The Duality of Dreams | Teen Ink

The Duality of Dreams

September 24, 2018
By Dukelinpoting BRONZE, Taipei, Other
Dukelinpoting BRONZE, Taipei, Other
4 articles 3 photos 0 comments

        During the Great Depression, the American Dream served as a catalyst for the migration of many laborers to California in hopes of finding work. In John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men, two laborers find work on a ranch in Salinas Valley, California to pursue their version of the American Dream: owning an acre of land and a shack. In the novella, characters use dreams to envision a better future even though unexpected obstacles often cause these dreams to not be realized; the dream of owning land initially provides optimism for the characters until Curley’s wife’s death at the hands of Lennie ends that dream.

        Dreams serve as motivation and provide a sense of hope that fuels characters forward. On George and Lennie’s way to the ranch, George soothes Lennie by claiming, “We got a future…we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house” (14), portraying both characters’ determination to achieve their dream. In spite of Lennie’s mental disabilities, their ambition to reach their goal contributes to keeping George and Lennie’s deep feelings of friendship alive. Albeit realizing that Lennie’s mental disorder might extinguish their hopes, the repetitive mention of owning a shack between George and Lennie throughout the novel prods George to grit his teeth and aim for their dream. The importance of dream as a driving force is further emphasized when Candy overhears George and Lennie’s dream and is attracted, eagerly offering to “cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some” (59). Due to his physical disability, Candy’s “uselessness” at the ranch causes him to long for companionship in search of hope; with his new found companion and dream, Candy finds a way to continue being productive. When Candy volunteers to provide George and Lennie with three hundred and fifty dollars for their future ranch, George’s motivation to achieve their dream is amplified, and he leaps into making a more concrete plan where “[Candy] an’ Lennie could go get her started an’ I’d get a job an’ make up the rest, an’ [Candy] could sell eggs an’ stuff like that” (60). The three men “looked at one another, amazed” (60), since they “had never really believed [their dream] was coming true” (60). The men’s aspiration to achieve the American Dream depicts a sensation of liveliness and rebirth, and ultimately further symbolizes a glimmer of hope for the men to envision and strive for a bright and new future.

        Yet, unexpected obstacles destroy the dreams and lead to the downfall of characters. One night George reveals to Slim that a girl accused Lennie of rape and “that night we scrammed outta there” (42). This suggests that attempts to achieve their dream have been thrown off track before due to Lennie’s unexpected actions. A similar scenario occurs when Lennie accidentally crushes Curley’s wife, once again crushing their chances of achieving their dream. When Candy discovers Curley’s wife’s death, he immediately realizes that his dream of being useful and having companionship is over: “[speaking] his greatest fear” (94) and “dropp[ing] his head and look[ing] down at the hay. He knew” (94). After the death of Curley’s wife, Lennie enters a dream – state where a gigantic rabbit tells him, “He gonna leave you, ya crazy bastard. He gonna leave ya all alone” (102). In this hallucination, Lennie realizes that his actions have destroyed his chances of achieving his dream with George. When George finds Lennie in the brush, the gigantic rabbit “scuttled back into Lennie’s brain” (102), symbolizing George and Lennie’s huge dreams have vanished. Before George shoots Lennie, he tells Lennie to “look acrost the river” and imagine their dream coming alive, connotating that Lennie dies facing his dreams without the realization of hopes. The men’s fail attempts to achieve their dream force them to face the harsh reality: finding success is impossible because their attempts to chase their dreams will inevitably be hindered by unforeseen obstacles.

        Therefore, despite all of their hard work, the characters’ dream is in vain. Their dream of owning a ranch provided them with motivation and a sense of hope. The men are willing to put in anything they can offer to achieve their dream: George offers to continue working to make enough to pay off the farm, Lennie offers to stay out of trouble, and Candy offers all of his savings to help pay for the land. They could have never foreseen Lennie killing Curley’s wife; thereby extinguishing not only her life, but their dreams. George and Candy are back where they started with no place to call their own, making them just like all the other bitter and lonely ranchers. They will continue to aimlessly drift from job to job, forever unable to achieve the American Dream.

The author's comments:

After finish reading "Of Mice and Men," I decided to write an analysis on how the American Dream is depicted throughout the story. It is depressing, though... to see George and Lennie's downfall and the futility of their dream...

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