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What is the idea of the American Dream in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck? 

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nasteho | eNoter

Posted September 8, 2013 at 8:49 PM via iOS

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What is the idea of the American Dream in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck? 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 8, 2013 at 9:36 PM (Answer #1)

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The American Dream has been the motivator of countless immigrants as well as Americans throughout history, and it still acts as a motivation for people today. In general, the American Dream represents the possibilities which are afforded in the United States to work hard, own land, and be free from the tyranny of government. In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, the American Dream looks quite specific, but it is a dream which several characters in the novella are interested in pursuing.

Lennie and George talk often (well, George does most of the talking) about what they hope to do one day. They have spoken it so often that Lennie knows if George skips a part in the retelling. They are men who make their living going from place to place, so their dream involves settling down on some land of their own. This is how it sounds:

"O.K. 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 and—"

"An' live off the fatta the lan'," Lennie shouted. "An' have rabbits. Go on, George! Tell about what we're gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is on the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that George."

"Why'n't you do it yourself? You know all of it."

"No…you tell it. It ain't the same if I tell it. Go on…George. How I get to tend the rabbits."

Lennie is obviously most concerned about having rabbits, but that is because he is Lennie. George wants a place on which he can work and live without all the tensions and stresses of explaining and defending Lennie. He wants a home so he will no longer have to be a vagabond. He wants a place where he does not have to eat what someone else cooks and where he feels like he belongs.

"We'd belong there...we'd have our own place where we belonged and not sleep in no bunk house."

Two other people hear George and Lennie talking about their dream and want to be part of it. They, too, are misfits, so it is not surprising that they want something better than the lives they are currently living. One of them is Crooks, the Negro stable hand who is resentful about his forced (and unforced) isolation; he wants something more and this dream is his, as well. Candy is the debilitated swamper on the ranch who wants to do something meaningful again--and he actually has some money to help make it all happen.

Alas, the dream does not come to fruition for any of them in this novella. 

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