Of Mice and Men and American Beauty Essay

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What insights into the American Dream are offered through the novella Of Mice and Men and the film American Beauty? In your essay you must consider the influences of context and the importance of techniques in shaping meaning.

Of Mice and Men, a 1937 novella by John Steinbeck and American Beauty, a 1999 film directed by Sam Mendes, offer various insights into the American Dream and are both contextually driven. Both texts present the possibility of different pursuits of the American Dream and portray a multiplicity of challenges imposed by the societies of their contexts. In Of Mice and Men (OMM), through literary techniques, Steinbeck conveys the importance of the Dream of land ownership and companionship during the difficult times of the 1930s in providing happiness and hope. Mendes, in his film American Beauty (AB), by using satirical and cinematic devices, emphasises the significance of pursuing freedom and family cohesion in a wealthier but materialistically and image-driven society as the essence of the American Dream by the end of the twentieth century. However, both texts reflect the challenges imposed by the social ills of their contexts and ultimately, the American Dream is not able to be achieved and is never a reality in their times.

In OMM, the Dream of land ownership reflects the importance of hope in helping individuals overcome times of adversities in the 1930’s. It was the Great Depression and fuelled by the Californian Dustbowl conditions, poverty rates rose and people were continuously displaced in search for work. To George and Lennie, the protagonists of the novella, the agrarian Dream serves as a direction in life as well as a hope of stable, peaceful life. Through emotive language, Steinbeck creates a sense of belonging in George’s description of the future farm, ‘we’d jus’ live there,’ ‘we’d belong there’. The accumulating descriptive language of the little farm including the ‘smoke house’ for the ‘bacon and the hams’ and the...
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