadella 34). George’s and Lennie’s dream of a little farm is a vision of Eden that has been recognized as an important part of the American dream theme in Of Mice and Men. Their dream is a vision of Eden in that they are sons of Cain (Owens 145). The dream of George and Lennie represents a desire to defy the curse of Cain and fallen man to break the pattern of wandering and loneliness imposed on the outcasts and to return to the perfect garden (146). The California valley setting dictates that the stories “will take place in a fallen world and that the quest for the illusive and illusory Eden will be of central thematic significance” (Hadella 34). But according to Owens, “The good life is impossible because...

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