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To understand the title's connection to dreams, a reader must read poet Robert Burns' "To a Mouse," from which Steinbeck got the idea for the title. A line from the poem that is often paraphrased is the origin of the phrase "of mice and men." It reads,
"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, / [often go awry]" (38-39).
In the poem, a farmer unintentionally destroys a mouse's home and then ponders how humans and animals make plans and have dreams that are often left unfulfilled or destroyed (like the mouse's home). Steinbeck uses this idea to foreshadow and demonstrate why George and Lennie's dream of owning their own farm with rabbits one day will never come true. Thus, if a reader knows the background of Burns' poem as he or she begins reading Of Mice and Men, it is simple to catch Steinbeck's foreshadowing of unattainable dreams, whether those dreams be George and Lennie's farm dream, Crooks' dream of companionship, or Curley's Wife's dream to be famous and idolized.
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