"O.K. Someday—we're 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 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." (119-123) “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck is a novel about the American Dream. Steinbeck mixes emotions by telling a cold hard truth about the U.S. in the 1930s. In Steinbeck’s world, working men like George and Lennie have a hard time to shape their own lives. Many times, working men had to move from job to job trying to save enough money to buy their own land. Unfortunately, back then many men took their money to the bar to spend on alcohol or hookers or they gambled away their paychecks. In the book George says, “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.” (pg 113) This quote is a perfect example of the lives of working men in the 1930s.
George and Lennie’s dream to buy land, farm, and keep rabbits is the typical American dream in the 1930s. In Steinbeck’s vision, George and Lennie never had a chance of accomplishing their goal. Every time George and Lennie had something going well for themselves, Lennie would mess it up for them by doing something to upset someone with his lack of knowledge on what was okay and what wasn’t. This would force them to move from job to job, like many working men in that time period. Steinbeck believed the 1930s was a nearly impossible time period to make a life for oneself.
George talks a lot about owning a farm, but also mentions staying in a cathouse or sitting in a pool house if not for Lennie. The American dream in “Of Mice and Men” involves having money and spending it on whatever the heart desires. Most dream of owning their own farm land and working for no one but themselves. Others only care to gamble away their pay check or spend it on hookers to fill the lonely void they feel in their lives. Pretty much, the American dream was hoping and wishing for all the things you don’t have, or for happiness. I feel that male companionship is portrayed as a rarity in the novel. Not only are men expected to travel alone, many times when men would travel together so one could pull the other’s salary from beneath him. Male companionship in the novel is portrayed as one being dead weight to the other. For George, Lennie was somewhat of a burden on him, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish his dream while working with Lennie because he kept messing things up for them. Steinbeck meant the novel to describe male companionship as a weakness in the 1930s.
In “Of Mice and Men” Steinbeck portrays women as both idiots and sluts. Candy is believed to always be running around looking for a man to fool around with behind her husband’s back. She’s also described as very air headed and sneaky, but mostly whorish. Steinbeck depicts that men were dominant to the progress of the U.S. He implies that men were harder working than women. He suggests that women were mostly good for looks and making babies.
In the very beginning of his novel, Steinbeck introduces Lennie as compared to a bear, “...and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws.”(pg 2) Throughout the story of Lennie and George, Steinbeck compares Lennie to animals to color how readers respond to him, and to affect how much we hold him accountable for his actions. Steinbeck also uses an animal comparison to describe Lennie and George’s relationship, "Slowly, like a terrier who doesn't want to bring a ball to its master, Lennie approached, drew back, approached again." (pg 9) Throughout the whole, Steinbeck is trying to explain how innocent and simple-minded Lennie is.
Even from the very beginning, one can clearly tell that George cares for Lennie and has a fierce desire to protect his friend. Readers begin to realize that George has the ability to grow as a person when he holds his conversation with Slim, admitting that he used to abuse Lennie for his own amusement. From this experience, George learned it isn’t right to prey on the weak and defenseless. Through the novel, George is forced to realize that the world is made to prey on the weak, survival of the fittest. In the beginning, George is a dreamer and truly believes the story he tells Lennie. Eventually, George begins to see a darker image, that life is cruel. When he shoots Lennie to save him from a harsh death sure to be given him by Curly and his mob, he puts to rest his dream of owning his own farm. It is believed Lennie was the reason that George was a believer. Steinbeck believed the world to be a cruel and merciless place in the 1930s. He believed human nature to be forbidding and unpleasant.
In conclusion, I believe Steinbeck to be a bit of a pessimist regarding the 1930s. He believes everything to be in a dark place, to be cruel and harmful. He believes the weak couldn’t stand a chance at survival during the Depression. He believes human nature to be unkind and destructive. It’s clear that Steinbeck did not find the world to have much or any happiness in it, no mercy, only doom and gloom.
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