Monday, January 13, 2020

Many of the characters in ‘Of Mice and Men’ have dreams Essay

Many of the characters in ‘Of Mice and Men’ have dreams. What are their dreams and how near are any of them to achieving what they want? ‘Of Mice and Men’, written by John Steinbeck is a classic novel set in a ranch town in Salinas Valley, California. The novel may have been set here as a result of most of Steinbeck’s childhood being spent on his father’s farmland. His descriptions of the setting will have been aided by his first hand experience of the ranches of the area. The novel itself documents the lives of Lennie Small and George Milton. With Lennie being mentally challenged he has the psychological capabilities of a five year old. This means he has to be cared for by George because he acts childish and irresponsibly. For this reason, he often causes commotion within the ranch he is working. On many occasions disruption has occurred and occurs, George and Lennie are forced to leave their current ranch and start again at a new one. As they are always moving around, they never have a secure job and are always staying in temporary accommodation. With each time they move to a different ranch they dream more and more of having their own piece of land where they can be their own bosses and live off the crops they grow. This is shown by this quote, â€Å"†¦and we can live off the fatta the lan'† said by George. This is only one of the many dreams that feature in ‘Of Mice and Men’, however not one of the dreams featured in this novel are achieved. This reflected the harsh reality of the ‘Great Depression’ and the racial prejudice in society at the time. Steinbeck set ‘Of Mice and Men’ during the ‘Great Depression’, in the late 1920’s and the 1930’s. Many migrants came to California, from other parts of the world looking for work as America was seen as the ‘Land of Opportunity’. This glimpse of hope inspired many Europeans to emigrate as Europe, at the time, was overcrowded and disease ridden. America was believed to provide cheap land and no rigid class structure existed. These characteristics gave Europeans the chance of a completely different way of life to what they were used to. In 1929, America entered a prolonged period of economic deprivation due to the collapse of the New York stock exchange, ‘The Wall Street Crash’. Following ‘The Wall Street Crash’, many Americans who had invested great deals of money into stocks and shares lost almost all of their investments. In some cases, people would have lost their houses and life savings. During ‘The Great Depression’, failed businesses and long-term unemployment were of the norm. The hopes of those immigrants, who came to America looking for a new life, were dashed by this tragic event. America was certainly not the ‘Land of Opportunity’. George and Lennie travelled from ranch to ranch together. This was unusual as most ranch workers would only usually work at one ranch for no longer than a month or two. They would literally not have the time for friendship. This was one of the reasons that the average workers dream was for some sort of companionship. The fact that George and Lennie had travelled together so long is significant as they lived the dream of so many other workers. It would give them the chance of having an alternative dream, one of owning their own land on which they could live off. When travelling from ranch to ranch workers could not carry many possessions and so had nothing to show for their years of working. They would work and work but not really achieve much. They would spend the money they earned and then earn some more and repeat. This is illustrated in the quote, â€Å" up a stake and blow the stake†. A dream would be important as it would give a worker something to work towards instead of working with no real direction in their life. Many of the characters in the novel have dreams. The dream is a form of escape from reality of life. As previously stated, George and Lennie’s dream is to have a piece of land that they can call their own, tend it, grow crops and raise animals. However, Lennie specifically dreams of caring for rabbits. This shows his immaturity. He says, â€Å"†¦An’ have rabbits!† George is always repeating this ‘dream’ to Lennie. When he does depict the dream to Lennie, he uses exaggerative language and gets involved in the dream almost as much as Lennie. Both George and Lennie become excited when the dream is recalled. They swear, â€Å"†¦We’ll just say the hell with going to work†¦Ã¢â‚¬  , animating their eagerness to fulfil their dream. George and Lennie’s dream eventually fails. This is for a number of reasons. It is mainly because Lennie is such a burden to George. Because of Lennie’s mental incapability, he has no idea that he is making George’s life miserable. George says, â€Å"Course Lennie’s a God damn nuisance most of the time, but you get used to goin’ around with a guy an’ you can’t get rid of him† George is being held back by Lennie as they are constantly forced to change jobs, because of situations the Lennie gets them in to and therefore they can’t stay in work long enough to build up any sort of savings. The result of this is that they can not save up the money to achieve the ‘dream’. Lennie has limited social skills and so does not know how to interact with people. Instead, he finds comfort in touching things and is too tactile. This causes trouble as Lennie often touches women’s clothes and is misunderstood and seen to be abusive. For this reason, George has to keep a constant eye on Lennie. When Candy makes the proposal of entering their ‘dream’ in exchange for three hundred dollars, George suddenly sees some possibility of the ‘dream’ succeeding. Before, he had merely used the ‘dream’ as a pacifier for Lennie and had lulled himself into believing that it may happen so that he could continue bringing hope to Lennie. I think that sub-consciously he always knew that the ‘dream’ would never be a reality. With Candy’s financial input, the ‘dream’ could realistically be achieved within the month. However, an abrupt end to their hopes arrives. Lennie, in his childlike way, cannot conceive of the line where stroking stops and hurting begins in terms of petting, and he ends up accidently killing two animals by petting them violently. Most horrifically, at the climax of the story, he kills Curly’s wife in the same way. The fact that he killed her was the final blow to the ‘dream’. â€Å"I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we’d never do her†, George says as he realizes the dream is inevitable. Lennie was inevitably going to be hunted down and shot on site. George, who is forced to join the manhunt for Lennie, decides that the kindest way out for both him and Lennie is to kill him when he finds him. He does this by luring Lennie into a false state of trust by reciting their ‘dream’ to him one last time. This sends Lennie off into death with his dream in his head. You can argue in some way Lennie has achieved his dream. Curly’s wife has a dream common to the period and today. She believes that she has the talent to become a Hollywood actress. She was convinced of this as when she was younger; she acquainted herself with a Hollywood director who deemed her suitable to be an actress in the ‘movies’. This is shown in a quote taken from a passage spoken by Curly’s wife, â€Å"An’ I coulda sat in them big hotels, an’ had pitchers took of me†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦..An’ all them nice clothes they wear. Because this guy said I was a natural.† This ‘guy’ told her she would receive a letter from him explaining where to meet to develop her acting career. Her explanation of why she didn’t become an actress is idealistic at best. She believed that her mother stole that letter. However, this is an optimistic justification. It just so happens that shortly after Curley’s wife was given the hope of becoming an actress, she met Curley. When she realised that her dream of becoming an actress was truly over, she decided to marry Curley. She may have done this as, at the time, it was very difficult for a woman to get a job and live on her own. The main profession of women then was housewife. Most women would marry a modest worker but marrying a rich man who owned a ranch was a bonus. Life would be easy for Curley’s wife as she would not have to ‘lift a finger’. As there was such discrimination towards women, Curley’s wife found herself being ignored by the men on the ranch. She was not paid much attention by Curley and was seen by him as more of a trophy than a wife. These are the main reasons that Curley’s wife is not happy. She openly expresses that she does not even love Curley. â€Å"I don’t like Curley†. She regrets that she married him in the first place. She was not able to speak to anyone during the day as all of the men were out on the fields working. This causes her to be extremely lonely. At any chance she can she will speak to someone. When she speaks to Lennie in the barn, she says, â€Å"Why can’t I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely.† This shows that she craves friendship. She is often prying on the men just looking for someone to talk to. She justifies this by saying to Slim â€Å"Hi, good lookin’. I’m tryin’ to find Curley, Slim.† The fact that she does not even have a name and is instead referred to as Curley’s wife shows her status on the ranch. It shows that she is so insignificant that she is not even deemed important enough to warrant a real name. She is looked down on and shown no respect by most of the men on the ranch. She also has the dream to be treated as equal to the men on the ranch. This is similar to Crooks’ dream. He just wants to be accepted by everyone else on the ranch. However, both Crooks and Curley’s wife have similar dreams which would lead you to think that they would sympathise with each other. The reality is quite opposite. Curley’s wife approaches Crooks in an aggressive manor and speaks to him in a demoralising way. She says, â€Å"Well you keep your place, then Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny!† She perhaps speaks to Crooks with no respect as he is the only person on the ranch over whom she has a higher status. Crooks and Candy try to enter George and Lennie’s dream. They both do this for their own reasons. Candy is worried about his future on the ranch. He believes that is nearing the point of becoming useless to the ranch owner. He needs some security so that when he does become of no use, he can settle down somewhere. Crooks feels socially isolated and needs to go somewhere that he will be treated as an equal. George, Lennie and Candy do not discriminate against Crooks as much as most. This is the reason that he would feel comfortable living in a house with them. Candy, when he enters the dream, provides financial power. He has three hundred dollars that he is willing to invest in the dream. When he first tries to join the dream, George responds in a negative and coy way. He says â€Å"You know a place like that?† [Candy] â€Å"S’pose I do? What’s that to you?† [George]. However, when George considers Candy’s proposition, he starts to think that the dream may actually become a reality. Candy is afraid that if he does not get somewhere that he can retire to, he may have no one to care for him. Eventually he will be seen of no use and disposed of, much like his dog. Crooks joins the dream as he feels he needs a ‘shelter from society’, somewhere that he is accepted for the person that he is and not judged by his skin colour or his disability. Crooks has no status and is treated with no respect on the ranch. He is frustrated with all of the racism directed towards him. He says, â€Å"If I say something, why, it’s just a nigger saying it†¦Ã¢â‚¬  Crooks had a taste of equality when he was a child. He was accepted by white children and has perhaps not accepted the fact that he is now a social outcast. He says,† The white kids come to play at our place, an’ sometimes I went to play with them, and some of them was pretty nice† He remembers what it was like to be an equal and wants to experience that feeling again. This is one of the reasons the Crooks joins the dream. Candy will soon be too old and frail to keep his job at the ranch. The fact that he only has one hand means that his job opportunities are very limited. He, much like Crooks, has no one in his life. He just watches workers come and go from the ranch. He would have somewhere to belong if he joined the dream. This is a very important psychologically as having a ‘place to call home’ can give Candy a reason to carry on living. All of these characters have dreams and their dreams are important to them. They all give their character some sort of goal to aim for and a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. I believe Steinbeck is trying to make a point by including all of these dreams. I think he is trying to say that without dreams, we are all lost in our lives. We all need some sort of dream to keep us motivated. I think the novel was written to show the stranglehold that the ‘Great Depression’ had on America in the 1930’s. It also shows how hard the life of an itinerant worker was. ‘Of Mice and Men’ was very a descriptive and informative book. It made me realise that dreams, however small or big, are vital in life.

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