In John Steinbeck's "The Leader of the People," a theme that is portrayed throughout the story is that of the contrast between dream and reality. In the story, Grandfather cannot come to grasp that his dreams of the West and moving across the plains are over and that reality has set in. Another story that contrasts dream and reality is Ambrose Pierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." In this story, Farquhar cannot tell the difference between dream and reality until the very last second, when he is hanged.
The plot in each of the stories is completely different, but both add to the theme of the contrast between dream and reality. In "The Leader of the People," Grandfather returns to his daughter's farm, where he is disliked by his son-in-law for his story telling. This is where he is dreaming of the past and what a great time he had. However, after hearing his son-in-law badmouth him, he comes to the realization that his dream is over and reality has set in. In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," Farquhar is dreaming when he is escaping from the Union soldiers, however his dreams crash down when he is thrown over the bridge and dies.
There is a strong contrast in character in "The Leader of the People." Carl is the reality that is trying to bring Grandfather back down to earth to see clearly. Carl is
thinking about the future and not dreaming of the past. Grandfather on the other hand still wishes he was with the Indians and was leading the people across the plains, as he tells in his stories. He does not want to give up on that until he hears Carl talk about him behind his back. This seems to bring him into reality once he realizes that no one cares about his adventures anymore. He portrays this when Jody suggests that he too lead the people. Grandfather simply responds that there is nowhere left to explore and that he should not lead the people. In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," Farquhar is a...