What dreams and visions motivate the characters of Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck?

Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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No matter how well we plan the future, things often go wrong. 'Of Mice and Men', a novella by John Steinbeck, highlights the despair and misfortune of the American citizens in the 1930s. Following the collapse of the New York Wall Street stock market, the US entered a prolonged period of economic depression. During this period of failed business, harsh poverty and long-term unemployment, thousands of migrant workers came to California in search for work.

In attempts to escape the 'dust bowl' (a series of droughts and failed crops) workers migrated west, but to find themselves in no better state; slaving in ranches from day to day, poorly paid, poorly fed with nothing to loose but their hopes of pursuing "The American Dream" and indeed, as Steinbeck illustrates, these hopes can be lost. Having lived and experienced this lifestyle, Steinbeck presents his views of society in the 1930s in the form of the characters of this book. He shows that the simplest elements of identity can be the reason of the shattering of one's dream.

The luxuries of "The Promised Land", the dream of being rescued of fear and loneliness and the desire to live a happy life are but visions of a supernatural future for the characters of this novel. Loneliness is a common quality that a ranch- hand would possess, however, weather or not it is an advantage can be argued. In the 1930s, Workers were never in one place long enough to even make friends; these men would grow impassive and often set aside their ambitions. Characters like Carlson and Wit have no emotional depth; they are not touched or motivated by anything.

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Steinbeck doesn't describe Carlson's feelings, but instead just the way he is 'thick-bodied'. Carlson's first conversation in this book is one where he plots to kill Candy's dog. Here we immediately recognise Carlson's indifferent nature. He is one of the best survivors at the ranch because of this; he wastes no time in planning out 'dreams' for himself. Steinbeck uses Carlson's character to model a typical ranch- hand, loneliness a key for his survival. However, in contrast to Carlson, Lennie and George are the main pursuers of the "American dream".

Their vision of their future motivates them every day; and has become the reason and main influence of their decisions. Together, George and Lennie carefully plan their dream and work hard on the ranch to earn money for their future. George has repeated their plan to Lennie so many times that Lennie has actually learnt the dream off by heart. George tells Lennie of how they are each going to get what they want; George freedom and Lennie "gets to tend the rabbits". The two characters believe that each cannot seek their dream alone.

Evidently, George says, "We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us... ecause I got you to look after me and you got me to look after you," and for Lennie especially, it has been the main reason for their survival. The recollection of this dream is met several times throughout the novel. This shows that even the weakest of people can be stimulated by the image of their "perfect life". Even George, though he seems quite tough, weakens when he visualises their future, his voice becomes "deeper" when he tells the dream and he "repeats his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before".

Steinbeck's use of language here convey George's feelings, his rhythmic tone and deep voice suggest that he is in an almost trance- like mode, fantasising about his dream. This is very ironic however, seeing that George actually ends this vision himself. He prevents his own dream from coming or ever being able to come true. There is a strong moral-thread in this story, generally identified as the concern for the "underdog". Steinbeck sympathises with any "out of the normal" character, weather physically or mentally disabled, racially or sexually different, "diverse" people in the 1930s were considered outcasts.

Crooks for instance, both physically disabled and of a different (inferior) race, illustrates the social pressure that is cast upon those in his condition. He represents Steinbeck's thoughts and what he thinks of life for these men. Like Crooks, Steinbeck sees dreams as useless fantasies, this is shown by the fact that Crooks does not actually have existing dreams, he is well aware that dreams will never come true for men like them; disabled, poor, "black". Through the years, Crooks has come to his senses, he has realised that his race is a huge obstacle which stands between himself and his happiness.

Crooks illustrates the need of a partner in order to be able to dream. He only starts to dream when he is around other characters. Being left out and ignored has driven Crooks to separate himself from the community, disabling him from planning any dreams. "He whined,' A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. '" Here Steinbeck blames the social attitudes, we pity Crooks by the way he "whines" telling us how his dreams have almost been beaten out of him and which now have been reduced to memories.

In contrast, George and Lennie's dream represents one's success if accompanied by a partner. This dream was the closest to becoming true as there seemed to be no faults in it. However, when Lennie dies, the dream becomes impossible to achieve. Perhaps like Crooks, this dream will become but a memory to George. Crooks' memories of his childhood mirror George, Lennie and Candy's dream, both similar in the way they were based on being free, happy and being around people; "The American Dream". Also, both dreams similarly extinguished due to the effects of the people around them.

When Lennie dies, George's dream becomes extinct, likewise, Crooks' dreams end when he is separated from his family, left with no motivation, ambition or vision to look forward to every day. This injustice, however, might be seen beneficial to some characters. For example, at the ranch, Curley has the upper hand; power, money and a wife. This is because, the prejudice society of the 1930s allowed offenders like Curley to take advantage of less valued people, enjoying some benefits of the "American Dream" at the expense of the weaker characters.

Another view would be that on the contrary, Curley, though mighty and powerful demonstrates the suffering caused by prejudice. He is silenced when a weaker character, Lennie, takes a stand (when Lennie crushed Curley's hand). Steinbeck shows yet another dream shattered when justice starts to appear. At Lennie's shooting, George is more pitied because his dream is not fulfilled, and now he has to live with the same misery and solitude Crooks endures. "George's voice was almost a whisper. " Again, a dream extinguished, showing that justice has no place in this society.

Steinbeck shows George's helplessness, how this was beyond his control and how this is how things should end. Obstacles in this novel are never overcome; they are barriers separating fantasy from authenticity. Lennie's obstacle in this story is clearly his mental disability. He places himself in problematic situations which in return pull him further away from his dream. An example of this is that when he kills Curley's wife, Curley becomes determined to seek revenge and kill Lennie which disables the latter from fulfilling his dream.

However, Lennie is not aware of his actions, he simply lives by what George trains him to do, motivated by the vision George has built for him, looking forward to tending his beloved rabbits. He does not understand what obstacles are and does not see the ones he faces. When Curley's wife dies, Curley is only determined to seek revenge, like Carlson, Curley has become a lonely man with no ambitions. "He worked himself into a fury" this clearly shows how Curley has also become impassive and insensitive, the same way Carlson is, the same way George will be when he loses Lennie.

Moreover, Lennie's death shatters Candy's dream too. Candy's hopes of a better life rebuild (as do Crooks') when he meets Lennie, he starts planning and preparing himself as if he was to relive his life again: ""He just sets in the bunk house sharpening his pencils and sharpening and figuring"" Candy is very enthusiastic about this dream, he has always found that his age and physical disability have prevent him from having a happy ending. He knows that, just like his old dog, he will be gotten rid of because he is of no use anymore.

There is a pattern here which Steinbeck emphasises; he tells us that the strong and admirable will never have a happy ending at the ranch. Candy's brilliant sheepdog was shot because he became old and useless, Candy is going to be thrown out of the barn for the same reason and Slim is predicted to end up this way too. Your position in the community depends on how much you are accepted by society, which is based on cultural attitudes. It is ironic how Candy is helpless due to his old age whilst Curley's wife's helplessness is due to her young age.

Steinbeck hints at prejudice here which is purely society's model man against the other types of people. Women, for instance were meant to be seen and not heard. They seemed to have no rights. Curley's wife is an example of this prejudiced idea. She is expected to stay at home and entertain her husband, regardless of her desires. No one cares about her ambitions to be a movie star or her longing for company. Even her mother tried to prevent her from achieving her goals because it was clear that women were weaker and less outspoken because of their sex.

Curley's wife is a highly ambitious character, she says that she wants to make something of herself, she wanted to be like "in the movies"; rich, famous and glamorous. Her attempts to fulfil her wishes backfire on her every time. She was disrespected and called a "tart" when she merely tried to find company. This is ironic as the ranch hands repeatedly talk about going to the "cat house" and having "a hell of a lot of fun". This illustrates the way women were considered property, men could think of them as they liked.

They were not to have dreams but if they did their dreams were known not to have come true, simply because they are women. "Of Mice and Men" is indeed a tragic story of how prejudice, racism, sexism and intolerance of the weak prevented people from achieving their dreams. In this novella Steinbeck demonstrates the disturbing effects of rejecting those who are not seen worthy enough in the community. He blames society and, as I see it, mainly the physically and mentally strong white men for perpetuating with this concept.

These men are even blamed for their own pathetic ways of life, they are the reason no one can achieve "The American Dream" because the "weaker" beings are part of this dream too. Steinbeck shows us how society is the main influence on people's lives. If one is not accepted in society, then their hopes and dreams will perish despite the injustice and immorality it may bring. He disgraces society for its prejudice ways and holds it responsible for the suffering of all of its members, weak or strong.

Informative Essay on Of Mice and Men

Novel Essay Author: John Steinbeck Novel: of Mice and men Question: Describe an important theme dealt with in the text. Explain why this theme is important. The first instances that Steinbeck uses a dramatic style of writing are in the images he portrays, and the use of sound and light to put across the images, which is shown all throughout the book.

These two ways of creating and image for the reader are the two main ways of creating atmosphere in the book, so that the reader carries on reading the book, and doesn’t put it down. “On the sandy bank under the trees the leaves lie deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them” This quote shows the use of sounds, “skittering” to give the reader a clear image of what the shape of the leaves are, and what they look like, and their texture.

Also from this you can also picture the other surroundings around the leaves and of the sandy bank. Also in the first another use of light comes across in the description, to give the reader, a clearer image of the surrounding area, “Only the tops of the Gabilan mountains flamed with the light of the sun that had gone from the valley” this again shows how the valley is “alight” because of the sun, and how it lights of the features of the surrounding area and, it maybe a very early warning sign, that a situation, may become heated, and may catch alight.

Another quote is used to help the reader’s imagination, as Steinbeck’s dramatic style of writing, is again used “A water-snake slipped along the pool, its head held up like a periscope” Another feature of Steinbeck’s dramatic style of writing is that he uses metaphors, and also uses personification, and implies things in his description. From that quote, sound is used to describe the snake’s movements; “slipped” this builds a mental image of what the snake is actually moving and how it is actually moving.

Also this maybe another sign of impending danger, or what’s about to come, “…held up like a periscope” periscopes are found on submarines, which are used as they are dangerous, and cause damage to the enemy, this may imply that George, or Lennie, will encounter an enemy and they may have to use force, or hurt the enemy to sort out the squabble/argument. The theme of loneliness is a very important theme dealt within the novel ‘of mice and men’ by John Steinbeck. Loneliness affects most of the characters throughout the novel.

Candy is lonely as he feels separated from the rest of the younger hands at the ranch. Curley’s wife is lonely as she is the only female at the farm and Crooks is lonely because of his skin colour. They learn to cope with their loneliness through their interest in Lennie and George's dream. Loneliness is a dominant theme which is used throughout the story, making it very important. Firstly, Curley’s wife is lonely as she is the only female at the farm. The character of Curley’s wife is used to show that women were considered unimportant and powerless.

The men don’t want any trouble from her husband so they try to avoid her: “Ain’t I got a right to talk to nobody? ” The workers avoid her as she is seen as nothing but trouble. She goes around, trying to seek attention from the workers at the ranch. Curley’s wife is lonely because she has a husband who doesn’t have any time for her. She ends up having her last conversation with Lennie, where she also finds out about the dream. Curley’s wife uplifts her image of being a tart, by acting friendly towards the other men.

All she wanted was someone to talk and be able to converse with. In addition, Candy is an isolated and disabled man who feels lonely while staying with the younger workers at the ranch. This suggests the idea of candy being an unproductive citizen. The workers feel the same way about Candy, as they feel about his dog: “He ain’t no good to you and he ain’t no good to himself... ” Carlson’s speech about the old dog actually represents the fact that Candy is also ‘no good’, to others and to himself. This reinforces the idea of Candy being an unproductive citizen.

Once the ancient dog is put to rest, Candy is left alone in the world. Candy joins the dream with George and Lennie in order to break free from his loneliness. He also makes two companions that will benefit in his time of need. However, this ends because of the death of Lennie. Lennie. m of George and lennie. being lonely, Candy joins the dream of George and lennie. Further more, Crooks is lonely because of his skin colour. Crooks is the only black person in the novel. He stays in the stable with the animals.

Steinbeck aims to illustrate that crooks is considered more of an animal rather then a human. He is also the victim of verbal assault: “You keep your place then, nigger” Crooks is called a nigger which shows that he was a target for racial prejudice. The importance of this is to inform the reader about the political conflict between the ‘whites’ and the ‘blacks’. Crooks also offers to join the dream with George and Lennie to escape from his cruelty and loneliness. He later changes his mind because he believes that dreams never come true.

To conclude, the theme of loneliness is very important in the novel. Some of the reasons of loneliness includes: being lonely because of age, discrimination against gender and being the victim of racial prejudice. Each of the characters affected by loneliness, try to cope with it, by becoming involved or aware of the dream. The fact that Curley’s wife, Candy and Crooks are all ‘invaders’ in the farm, also adds to there loneliness. Loneliness is or will affect everyone so we should always be prepared.

Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby Analysis

John Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby, share a theme of dehumanization. Dehumanization is portrayed through two opposite social classes, the wealthy and the working class, and the ways in which women are treated by men.

Of Mice and Men is a novel about George and Lennie, two migrant farmers, who have been hired to work at a farm after being chased out of their last job. The Great Gatsby is concerned with its protagonist, Jay Gatsby, and his devotion to rising into the upper class to impress Daisy Buchanan who left him because he was poor.

In the end, characters from both novels are either dehumanized due to their class or because of their gender. Throughout Of Mice and Men, the wealthy upper class dehumanizes the lower working class by manipulating and taking advantage of them.

Curley's wife lives a life in luxury on the farm with no work and plenty of free time. She wanders around the farm claiming that she is looking for her husband, but in reality she is exerting her power over the workers. When Crooks, one of the workers, talks back to Curley's wife, she threatens, “I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny” (Steinbeck 79).

Steinbeck emphasizes that she could not only have him falsely condemned, but doing so would be no trouble at all. Crooks then, “reduces himself to nothing” and replies, “Yes, ma'am” with a “toneless” voice because he knows that it is true. Steinbeck's diction further advocates the theme of dehumanization, particularly when he describes Crooks' voice as “toneless”.

Crooks' monotonous response indicates that he has accepted his role as unimportant and voiceless. Instead of then walking away, Curley's wife continues to take advantage of his inferiority by “waiting for him to move so that she could whip at him again”.

This short exchange demonstrates how the rich gain satisfaction from abusing the helpless. Earlier in the story, George, Lennie, and Candy, another planter, decide to pool their savings together in order to purchase a farm and be their own bosses. At the end of their conversation, George wisely adds, “Don’t tell nobody about it, Jus’ us three an’ nobody else.

They li’ble to can us so we can’t make no stake” (60), George understands that if their current boss discovered the plan they composed, he would take advantage of the high dependence they have on their next pay checks and fire them.

The wealthy class will do whatever it takes to prevent the impoverished from becoming prosperous. On the other hand, in Of Mice of Men, Curley's wife can also be the victim of dehumanization rather than the oppressor. She is often portrayed as a metaphor for problems in the story because she is a woman.

Steinbeck expresses this by purposely not giving her a name. Her only identifier is her marriage to Curley, whom she rarely talks to. That identifier is a large reason for why George loathes her. When George and Lennie first meet Curley's wife, George refers to her as “poison”, a “piece of jail bait”, and a “rattrap” (32).

He utilizes words that compare her to inanimate objects of disdain that give the sense that she is not a lady or even an actual person, but again a metaphor for problems. In addition, George commands Lennie to “let Curley take the rap” rather than ordering Lennie not to go after Curley's wife.

George uses the word “let” because no one looks for trouble with Curley's wife, but some one has to tolerate her and that unfortunate soul, in George's eyes, should be Curley. Then when Lennie accidentally kills her, the main concern is not her, but how to keep Lennie from getting in trouble.

Anything that is tied to Curley's wife can only mean danger. Similarly, The Great Gatsby contains multiple examples of the wealthy dehumanizing the poor. When Nick, the narrator, and Tom Buchanan, Daisy's husband, visit the valley of ashes to see Tom's mistress, Myrtle, they also encounter Myrtle's husband, George Wilson, a poor car mechanic.

George inquires when Tom will be selling him a car with a tone of desperation in his voice. Tom, sensing this desperation, threatens to “sell it somewhere else after all” (Fitzgerald 25). George quickly tries to take it back but his voice fades off with submission.

Fitzgerald effectively chooses the words “faded off” to characterize George's reply because like Crooks in Of Mice and Men, it supports the notion that some of the lower class workers recognize that arguing back with the upper class is useless.

It is apparent that Tom enjoys dangling this sale over him because George is depending on it. Later in the novel when Nick and Daisy are visiting Gatsby's house, Gatsby calls his servant, Klipspringer, over to play them some music. When the servant walks in, Nick immediately notices that Gatsby had him change his attire to make him look more presentable for Daisy.

Klipspringer explains that he was sleeping but Gatsby interrupts to ask him if he plays the piano and then interrupts him again when Mr. Klipspringer tries to admit that he is out of practice. Gatsby commands that he not “talk so much” and just play (95).

Gatsby's request that he not “talk so much” connects back to the voiceless characteristic that Crooks in Of Mice and Men understands to pertain to himself. In this short conversation, Gatsby is attempting to help Klipspringer understand that this characteristic pertains to him as well by not allowing him to finish a single sentence.

Much like Of Mice and Men, in The Great Gatsby women are dehumanized to unimportant and frequently ignored roles. When Gatsby and Tom Buchanan have their altercation on the subject of Daisy, she tries to add in her own opinion “with a visible effort”, crying out that she “won't stand this! ” and begs to leave (133).

However, both of these remarks are completely ignored with no response from anyone. Fitzgerald emphasizes that Daisy is being ignored by having her cry out opinions “with a visible effort” and then following that with a response that makes it appear as if no one even hears her.

Later in the novel, Wilson starts to go insane and treats Myrtle inhumanely. When his neighbor hears a loud disturbance coming from Wilson's house, Wilson calmly explains to him that it is just his “wife locked up there” (137).

Wilson is treating her more like an animal than a human being. In the next sequence, Myrtle is hit by an oncoming car that ends her “tremendous vitality”. It is very ironic that in the end, Myrtle dies when she was so full of life, yet Daisy will continue her life as an insignificant and overlooked wife.

In the passage illustrating her death, Fitzgerald forcefully uses pronouns to describe Myrtle's mangled body to suggest that “she” is just another poor girl from the valley of ashes whose death will create little impact on the world.

In Of Mice and Men, Curley's wife finds it remarkably effortless to threaten the farmers because of their low position on the farm's hierarchy. However, it is just as easy for her to become the victim of dehumanization being that she is a woman. She is perceived less as a person and more as a metaphor for problems.

Likewise, in The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby express signs of disrespect for the working class, such as George Wilson and Mr. Klipspringer. Also, Myrtle and Daisy often find themselves continually treated inhumanely and seen as unimportant.

John Steinbeck conveys the dehumanization of the lower class through manipulation, and the dehumanization of women by using Curley's wife as a literary device to prove a point. F. Scott Fitzgerald also uses manipulation as a tool to dehumanize the working class, and he dehumanizes the women by frequently characterizing them as voiceless.

Themes in of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

There are many themes in Of mice and men by John Steinbeck. There is the theme of brotherhood and friendship. Lennie and George against all odds are close friends, brothers in a way. They take care of each other in different ways. George takes care of Lennie and tries to keep him out of trouble which is a very difficult task but one which he takes on nonetheless. Without him Lennie has noone and probably wouldn’t last long, even if he went and lived in a cave. And George does get something from Lennie – he gets companionship their friendship is what sets them apart from the other guys that works on ranches. An’ why? Because… because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why”. Without their friendship there would be no book. You get to read a lot about how George and Lennie interact with each other. Segregation is also in the book. There is the obvious one: Crooks the negro stable buck is set apart from the others because he is black, he isn’t even allowed to sleep in the same bunkhouse as the other ranch workers. But others in the story are set apart from the group as a whole. Curley’s wife is ignored by everyone, the only woman on the ranch and she has noone to talk to.

There is a lot of prejudice towards the two aforementioned characters. Other characters whom people feel prejudice against are Lennie, for his disability and Candy, who like his dog is getting old and will soon have outlived his usefulness. Another theme present is the one of innocence. Lennie has the mind of a small child, he is very innocent and naive. He doesn’t realise what he’s doing most of the time. How can he be guilty of a crime when he hasn’t done anything harmful on purpose? He doesn’t know his own strength. He doesn’t know much at all. One thing he does know is that George looks out for him and he is very loyal towards him.

In the outsider’s chapter he gets very agitated when Crooks implies that something might have happened to George in town. It’s interesting that he is so loyal to George but that he can’t remember his Aunt Clara, someone actually related to him by blood and that took care of him for some time. There is a fair amount of violence in the book. Some of it is intentional, Curley trying to pick a fight with Lennie, the ranch hands going after Lennie at the end of the novel all intent on causing pain and/or killing him. The one who causes the most pain and most death though is Lennie but he barely realises it.

He shatters Curley’s hand, kills all the animals he acquires and also Curley’s wife. However loneliness is definitely the biggest theme in the book because everyone in the story suffers from it. The farm hands going from ranch to ranch by themselves George talks about their loneliness already in the first chapter, Curley's wife trapped on a ranch with a bunch of men who won't talk to her because they risk getting into trouble with Curley, Crooks who is cast out by everyone, Candy is alone after they shoot his dog who was the only constant companion in his life. All these characters admit that they are lonely.

The only people that aren’t alone are George and Lennie so it is quite sad that he has to shoot Lennie, which might be the best for Lennie at the time but from then on George joins the ranks of lonely ranch hands travelling on their own. Except he has known companionship so he will always know what he’s missing; the other guys have never had anyone they were that close to so they don’t understand his pain after he shots Lennie. This is obvious in the last sentence uttered by Carlson watching George and Slim walk away together. “Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys? ”

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What dreams and visions motivate the characters of Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck?. (2017, Oct 07). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/dreams-visions-motivate-characters-mice-men-john-steinbeck/

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