Of Mice and Men

In the novella Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, there are many themes present. One of the main themes is Lennie and George’s quest for freedom, a home of their own, and full power over their own life: the American Dream.

The phrase “American Dream” is defined as “An American ideal of a happy and successful life to which all may aspire” (Document B). Lennie and George’s dream of the future was one of happiness and success- they could work on their ranch if and when they wanted to. To Lennie, their future is extremely exciting, and he becomes tremendously happy while just thinking about it. Another description of the American Dream is “…that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” (Document C). Lennie’s disability doesn’t seem to cause a problem with their plan; there is still opportunity for a full life despite his disability.

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The American Dream, as described by Lennie and George, is “’…a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs and-‘ ‘An’ live off the fatta the lan’,’” (Steinbeck 14). Their dream is a simple, quaint house on a ranch with just enough sustenance for the two of them to live off of. Their dream doesn’t include fame and riches, like most dreams do. Their dream is modest and plain- just enough for them to get by on. George continues on about their dream home on page 57. “’We’d jus’ live there. We’d belong there…. No, sir, we’d have our own place where we belonged and not sleep in no bunk house.’”(Steinbeck 57). They want a simple life where they could feel like they belong and have a sense of “home.”

Many things get in the way of achieving their dream. Primarily, their lack of a single place to live is causing many problems. Settling down and having a place of one’s own gives one a sense of belonging. Because George and Lennie skip from town to town and job to job, they never have a single place where they can go to gather themselves and feel at home. A Texan traveler from the 1930’s once wrote “What bothers us travelin’ people most is we can’t get no place to stay still” (Document A). They never have a place to go which they can call their own. Their job-skipping habit has resulted in a poor lifestyle for the both of them. George explains their money situation in the following quote: “George spat on the floor disgustedly. ‘We got ten bucks between us.’” (Steinbeck 59). They are both in poverty and are forced to skip towns, in which they must find jobs- which are often low-paying and offer poor conditions.

The Great American Dream was a crucial string of hope for people during the Great Depression. It gave people something to hold on to and believe in, despite how deep in poverty they were. In many ways, this dream kept people working towards are better life versus giving into the impending poverty surrounding them, as the following quote explains: “’In the deepening gloom of the Depression, the American Dream represented a reaffirmation of traditional American hopes’ (Anthony Brandt)” (Document B). The American Dream gave many people consumed by poverty a light of hope: hope of a life before the Depression; they dreamt for a life of happiness and comfort, which they found embedded in the American Dream.

Lennie and George do all they can in their power to pursue their American Dream, even though they are never actually able to reach it together. Their dream of a brighter future keeps them working and moving towards a greater life, and they both are constantly thinking about it. This reoccurring theme of the American Dream is the most prominent theme in the book, and their quest for their dream is one that sticks with the reader long after closing its pages.