The American Dream: the idea that anyone, regardless of their background, can find success through hard-work and determination. One major theme that Steinbeck explores in Of Mice and Men, is whether or not the American Dream is achievable, or realistic. Steinbeck uses the characters George, Lennie,and Curley’s wife to deliver his pessimistic take on this theme, that is, while the American Dream can have a purpose, it is essentially false hope.
While Steinbeck believes dreams to be an important factor in keeping us inspired and hopeful, he does not think it’s achievable. Throughout the novel, we, as readers, are shown time and time again, the characters’ failure to achieve their dreams. This is shown specifically in George, Lennie and Curley’s wife. George and Lennie’s dream is introduced in the first section, when Lennie interrupts George to show his excitement, saying, “An live off the fatta the lan’…An’ have rabbits” (Steinbeck 14). This dream of the pair owning their own farm is mentioned quite a few more times in the following sections, even up until Lennie’s last moments, when George brings it up in an effort to calm them both down. He tells Lennie that they’re “gonna get a little place” (Steinbeck 105). For George and Lennie, their dream allowed them a future, something to work towards, which was especially helpful for Lennie, because it kept him focused, and encouraged him not to do “bad things”, as George would say. However, despite the focus and perspective their dream may have given them in the moment, ultimately, it failed, and Lennie died. For the novel to end with Lennie’s death, and a mention of George and Lennie’s farm leading up to the killing, shows what Steinbeck truly believed about the American Dream, that it is unachievable, and unrealistic.
That being said, George and Lennie are not the only characters that help to convey Steinbeck’s take on the American Dream, in fact they are just two of many. Another character whose story is equally as powerful, is Curley’s wife. Curley’s wife dreams of being a famous actress, but instead she is married to a farmer’s son and known only by her relationship to her husband. In section 5, she confessed to Lennie, soon before he killed her, “I don’ like like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella,” (Steinbeck 89) and continued, “Coulda been in the movies, an’ had nice clothes” (Steinbeck 89). Despite this dream Curley’s wife held on to, she still died so far from it, in a barn, on a pile of hay, wife to a man she despised. For Curley’s wife, this dream kept her sane, it kept her wanting more, believing there was more than being someone’s wife, but in the end, none of it mattered. John Steinbeck created Curley’s wife to be yet another example of the impossible idea that is the American Dream.
Each character in Of Mice and Men provides a unique story that contribute to the book’s overall sense of hopelessness and the theme of unattainable dreams. Steinbeck created every one of his characters to have a different history, but made each one to reinforce the idea that the American Dream is a fallacy. Steinbeck has found the American Dream to be just that, a dream.
...(download the rest of the essay above)