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American Dream in 'Of Mice and Men'

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John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is set in 1929 when the Great Depression brought about a disintegrating economy, dustbowls, and crop failure of the US leading to her enormous economic depression. The novella illustrates a story in which different characters that suffer through the negative influences of the economy, views their individualized American Dreams as extremely vital, to an extent where it acts as their only motivating force. At the end of the novella, all of the characters have failed to achieve their dreams, mocking the unattainability of the dream. 

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The American Dream is the national ethos that paints the idealized life of prosperity and freedom for every American. Steinbeck presents the concept of the American Dream thoroughly through the nature of the illusion, people’s perception of the delusion, and the unattainability of the dream. First of all, the illustration of the nature of the dream presents a tragic sense of absurdity. Lennie and George’s American Dream involves having a “vegetable patch” and “chickens”, reflecting how basic necessities are seen as a dream, reflecting how the collapse of the economy gave rise to a deficiency of resources and declining quality of life. This emphasizes how the effects of the Great Depression has penetrated through each American’s life, causing a normal life of warmth to become dreamlike, yielding a melancholic atmosphere. Curley’s Wife’s dream of being in a “movie” and Lennie’s dream of having a “farm” with “rabbits” stresses how the American dream is widespread and individualized, provoking different perceptions and illusions, hurling different groups of people in the society to fall into the chasm of the deception, bearing a sense of dread. Curley’s Wife later says that “a guy” said that she “was a natural”, encouraging her to realize her unattainable aspirations. 

Steinbeck reveals how the American Dream involves different people motivating and assisting each other to believe in the deception and to realize a cooperative narrative together, implying the preposterous nature of the dream. Hence, the author discloses the horrendous environment at the time and mocks the illusion, influencing the reader’s thoughts on the American Dream. Moreover, Steinbeck portrays the American Dream as a deception that acts as a source of motivation in the character’s ceaseless toils and fatigues. During the fall of the economy, many worked as itinerant workers, doing physically demanding jobs just to ensure that they have enough pay to sustain their life. As Lennie and George headed to their second ranch, George said “it ain’t like that” for them and that they “got a future”, affirming their belief that they can achieve the impossible. 

This implies how the dream of having a better “future” gives worth and importance to George and Lennie and allows them to differentiate themselves from others. “We got a future” also reflects people of the society think that they are continuously progressing towards the dream while they are actually marching on the spot, evoking a sense of concern. Before the killing, George told Lennie to “look across the river” and said that he “can almost see” their dreamland, implying how the dream is like an optical illusion that seems to be so close and effortlessly reached but is actually far away and unrealizable. Lennie “giggled with happiness” when he talked about the dream prior to his demise. The fact that he “giggled” suggests how he is blinded by the overwhelming colours of the illusion. He is intoxicated by the indulgence of self-deceit to an extent where he is unable to be aware of the near danger, arousing a sense of pity and horror. The repetition of “go on” as Lennie asks George to continue talking about their ideal dream implies how the dream acts like a drug, releasing one from his agony, providing pleasure, and causing addiction that hypnotizes one into falling deeper into the spell of it. 

Thus, Steinbeck reflects on how the people of the society has willingly fallen into the delusion of the American Dream and tries to awaken the truth behind its appealing surface of it through the novella. Furthermore, Steinbeck emphasizes the unattainability of the dream through the character’s descriptions of the dream. George describes that the dream will be achieved “someday”. The unspecified statement shows the lack of planning of the characters and the impossible nature of the dream, foreshadowing how “someday” will never come, evoking a sense of implausibility. 

The American Dream is defined by the freedom, equality, and prosperity of any American. Here, it is illustrated that the people of the society do not even have the freedom to choose to “work” or not when “it rains in the winter” and that they are not even able to build a “stove”, mocking the impracticality of the dream, arousing a sense of hopelessness. “Fire” connotes temporary warmth and insubstantiality, implying the unrealistic nature of the dream. The repetition of the talk of dreams at the beginning and the end of the play shows how people of the society are entrapped in the delusion entirely. This implies how people who thought that they were living and dying for their aspirations were actually living for nothing but a fatal deception and fallen prey for the delusion, bringing forth a sense of disquietude. Hence, the author portrays how the American Dream is nothing more than a dream, prompting a sense of unattainability. 

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To conclude, the author presents the dream as absurd, deceptive, and infeasible, deriding the empty promise that fails to realize the hopes of many. This reflects his disillusionment with the American Dream that causes his yearning to provoke thought and to warn the readers.  

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American Dream In ‘Of Mice and Men’. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 3, 2023, from
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