In Of Mice and Men, what dream do George and Lennie share and what does this show about their values and personalities ?
In John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, George and Lennie share a dream of a better life, a life separate from the itinerate farm and ranch workers with whom they coexist. That dream involves their own farm, with Lenny especially excited at the prospect of the two living happily after all among the rabbits he hopes to raise and take care of. In Chapter One of the novel, Steinbeck has his two protagonists discuss the future they dream of together, with the world-weary George describing the lives of men like them who lack a dream or a vision:
“Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no fambly. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go into 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.”
George went on. “With us it ain’t like that. We got a future . . .
“No, you. I forget some a’ the things. Tell about how it’s gonna be.”
“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.”
“Well,” said George, “we’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens.”
This passage suggests the two men are in complete accord regarding their dreams of a better life. In happier times – which are few and far between – they laugh and express their mutual vision of the farm and the animals, especially the rabbits, they will raise. Earlier in the chapter, however, George provides a glimpse – actually, more than a glimpse; a full-on portrait – of the resentment he feels towards Lenny, treating his larger but mentally disabled friend like the proverbial albatross. Lamenting Lenny’s inability to recall events or conversations, George reveals his exasperation with his friend:
“Tried and tried,” said Lennie, “but it didn’t do no good. I remember about the rabbits, George.”
“The hell with the rabbits. That’s all you ever can remember is them rabbits.”
George repeatedly responds to Lenny’s mention of the hypothetical rabbits with the comment “the hell with the rabbits.” While these comments are relatively harmless, and speak mainly to George’s willingness to bring Lenny back to reality, later in the chapter George explodes at Lenny’s simple-mindedness and decries the burden of carrying for the large, mentally diminished man:
“Whatever we ain’t got, that’s what you want. God a’mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an’ work, an’ no trouble. No mess at all, and when the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go into town and get whatever I want. Why, I could stay in a cat house all night. I could eat any place I want, hotel or any place, and order any damn thing I could think of. An’ I could do all that every damn month. Get a gallon of whisky, or set in a pool room and play cards or shoot pool.” Lennie knelt and looked over the fire at the angry George. And Lennie’s face was drawn with terror. “An’ whatta I got,” George went on furiously. “I got you! You can’t keep a job and you lose me ever’ job I get. Jus’ keep me shovin’ all over the country all the time. An’ that ain’t the worst. You get in trouble. You do bad things and I got to get you out.”
Lenny is a man-child, amiable and innocent, but he lives in a time and in a place when the slightest misunderstanding can involve violent consequences. George may or may not share Lenny’s dream of the two of them living on their own farm; he may be simply patronizing Lenny. The two men are very different, though, and George’s outburst presages a chain of events that will end in tragedy. George has dreams, and they may be no more grounded in reality than the dream of life on a farm, but his expression of frustration with having to care for his friend and is real. Lenny, in his innocence, dreams of life with George. George, in his frustration, dreams of life alone, free to play poker and frequent houses of ill repute. Their values and personalities are vastly different, with the simple-minded Lenny the more admirable.
George and Lennie both share the dream that Steinbeck alludes to throughout the novel, The American Dream. Although they specifically are looking to own day own and operate their own farm, complete with rabbits for Lennie, the overall message is that they want to feel as if they've "made it." The entire novel acts as a sort of social commentary toward The American Dream. It asks if it is possible to "make it" if one simply wants it and works toward their goals. The American Dream, the pursuit of happiness, is ultimately what they share. It shows their rather simplistic, blue-collar worker goals of working toward financial independence.