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Of Mice and Men- The American Dream

Updated on June 21, 2011

The American Dream

This is a lens on the American Dream present in "Of Mice and Men", summarising and analysing how it changes throughout the novella. It contains key quotes which portray different aspects of different characters dreams. It is common in most GCSE Literature past papers to include questions on the American Dream. This is only to give you ideas of what you can write, so please do not copy and use all of it in school essays.

The American Dream

‘The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States of America in which democratic ideals are perceived as a promise of prosperity for its people’

This quotation accurately identifies the important aspects of the ‘American Dream’ which manifest in ‘Of Mice and Men’. It incorporates the democratic system America prided itself on. There was such a strong attachment to the idea of independence and having a democratic government because of the ‘American Revolution’. It gave the American people control of the government and their country after being a colony of Britain since the Americas were colonised in the late 16th Century.

It was believed anybody could achieve the ‘American Dream’ which brought many immigrants to America during the 19th and 20th century (mainly White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) came to the country to achieve this dream). They were encouraged in the 1920s by the period of ‘Roaring Twenties’ in America.

It is a widely believed however that the American Dream is miss leading and in fact there is no certainty of success which America tried to imply. They did this in order to attract immigrants to what is still a low population (compared to its size).

Lennie’s (and George’s) Dream

During the book there are many references to Lennie’s dream to have a patch of land to have pups and rabbits. This George’s interpretation of the dream:

“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”

This dream acts as an inspiration for the two itinerant workers to achieve better things and be independent from ranch worker bosses. Not only this but it gives the reader an interest in the outcome for the workers and whether they will achieve this – an important technique used by Steinbeck to involve the reader.

Parallels between their dream and the American Dream are clearly apparent. With a farm of their own they should achieve prosperity and become more individual, relying less on getting work on ranches. Lennie regards this opportunity for prosperity as very important due to his care not to do anything to upset George and ruin the dream, although inevitably this dream is threatened through his actions.

The End of the Dream

The dream ends with Lennie killing Curley’s wife. Leading up to this is many other smaller events such as killing a mouse and a pup which foreshadow the killing. Crooks also foresaw the dream not coming true when he pulls out of the dream with the reason that nobody ever achieves their dreams, “I see hundreds 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…An’ never a God damn one of ‘em gets it.”

Lennie’s dream was very fragile. It required a piece of suitable land to be found, Candy to provide money and for Lennie to behave. This could symbolise the fragility of the American Dream which needs several turns of luck to be met by anybody. It is certainly not achievable by anybody.

The Impact of Society

Society at the time was very prejudice. Crooks was clearly discriminated in the novella because of his colour. The same was thought of mentally disabled people as well. They were seen as less important, and instantly had judgements made against them. Lennie’s failure mirrors the failure of others at the times who were disadvantaged and, like Lennie, could never make it in America at that time. The strong affect of society can also be seen in the scene with Candy’s dog and the pressure on George to shoot Lennie.

Other Ranch Worker’s View

There was never any evidence of other ranch workers having any sort of dream which could be referred to as ‘their American Dream’. More evidence that the dream was seen by many at the time, despite America sending out a different message, that the dream was unattainable.

Do you think Candy and George should have continued the dream after the death of Lennie?

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John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men summary

This video module is about the Of Mice and Men summary.

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