George and Lennie are intended to typify the itinerant agricultural workers of California in the 1930s. They are homeless. They move from place to place, wherever field hands or fruit pickers are needed. They live in bunkhouses when they are not sleeping out on the open on their bed rolls. They have to do hard work, such as lifting 100-pound sacks of barley onto wagons all day long in the baking sun. They get paid very little and can never save up any money. They are not much better off than the slaves were in the South before the Civil War. They have nothing to look forward to but the kind of fates represented by Crooks and Candy.
George is a little brighter than the average bindlestiff. He has a dream of owning his own subsistence farm, a few acres of land with a little house on it. He has shared this dream with Lennie, and now Lennie is always pestering him to tell about it, insisting on George using the same words every time. George doesn't always feel like obliging Lennie, but when he feels in the proper mood he always begins like this:
"Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. They come to a ranch an' work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they're poundin' their tail on some other ranch. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to."
Lennie was delighted. "That's it--that's it. Now tell how it is with us."
Lennie knows every word of it by heart, but he loves to hear George say the words. It is like a dream. These are the plans that the title Of Mice and Men refers to. The dream represents freedom, independence, security, even dignity--the things that are lacking in their actual existence. They come pretty close to realizing it, but as Robert Burns' poem says:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
In the end Lennie is still dreaming the same dream when George shoots him at the riverside campsite.
"Go on," said Lennie. "How's it gonna be? We gonna get a little place."
"We'll have a cow," said George. "An' we'll have maybe a pig an' chickens . . . an' down the flat we'll have . . . a little piece alfalfa------"
This is very touching. George is killing his friend as an act of kindness, and he is reminding him of their dream at the end in order to try to have him die happy. It is all that these two men had, or would ever have. It is only a dream.
In Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, George and Lennie share the dream of owning their own land. Lennie wants to raise his own rabbits, and George is interested in having the freedom to work for himself instead of for someone who treats him unfairly.