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An important debate during the Great Depression of the 1930's during which the story takes place is whether the American Dream still existed at all. Could a person rise as far as talent and effort would take them in the face of crushing economic poverty and uncertainty?
We see this materialize in the story where Candy, Lennie and George are sitting in the bunkhouse talking about the possibility of chipping in together to buy their own place, finally free of working farm to farm for bosses who could always "can" them. We then see how fleeting that dream was for the characters - one of the main points Steinbeck was trying to make.
The main theme of the book is insecurity - how insecure the present was for the poor migrant workers of the 1930's, much less the future and what their possibilities were with regard to the American Dream.
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