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The ‘American Dream’ is presented as being unattainable in John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men. This is predominantly evident in the case of George, Lennie, Candy, Crooks and Curley’s wife. All of these characters admit to fantasising about the ‘American Dream’; untarnished happiness and the freedom to pursue their dreams.
George and Lennie’s dream of owning land is unattainable as a result of Lennie’s careless actions caused by his ignorance of his physical strength. George constantly cautions Lennie not to retaliate if harassed. However, George knew it was inevitable that Lennie would act carelessly, thus endanger their dream. This is evident when George realises that Lennie has murdered Curley’s wife: “-I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we’d never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would” (Steinbeck, 2006, p.107). This portrays the doubt and uncertainty George had regarding his dream and the fact that he would never be successful in owning land. The ‘American Dream’, for George and Lennie, was unattainable due to Lennie’s careless actions that caused George to murder Lennie and, consequently eradicated their dream.
Candy’s dream of owning land with companions to avoid becoming solitary, with the assistance of George and Lennie, was shattered when George murdered Lennie. Unlike George, Candy believed that the ‘American Dream’ was within his reach from the initiation of the plan. However, after George murdered Lennie, all hope was lost. This is evident when Candy sceptically asked George if he still has the intention to purchase the land after slaughtering Lennie:
“Then-it’s all off?” Candy asked sulkily. George didn’t answer his … question. George said, “I’ll work my month an’ I’ll take my fifty bucks an’ I’ll stay all night in some lousy cat house. Or I’ll set in some poolroom til ever’body goes home. An’ then I’ll come back an’ work another month an’ I’ll have fifty bucks more.” (Steinbeck, 2006, p.107).
George’s response to Candy’s question indirectly implies that George has resigned his. George has given up, making him and Candy no different to those people who waste their time and money in brothels for futile amusements as a result of lonely misery.
Crooks’ views the ‘American Dream’ as an unachievable objective. The visualisation of owning land and becoming self-sufficient was a modest ask, however, for many this was impossible because of the depression that occurred in 1937. Crooks’ states that he has heard numerous people have the same dream, however, never acquire a piece of land. For example, when Crooks strongly opposes the idea of Lennie and George reaching their dream, owning land:
“You’re nuts.” Crooks was scornful. “I seen hunderds of men … come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads. Hunderds of them. They come, an’ they quit an’ go on; 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’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It’s just in their head. They’re all the time talkin’ about it, but it’s jus’ in their head.” (Steinbeck, 2006, p.83-84).
This is one of the most powerful messages in the novel illustrating that the American Dream is unattainable. George and Lennie were never alone in the sense that every American has the dream of land in their minds, and every single person will result like every other, as they are all destined to fail. Crooks’ statement has reinforced Steinbeck’s intent on showing that the ‘American Dream’ is unachievable.
Curley’s wife dream of becoming an actress in Hollywood is unfeasible for the reason that she has resigned herself to an unfulfilling marriage. She imagines how great it would be to stay in fancy hotels, own several elegant dresses and have people wanting to take her photograph. She desires friendship, fame and financial security though her dream differs from the dream of the men. Her marriage with Curley has restricted her from interacting with men and most importantly, accomplishing her dreams: “[â€¦] I can’t talk to nobody but Curley[â€¦] I coulda made somethin’ of myself [â€¦] [Curley’s wife] doesn’t like Curley[â€¦] Coulda been in the movies, an’ had nice clothes-all them nice clothes like they wear. An’ I coulda sat in them big hotels, an’ had pitchers took of me.” (Steinbeck, 2006, p.98-100). From this it can be deduced that her marital relationship with Curley has made her lonely because she cannot interact with the ranch hands, only with Curley who is always working and, her standards of living would have improved if she had pursued her dream of becoming an actress. The ‘American Dream’ of the freedom to pursue ones dreams is made unreachable for Curley’s wife because she has married Curley depriving her of freedom to do so.
In John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, the ‘American Dream’ is presented as being unattainable for a number of characters. The dreams of the characters have been hindered by many factors that have made them unachievable. In George’s, Lennie’s, Candy’s case the ‘American Dream’ was not possible as a result of Lennie’s ignorance and recklessness. Crooks views that the dream of owning land to be self-sufficient is the typical dream of an American worker, however, owning the land is impossible. Steinbeck is intent on showing that the ‘American Dream’ is unattainable by providing the message that those who have the dream of untarnished happiness and the freedom to pursue their dreams will fail in brotherhood of desperation and disappointment.
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