How does the American Dream relate to Lennie and George in Of Mice and Men?

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George and Lennie are itinerant workers, not having much of a chance at achieving the American Dream. George has come to terms with this reality and is content just to get by. Lennie, however, holds out hope for a better life through rabbits.

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"The American Dream" is generally used to refer to the notion that anyone can rise above their station in life if they only work hard enough and use their money wisely. It's presumed to be one of the hallmarks of a capitalist society. Steinbeck questioned this assumption, often being credited...

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with the quote: "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires" (although the exact quote is probably a paraphrase of something else Steinbeck wrote, it does maintain the general idea). 

As lowly, itinerant wage earners, George and Lennie are the epitome of the exploited proletariat. Lennie dreams of raising rabbits and George humors him, since the dream seems to make him happy. Lennie begs George to tell him about the rabbits from time to time: 

"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."

George, being smarter than Lennie, has no such illusions, though. In one of his outbursts, he tells the blunt truth: 

"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 cathouse 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."

George is realistic. It is Steinbeck's statement about "the American Dream" that only Lennie, the half-wit, believes in his little rabbit farm. 

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George and Lennie are bonded by a dream of owning a piece of land. This dream, though not the sole bond connecting the two men, allows both George and Lennie to believe that their current state as itinerant farm laborers will not last forever. 

In regards to the American Dream, the vision of land ownership and self-determination shared by George and Lennie is direclty in line with the ideals of self-improvement and personal franchise implicit in the American Dream. 

If we define the American Dream as an aspiration for improved financial and social status, we can read the vision of George and Lennie as just this - an aspiration to rise up the social-commerical ladder to a position where they can make their own decisions (how much to work everyday, when to take a break, etc.).

One of the themes of Of Mice and Men concerns the barriers between the workers and this dream of self-determination. 

Although George and Lennie have their dream, they are not in a position to attain it. In addition to their own personal limitations, they are also limited by their position in society. Their idealistic dream is eventually destroyed by an unfeeling, materialistic, modern society.

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Why is George and Lennie's dream so important to them?

John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is intended to show the hard lives of the masses of uneducated, unskilled men who have to labor in the California fields for low wages, spartan accommodations, and bad food. George and Lennie are fictional characters who are intended to represent all the others. Like many other itinerant farm workers, they dream of having their own little piece of land so that they could escape from their lives of misery, insecurity and fear. These bindlestiffs tramp the roads looking for work, but they can't be sure of finding any. And if they don't find a place to give them shelter and food, they can starve to death along the roadside and nobody would care. 

Call for the robin-redbreast and the wren,Since o'er shady groves they hoverAnd with leaves and flowers do coverThe friendless bodies of unburied men.Call unto his funeral doleThe ant, the field mouse, and the moleTo rear him hillocks that shall keep him warmAnd (when gay tombs are robb'd) sustain no harm;But keep the wolf far thence, that's foe to men,For with his nails he'll dig them up again.John Webster

Steinbeck created two characters to represent these hordes of hopelesss bindlestiffs rather than one. The author did this for a practical purpose. He called his book "a playable novel." He intended to convert it into a stage play immediately. Both the book and the play came out in 1937. In the book most of the exposition is conveyed through dialogue, because that would make it easy to convert the book to the stage play. But for dialogue, of course, Steinbeck needed two characters who would be talking to each other. There is a great deal of verbal explaining done in the book which would ordinarily be presented in straightforward prose exposition. (The Weed incident is a good example.) The book reads like a play. All the characters do a lot of talking to each other, while at the same time characterizing themselves and others, and also conveying information to the reader and the future theater audience.

Steinbeck hit on the idea of making one of his main characters mentally handicapped. This requires the other character, George, to be explaining things to Lennie all the time, including George's plan to escape from their poverty and insecurity by getting a few acres of land with a little house on it. In creating Lennie, Steinbeck created the most memorable character in his story. People will always remember Of Mice and Men by remembering Lennie. Their joint motivation drives the story. But, as the title suggests,

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!Robert Burns

George and Lennie's dream is so important to them because its fulfillment would have meant so many things. It would have meant security and freedom. It would have meant survival without having to struggle with other desperate men for a bunk and having to fight with strangers over the last scraps of food on the platters. It would have meant rest and an end to all that tramping up and down the enormous state of California. It would have meant a real home.

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Discuss George and Lennie's dream in Of Mice and Men.

I think it might be argued that the so-called "dream" or "American dream" in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is not George and Lennie's shared dream but really George's dream alone. He has confided his dream to Lennie because he does a lot of talking to Lennie, although his companion doesn't always understand what he is talking about. Lennie is not capable of inventing such a complex dream. In fact, whenever the subject comes up he can only seem to imagine it in terms of having rabbits to feed and fondle. Lennie has to hear George describe it to him, and he believes in it as a potential reality even though George may only regard it as an idea to play with in his mind. George probably does not mention his dream to any other person but Lennie because Lennie is the only person who would share it with him. 

George's dream is infectious. First Lennie is infected, then Candy, and finally Crooks. George is the only creative person among them. He is compensating for his dissatisfaction and frustrations by indulging in what he himself knows to be an unrealistic fantasy, a wish fulfillment. The reality seems like a potential nightmare. George would be living in a shack with three severely handicapped men. They would be "land poor." They might have enough food, but they wouldn't have any money to spend on necessities, much less on luxuries. They would need shoes, clothing, tools, and seed in addition to such things as coffee, sugar and flour. It seems like a wretched existence, possibly even worse than George and Lennie are experiencing now. Lennie is dumb enough to believe in it, and Candy and Crooks are desperate enough to believe in it--but does George believe in it himself?

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Discuss George and Lennie's dream in Of Mice and Men.

In the 1930s when so many were disenfranchised, separated from their families as they sought work as "bindle stiffs," the men who were itinerant workers yearned for "a piece of the pie," an opportunity for part of the great American Dream.

As Steinbeck's novella opens, George and Lennie, two lonely "bindle stiffs" come to a ranch in the Salinas Valley for work. Before they arrive, the men camp in a clearing by a pool of water, and, as they sit at sunset by their campfire, the childlike Lennie asks the smaller man to relate their dream, the "piece of the pie" that they hope to someday possess. 

George's voice became deeper. He repeated his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before. "Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world....They don't belong no place....They ain't got nothing to look ahead to....With us it ain't like that. We got a future....

"Someday--we're gonna get the jack [money] 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."

The hope of ownership of a farm gives George and Lennie something to work for and to hope for; it is their American Dream, their "piece of the pie." There is much of hope in this dream and some of religious fervor in this deep, rhythmic recital. Moreover, it inspires hope in the hearts of others such as the time-worn Candy and the marginalized Crooks. For, when contemplating the idea of sharing, both men are revitalized.

That these men are revitalized by their hopes of the future is evinced with the death of Lennie, the man-child who has kept alive this impractical goal and made it seem possible with optimism that only an innocent can possess. For, once Lennie dies, so, too, does the American dream of the other men. As they stand over Curley's wife's limp body, George tells Candy,

"--I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got thinking maybe we would."

Their dream of a "piece of the pie" in America gives Lennie and George hope for a better life in the future.  

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What is the significance of dreams in Of Mice and Men?

Dreams are the driving force behind the lives of many of the characters in Of Mice and Men. In the case of some of these characters, dreams are really all they have left to keep their hopes alive.

The dream that we are made aware of right away, is the dream of George and Lennie.

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.

The dream is so clear in the minds of both men that they can even recite it. Sadly for them, this dream has been alive for too long. The more they get in trouble, mainly because of Lennie, the more distant the dream becomes.

In fact, shortly before George kills Lennie, out of mercy and in order to avoid a lynch mob from Curley's people, he asks Lennie to visualize the dream one more time, right before shooting him. This is symbolic of the end of the dream altogether. It is now officially over, not just for them, but for all of the other sad men who ended up believing in it, too. Hopes are dead as well.

Still, George and Lennie's dream inspired other people. In chapter 3, as George and Lennie discuss their dream again, they are overheard by Candy. Candy not only is touched by the dream, but wants a part of it as well. He even offers his saved money to make it happen.

It is interesting, however, to note how George and Lennie react when they learn that Candy has heard about the dream.

At first, they jump, as if they had been caught doing something wrong. This shows the extent to which the two men really, deep inside, know that the dream is one of great magnitude. They are fully aware of how huge it is. However, they find comfort and peace in visualizing it. This is why they feel, when Candy "finds them out," as if they have been caught doing something inappropriate.

In chapter 4, it is Crooks who buys into the dream of George and Lennie. After insulting it first, laughing at it, and trying his best to bring the men's hopes down, he suddenly changes his mind

[Crooks] hesitated. "… 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-bitch if I want to..

The dream, in Crooks's case, shows that even the more torn-apart men, and even the most broken of them all, can still be put back together again with a tiny speck of hope.

Curley's wife is another character whose dream helps her stay "put together" even in the dire environment of the farm. Her dream of making it in show business was the motivating factor that kept looking pretty and presentable, rather than living her life as a frumpy farm wife. Sadly for her as well, her dream is too far from her. She is now married to Curley, dissatisfied with her life, and very bored. Her dream is the only motivation she has to tolerate life there. She even talks about her dream on her very last day of life, as she is talking about it with Lennie, and right before he accidentally kills her.

In all, dreams and hopes are almost interchangeable in the novella. The characters renew their hopes for a better life thanks to the dreams that they hold dearest to their hearts. Sadly, none of them gets to realize their dreams. Still, they do not stop bringing them up and thinking about them.

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What is the significance of dreams in Of Mice and Men?

Many of the characters in Of Mice and Men, enveloped by the grayness and desperation of their lives, seek a glimmer of sunshine in dreams. George recites for Lenny the "dream." After the discovery of Curley's dead wife, Candy expresses his "greatest fear" that the dream of owning a farm has expired. George stoically reflects, "I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her [get the farm]. He [Lennie] usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would." When the dream of a ranch forms itself in the minds of Lennie and George, both men become energized by the hope of escaping their trapped lives. Without this dream as a satisfying and motivating notion, they sink into hopelessness and despair.

This necessity of dreams exists in even the poorest of hearts--perhaps more so than in the hearts of others. To dream is intrinsic to the human condition, as poet Robert Browning writes in "Andrea del Sarto":

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?
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What is the significance of George and Lennie's dream to the narrative as a whole in Of Mice and Men?

The dream of Lennie and George provides hope in a time of great hopelessness in men.

In his poem "Andrea del Sarto," Robert Browning writes,

Love, we are in God's hand. 
How strange now, looks the life he makes us lead; 
So free we seem, so fettered fast we are! ....
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, 
Or what's a heaven for?
These words fit well the setting of Of Mice and Men as the disenfranchised of the Great Depression found themselves "fettered" to a life of poverty, want, and itinerancy.  
Like many other men, then, George and Lennie are bindle stiffs who go "freely" without possessions from job to job with little to enjoy and anticipate as they try to get along with others and keep their jobs as long as they can. In fact, it is this dream of ownership which keeps George and Lennie at the ranch after their encounter with Curley. For, when Lennie cries out,
"I don' like this place, George. This ain't no good place. I wanna get outa here,"
George tells him,
"We gotta keep it [the job] until we get a stake. We'll get out just as soon as we can...."
Therefore, the dream is the motivator to keep George and Lennie working. It is also a motivator for Candy and Crooks, who envision a future for themselves if they can be part of the workings of the dream farm. With the dream of a farm, the men's reach can exceed their grasp. This dream of ownership helps them escape their dreary, dead-end lives; it is the hope of a heaven on earth.
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How does dreaming affect George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men?

Dreaming has some significant impacts on both George and Lennie.  For the latter, dreaming of a farm with animals becomes the end goal to which all consciousness is geared.  Lennie understands his dreams of a farm in so far as his connection with George and the end point of his world of existence.  Lennie does not really see dreaming as a way of escaping from the present, but rather sees it as an end goal, the ultimate destination of that journey of which he and George are a part.  For Lennie, dreaming is a way to escape the condition of what is.  Lennie sees dreaming in a transcendent manner that makes the drudgery of what is more bearable.  Dreaming is a means of escape, separate from the current journey or voyage.  Lennie believes in his dreams of being his own boss or going to a ball game during a workday.  Lennie needs these ideals to help make life more bearable, whereas George sees them as a natural extension of current reality.

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