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“Of Mice and Men’’ is one of the Steinbeck’s novellas that focuses on the history of migrants workers in the history of America. It was published in 1937; this was a time towards the end of the great depression that took place in the America nation. It was an era when the American economy collapsed; many people lost their jobs which lead to despair and poverty. However, it was also an era of Americans great dreams. The novella’s geographical setting is in Soledad California in the Salinas valleys. Steinbeck uses objective third person point of view, a direct and simple language which makes it possible for the readers to easily read the mind of the characters. Throughout the storyline, the author shows compassion to his characters but with no happy ending to them all. Steinbeck writes this novella in a view of a world through a depressing naturalism. He uses the theme of dreams, its importance and the role it plays in the characters lives, how dreams affect the character's behavior together with their personality. The characters are in a mutual relationship but are isolated in one way or another. They are presented to have big dreams of being self-sufficient, to escape and have a better life but the real idea is that their dreams will never be factual.
The story title “Of Mice and Men’’ of course can be predicted to have been derived from Robert Burns Poem’s, “To a Mouse’’ In his poem, Burns is portrayed as a plowman who has disturbed a timid mouse hibernating nest. In a dialect, he reflects on an ill-fated lot of his poor earth-born companion. He sympathizes on such unfortunate creatures as he reflects on how fate is always against them.
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain’
For promised joy!’’ (Stephen and Steinbeck)
“Of Mice and Men” story rotates around dreams. Decisions are made based on dreams. The author puts emphasis on this main theme by the storyline, the characters actions as well as their personality. The story opens with two migrant’s guys; George and Lennie who have opposite characteristics, however, they possess a unique relationship. Lennie is a tragic superman who is simple minded. George, on the other hand, has got a good brain. These two opposite relationships have got a dream to own a farm together. Their greatest challenge is how to begin. They have left Weed town in search of a good paying job in order to accomplish their dream. Through George’s dialogue with Slim, we find that the two friends left Weed since Lennie got into trouble and therefore, feared to face the consequences. “Well, that girl rabbits n an’ tells the law she has been raped. The guys in Weed start a party out to lynch Lennie. So we sit in an irrigation ditch under water all the rest of that day. Got on’y our heads sticking outa water, an up under the grass that sticks out from the side of the ditch. An’ that night we scramble outa there” (Steinbeck 22). On the other hand, dreams, and goals seems to be a source of happiness to George and Lennie. Through dreams, they are optimistic of a better life, despite their present hardship, they cheer themselves up by saying “O.K. Someday-were 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. “An’ have rabbits. Go on, George! Tell about what we’re are gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is on the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that, George.” (Men and Steinbeck) This enthusiasm indicates the joy that their dream brings into their life.
The character’s actions and personality are affected by their dreams. In an attempt to accomplish their dreams, they end up in actions that result in regrets. It is ironical that dreams which should act as a basis of strength for the characters contribute more to their weakness hence leading to their deadly actions. When Curley’s wife and Lenny chat as they share their dreams, they stay a bit longer which was against the law by that time as married women were not allowed to stay or intermingle with men. Curley decides to make that decision of going against the law in order to achieve her dream of making friends. Lennie said, “Well, I ain’t supposed to talk to you or nothing.”
“I get lonely, “she said. “You can talk to people, but I can’t talk to nobody?”
Lennie said, “Well, I ain’t supposed to. George’s scared I’ll get in trouble.” (Steinbeck 43). This clearly indicates the woman’s emptiness, loneliness, and extreme sadness; she would rather risk a bad decision of staying longer with Lennie which is against the law in order to achieve her dream without considering the consequences.
Later on, Lenny hurts Curley’s wife. When she screams, Lenny makes a decision to cover the woman’s mouth so that the sound could not be heard by George as he would get annoyed and exclude Lennie in their dream of owning land; and accomplishing their dream. “Lenny began to cry with fright. “Oh! Please don’t do none of that,” he begged. George gonna say I done a bad thing. He ain’t gonna let me tend no rabbits.” ….. “And she continued to struggle, and her eyes were wild with terror. He shook her then, and she was hungry with her. “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” (Steinbeck 45). Lennie is so blinded by his dreams such that he does not want anybody to stand on his “dream way” he is careless in his actions, his main priority is to achieve his dreams and he proves that he can do anything to achieve this even if it can cost him to sacrifice a human being.
On the hand, the characters seem to be depressed and not living up to the life that they yearn for; even though, their dreams motivate them to work harder. This is evidenced in George as he speaks out in chapter one page fifteen; he says “Guys like you, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They go no family. They don’t belong no place…… “With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit-in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all nobody gives a damn about us.” This clearly indicates George’s determinations and goals to achieve his dreams. He has a strong belief in his dreams and feels motivated and therefore, strives to achieve them.
Dreams also play an important role to mold the characters in their decisions, dialogue, actions, behavior, and personalities. The characters in “Of Mice and Man” make their dreams as the first priority which in turn changes their way of thinking and behaviors. Their dialogues are impacted by what they say which is only for their own benefit rather than refraining from that which can cause trouble. From George’s dialogue with Lennie, it is clear that his dreams have effects on his personality. When George answers all question asked to Lenny, Curly lashes at him rudely saying, “By Christ, he’s gotta talk when he’s spoke to. What the hell are you getting’ into it for?” George then replies unemotionally which symbolizes him of being tolerance. For the sake of his dream, he speaks coldly not to stir up any fight that could lead to him losing his job. Crook on the hand, also has his personality affected. His dreams are the source of his misery. At some point, he says to have lost everything that he ever had. He has lost hope of achieving his dreams and therefore has accepted the ill-fated reality in his life. In return, he is bitter and pessimistic he has also kept a distance from people. He, therefore, does not look up to a better future.”I ain’t a Southern Negro….. I was born right here in California. My old man had a chicken ranch.”bout ten acres. The white kids come to play at our place, an’ sometimes I went to play with them, and some of them was pretty nice. My ol’ man din’t like that. I never knew till long later…but now I know” (Steinbeck 79). He starts his talk happily but ends in sorrow. Cooks too had a dream, The American dream, as evidenced in the quotation, Crooks lost it all. He is well educated and yearning to fit in the society and even make friends but since he is black, this puts him down. That’s why he alienates himself. In chapter four he shuts Lenny out when she comes to see him. He has to oblige to the rules, however, since Crooks understands what it means to make friends and lose them, he compromises by letting Lenny go together with him when the rest had left. “Lenny smiled helplessly in an attempt to make friends. Crooks said sharply “You got no right to come in my room. This here’s my room. Nobody got any right in here but me… I ain’t wanted in the bunkhouse, and you ain’t wanted in my room” why ain’t you wanted” Lenny asked “ause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I tink… ..”(“Of Mice and Men”)
In conclusion, “Of Mice and Men” narrows all the events to the main theme of the dream. Its importance and the role it plays and how it affects the characters life. John Steinbeck through the character’s actions brings out the importance of dreams as a source of motivation during life challenges as well as miseries. However, some characters are weakened by dreams and even end up killing in order to accomplish their dreams. Others use dreams as a source of happiness. All the events are controlled by dreams including their fate. At the end of it all, all the characters have a dream doomed to fall, as evidenced by the author, no character lived to achieve his dream. They all ended up in misery.
"Of Mice and Men". En.Wikipedia.Org, 2018,
Martin, and John Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men. Longman, 2010.
Stephen, Martin, and John Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men. Longman, 2010.
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