Of Mice and Men
Author: John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men examines the idea that the American Dream is a futile ambition. This "Dream" proposes the fact that social and economic success can be gained through means of hard work, ultimately determining that the pursuit of happiness cannot be attained in our modern society. Steinbeck outlines this theme by employing symbolism and, via Curley's wife, a protagonist within the novella. This poem suggests to me that although the "Dream" remains impossible for those of middle/ lower class origin (hence those without attainable "benefits"), it is already provided for those who have already acquired it. The American Dream, in a sense, is a "God-like" possession, only presented to those who have already bared witness to its power. As such, this is why the Dream remains impossible.
The use of symbolism in Of Mice and Men instigates that upward social and economic mobility via hard work is irrelevant in our modern society. This theme becomes evident to me amidst Lennie's obsession with rabbits during the book's opening and closing chapters. Steinbeck writes at the beginning of the novel that the rabbits happily "sit on the sand" and are then disturbed by the arrival of George and Lennie. The rabbits later "hurr(y) noiselessly for cover". However, throughout the book, Lennie admits the concrete terms of his own pleasures- his own dreams. He wishes to tend and to pet the rabbits, for it is the soft fur that meets his desires. Eventually, it comes to a point at which he places the entirety of his future happiness on simply caring for the animals. The rabbits, I believe, are a metaphor for the American Dream as they are Lennie's pinnacle of happiness. Also, the rabbits could represent the dream of obtaining a farm, as discussed by Lennie and his best friend George. However, both Dreams are unfortunately overcome. The scattering of the rabbits at the beginning of the novel suggests to me that already this dream will be elusive. This dream of rabbits becomes literal at the end of the novel, when Lennie hallucinates about a giant rabbit who informs him that he will never be allowed to tend the creatures. At this point, it has become clear to me as a reader that Lennie's aspiration has evaporated. This reveals how unfit Lennie is for society, and as such the American Dream has become suppressed. After reading this novel, I realised that it is important for individuals not to be consumed by impractical goals. Although ambitions are beneficial, unfulfilled goals can often reduce an individual's prospect of rejuvenation and motivation.
Steinbeck's use of the character "Curley's wife" investigates the idea that the American Dream is a pointless ambition. It suggests that exponential happiness and freedom through means of burdensome labour are improbable to obtain. This becomes apparent by the use of Curley's wife throughout the course of the novel. As a character, she has proven to be interesting and relatively complex. In the book's opening pages, she is referred to as a "tart" or a "tramp" for her obscenely injustice and sexist views upon the male farm hands. At this point, she is established as superior, and upper class fot the specific farm society. However, her appearances later in the novel become more complex. When she confronts Lennie, Candy and Crooks in the stable, she admits to shameless dissatisfaction with her life. Impaired with vulnerability, she admits that she is lonely and unhappily married. Also, she tells Lennie about her rendered dreams of becoming a movie star. This moment in the novel acknowledges her failed ambitions. She wishes for an untarnished happiness that does not exist in this world. However as a defensive response, Curley's wife seeks out weaknesses in others to demote her vulnerability. For instance, she preys upon Lennie's mental handicap and Crook's skin colour to protect herself from harm. Eventually, Curley's wife's obsession with herself ultimately leads to her death at the hands of Lennie. Curley's wife's attempt at upward redemption failed, thus "killing" her pursuit of happiness. I conclude that perhaps oppression does come only from the hand of the strong and powerful, but from the weak who mask themselves in fear and deception.
John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men supports the idea that the American Dream is corrupted and suggests that social and economic mobility cannot be achieved through means of hard work. Steinbeck acknowledges this idea through symbolism and via the use of a protagonist, Curley's wife. I found this book absolutely compelling and exceptional. Of Mice and Men visits the complexities of the dream, insisting that whilst the dream is unstable, it has benefits as well. It suggests that in order for life to be full and meaningful, it must contain dreams. George and Lennie never achieve their dreams but the dreams hold their relationships together. These dreams keep Lennie happy and prevents George from becoming a "mean" lonely farmer alike the other ranch hands. In our modern society, dreams give individuals life, even if it means that life disallows them from achieving such ambitions. Of Mice and Men expresses the benefits of hardships, instead of just promoting the hardships. It was a fantastic read and I would undoubtedly read it again.