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Doomed in the world of the itinerant worker because he cannot deal with the alienation and the cruelty of the strangers, Lennie represents, as Steinbeck himself states, "...the inarticulate and powerful yearning of all men." Lennie'syerning for and belief in a small dream of owning rabbits on a little farm of his and George's own, a dream representative of the American Dream,creates hope for George and, later, for others on the ranch. For, it is a hope of overcoming the terrible loneliness of the disenfrancised "bindle stiffs." When, for instance, Lennie tells Candy and Crooks about his and George's dream, their attitudes become much more optimisitic.
Here are some passages that illustrate this hope generated by Lennie's recounting of George's and his "dream":
After Carlson shoots Candy's dog, his one friend, Candy is depressed; however, when Lennie interrupts George's card-playing with Slim by asking George how long it will be until they get "that little place and live on the fatta the lan'--an' rabbits."
Old Candy truned slowly over. His eyes were wide open. He watched George carefully...."You know where's a place like that?"
As George relates the plan for a farm,
Candy leaned forward eagerly, 'S'pose I wnt in with you guys. Tha's three hunderd an' fifty bucks i'd put in....How'd that be?"
As he and George speak of this dream,
They fell into a silence. They looked at one another, amazed. This thing they had never really believed in was coming true.
As Candy talks with Lennie further, "Candy nodded, and they were grinning with delight."
The segregated and completely alienated Crooks attains a more optimistic thinking after Lennie intrudes his area of the barn. Hostile and cruel to Lennie, as he later hears Lennie speak of his dream of a farm with George, Crooks, who first ridicules the idea of the dream--"nobody gets no land"--begins to perceive a hopeful life when Candy declares that they have the money to fulfill their plans. Crooks hesitantly says to them,
"...If you...guys would want a hand to work for nothing--just his keep, why I'd come an' lend a hand. I ain't so crippled I can't work like a son-of-a-b--- if I want to."
As Lennie talks with Curley's wife in the barn, he expresses his love for rabbits and his anticipation of his and George's dream. Although she laughs at him, she tells Lennie, "But a person can see kinda what you mean."
While George merely recites the description of their dream of owning a farm just to placate Lennie, because of Lennie's insistentbelief, he begins himself to entertain its reality. In Chapter 5, after Lennie has inadvertently killed Candy's wife, George says disheartedly,
"...I thinkI knowed we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would."
Lennie’s focus throughout the story is on the future that he believes awaits him: A little place that he and George can buy, where they can work the land and Lennie can “tend the rabbits.” The quote “tend the rabbits” is repeated several times. In fact, it frames the story, as it occurs at the beginning and the end.
Lennie truly believes that one day his dream of tending the rabbits will come true. George probably just tells the story to make Lennie happy, the way a parent tells a child about the wonderful things that might happen to them in the future. But the story makes Lennie truly happy. Later, when it appears that it might actually happen, even George and Candy get excited. The idea is that hope for the future, even if it probably won’t come true, can be a source of happiness, if we can just believe in it. For a brief time, even Crooks get caught up in the idea when he hears about it from Lennie. For Lennie, the focus is on the rabbits. For the others, it’s the independence of running their own lives.
As for Curley’s wife, she gave up her dream of “being in pictures” in order to marry Curley. But she is starting to question that decision at the time George and Lennie arrive. Perhaps Lennie’s story about their plan might have re-awakened her dream, but her death at Lennie’s hands makes that impossible to know.
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