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A mouse and a human. When those two creatures are brought up, there is not much of a connection. Are there possible similarities that might be between what is considered the most powerful mammal on Earth and a tiny mouse? In 1785, a famous poem titled “To a Mouse” was written by Robert Burns. His poem explored and considered the similarities of the life of a mouse to that of a human’s. Burns expresses a trend in all lives by writing, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go askew, and leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy”. This line echoes the reality of many people who dream of something, planning it out and striving towards it, and just when it seems in the realm of becoming true, it slips out of reach, leaving the dreamer with a life of regret and sorrow. This profound analysis made by Robert Burns prompts the reader to realize that the life of what might seem as an insignificant mouse has a deep connection with the lives of all humans, big or small, particularly the characters in the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, which follows the life of various people whose plans and dreams drifted off course that then afflicted a life of sadness and misery.
In the novel Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck shows how a character ’s hunger, thirst, and restless chasing of a dream eventually leads to their downfall through his characters. First of all, the first scenario where Steinbeck integrates Burn’s quote into the lives of his characters is with Curley’s wife. Curley’s wife has a dream of being an actress in the movies and explains to Lennie how she was told that she “would go with that show. But my ol’ lady wouldn’ let me. But the guy says I coulda. And if I went, I wouldn’t be livin’ like this, you bet. . . ’Nother time I met a guy, and’ he was in the pitchers. . . he says he was gonna put me in the movies. Says I was a natural. Soon’s he got back to Hollywood he was gonna write to met about it. . . coulda been in the movies, an’ had nice clothes-all them nice clothes that they wear. An’ I coulda sat in them big hotels, an’ had pitchers taken of me” (88). This dream is obviously is coming from the part of Curley’s wife that longs for attention, the feeling of importance, respect, specialness, and the thirst to make something out of herself. She longs to escape the ranch and particularly the isolation and loneliness associated with it and gain fame and recognition.
However, when the letter from the man did not come, she was quick to blame her mom for unfulfillment of her dream by saying, “I always thought my ol’ lady stole it. Well, I wasn’t gonna stay no place where I couldn’t get nowhere or make something of myself, an’ where they stole your letters. I ast her if she stole it, too, an’ she says no. So I married Curley. Met him our to the Riverside Dance Palace that same night. . . I don’ like Curley, he ain’t a nice fella” (88). Curley’s wife married Curley to get away from her mother whom she has believed to have spoiled her chances of becoming famous. By doing this, Curley’s wife has now committed herself to a life full of loneliness and dissatisfaction with her marriage, but most of all, the aching for her dream that never came true. Therefore, the second she gives escapes to the ranch and marries Curley, her dream died and she could no longer pursue. Nonetheless, Curley’s wife is not the only character that experiences the pain and sorrow of a plan and scheme that did not go as planned. Secondly, Candy undergoes a similar flow of events similar to Curley’s wife. Candy started by having an idealistic version of the American version that he, Lennie, and George were going to live out by owning a ranch and that “everybody wans’ a little bit of land, not much. Jus’ som’thin’ that was his. Somethin’ he could live on and there couldn’t nobody throw him off of it. I never had none. I planted crops for damn near ever’body in this state, but they wasn’t my crops, and when I harvested ‘Em it wasn’t none of my harvest. But we [Candy, George, and Lennie] gonna do it now, and don’t make no mistake about that” (76).
Candy joins George and Lennie’s dream to go live on a ranch because he, for a short while, believed that at long last he could achieve the American Dream where freedom and independence were finally possible. He also clings and attaches himself onto George and Lennie’s dream out of sheer fear that just like his dog, who had been old and of no use got cast away by others, he would too. Candy’s willingness and eagerness to come along with Lennie and George reflects his fear at being cast out as an outsider and being lonely, he holds on to George and Lennie’s dream where he could be of use and needed. Yet, after Curley’s wife has died, Candy came to the realization of what the outcome of Lennie’s action would mean for his dream and lamenting that he “could of hoed the garden and washed dishes for them guys’. . . If they were a circus or a baseball game. . . we could of jus’ went to her. . . jus’ said ‘ta hell with work, an’ went to her. Never ast nobody’s say so. . . an’ they’d of been a pig and chickens. . . an’ in the winter. . . the little fat stove. . . an’ the rain comin’. . . an’ us jus’ setting there. ’ His eyes blinded with tears and he turned and went weakly out of the barn” (94). Candy did not feel any pity for Curley’s wife, but felt extreme hatred and utter and complete devastation. The failure of the American dream caused Candy to suffer from a severe disappointment and would leave him the rest of his life mourning the failure of his greatest scheme. Curley’s wife and Candy both had plans they desperately wanted to fulfill, but as a result of the world they live in and the nature of life, their dreams were replaced with pain and sorrow, leaving them pining for their lost dreams for the rest of their lives.
In conclusion, in the same way Steinbeck’s characters Curley’s wife and Candy dealt with the hurt and sadness of not achieving their dreams that were carefully planned, the same holds true in real life when plans do not go the way we expect or want them to go. It is okay and healthy to grieve the loss of a dream once held so close, but it is absolutely not okay to let the death of a dream automatically yield a life full of desolation and melancholy. Instead, the suffering and pain caused should be taken as an opportunity to grow. It is not trials and hardships of life that make people stronger and builds character. It is all about how we conduct ourselves and what we choose to do with our lives- either spiral down an endless path of misery, or take it as a growing opportunity. Furthermore, it is how we react to them, what we do to keep optimistic, how we do not let a downfall define who we are and how we spend the rest of our life, that builds authentic character and true resilience. So, next time an outcome takes a negative turn, people must remember to keep their greatest successes and triumphs of life close and as a symbol of hope, but the heartaches and particularly the lessons learned even closer. Everybody’s lives will have plans and schemes that are replaced with grief, whether that be a small mouse, a lion, or even humans, but how you respond to them will determine if you come out victorious.
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