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The American Dream is entrenched in the United States Declaration of Independence. Ideally, the document advances a set of ideals, including democracy, freedom, and individual rights. Furthermore, it asserts that all men are created equal and that each individual has a right to life and pursuit of happiness. In this regard, the US government is tasked to secure and protect the blessings of liberty to all Americans for everyone’s posterity. In Of Mice and Men, George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm and living a better life epitomizes the American Dream (Aristide, 2019). However, the book shows that for a poor migrant worker during the Great Depression, achieving the American Dream was a trap and an impossibility. While aspirations may never be achieved, John Steinbeck suggests that for life to be satisfactory and meaningful, it must be lived in reality and promise.
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Pursuit of Happiness
In Of Mice and Men, Lennie and George fail to achieve their dreams. The two are guided by the ideals of the moment. They desire to live in a society that respects freedoms and individual rights. This dream is true in their thinking and holds their incredible and extraordinary friendship together. Through the dream, Lennie remains happy, stopping George from becoming lonely and “mean” like other characters. A community that respects individual freedoms and liberty lives harmoniously (Ghimire, 2020). The dream so much desired by Lennie and George offers hope, even if life presents challenges in the process of achieving aspirations and goals. The two build their dream up to such a point that even if they managed to “contribute” and buy a piece of land, their lives would likely have never lived up to the ideal visualized in their heads. In fact, at one point, George confesses that their dream was preordained to fail (Ghimire, 2020). George and Lennie’s very act of striving for the impossible is the author’s way of showing how the impossible has become a reality for many Americans, especially during the Great Depression.
Freedom and Liberty
For a long time, Americans have sought to live in a society that respects individual freedom and liberty. However, success is premised on hard work, determination, and collective responsibility. After arriving in the United States, Lennie and George started to work hard because it is only through this that they are promised a better, more enjoyable, and more satisfying life. Nevertheless, everything the two did seemed to benefit other people. While they received pay and accommodation for their labor, they did not have a decent place to call their own (Kombieni, 2020). The author demonstrates that working hard in the US context will not help people attain either the financial success or emotional satisfaction and fulfillment they so much desire. In the case of Crooks and Candy, who have endlessly worked hard their whole life, they have not achieved much. They are forced to be satisfied with simply having three meals a day and a roof over their heads. Even so, the pleasures and honors may be revoked once the two men are no longer deemed useful to the community and their masters.
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The American Dream was a promising endeavor that offered hope to hopeless migrants and the vulnerable population. Treating all Americans equally and respectfully makes achieving the forefathers’ ideals easier. Unfortunately, the failing American Dream is often blamed on the spread of capitalism and the rise of industry (Kroes, 2021). Lennie and George meet cruelty nearly every place they set foot. In this way, the author depicts the harsh truth of making it in the US as a poor migrant worker. Lennie cannot work normally within the confines of the existing policies and rules. However, his immense power and huge physical frame make him an object of fear and ridicule. Lennie cannot understand why he is welcomed.
Even though George and Lennie did not achieve what they intended to attain from the start of their journey, this motivated them even more to work for the course. Violence is evident in the interaction of most characters in this community. The catastrophic and devastating act of violence meted on Lennie in the course of George’s “vision” shows that for George, this dream of America he was promised is at length an imagination and unachievable yet inevitable to withstand the challenging truth of life.
Steinbeck argues that any American from any class can achieve success and attain their dreams through hard work and determination. The American Dream impacts characters like Lennie and George, who are determined to remain successful using any means available. The two are also committed to advancing the ideals of liberty, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness. George and Lennie dream of owning a house and farm to enable them to live meaningful lives. Crooks and Candy join in the dream as well. In Of Mice and Men, characters strive to belong and gain greater responsibility by chasing their dreams and aspirations.
- Aristide, M. M. (2019). The Collapse of the American Dream during the Great Depression in John Steinbeck’s of Mice and Men. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature, and Translation, 2(3), 12-18.
- Ghimire, B. (2020). Critique of American Dream in John Steinbeck’s of Mice and Men. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Tribhuvan University.
- Kombieni, D. (2020). African Americans’ Dreams and Expression of Love during the Great Depression: A Critical Reading through Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 8(7), 26-34.
- Kroes, A. (2021). The Attainability of the American Dream in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. [Unpublished bachelor’s thesis]. Utrecht University.
- Suganya, N. (2020). The Impossibility Of The American Dream In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice And Men. Scholar: National School of Leadership, 9(1.0).