During the 1930’s in America, at the time of the Great Depression, John Steinbeck, an ordinary migrant worker wrote perhaps the shortest but well known novel – Of Mice And Men. I think Steinbeck was influenced by the poem “To A Mouse”, because the novel and poem are slightly alike. They both have dreams and determination but in the end, both are destroyed. In the novel, Steinbeck shows us that dreams are futile. You only have the dream because you are being optimistic and having a dream might make life seem easier for you. But if your dream is destroyed, then life seems difficult and meaningless. George and Lennie’s dream to own a ranch during the Great Depression seemed like a typical, futile American Dream of the migrant workers. “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to. With us ain’t like that. We got a future.”
But the closer Lennie and George came to achieving their dream, everything was suddenly lost – “the beak swallowed the little snake while its’ tail waved frantically”. This sentence shows us that things will suddenly change and the outcome of plans are not going to be what they were expected to be. The setting of the last and first chapters of the novel are exactly the same, but the sentence “the beak swallowed the little snake while its’ tail waved frantically” is seen as a warning by the reader that something unexpected is going to occur. “Suddenly Lennie appeared out of the brush, and he came as silently as a creeping bear moves.” This sentence indicates a change of Lennie’s behavior, which is shown using anthropomorphism, makes us think that something is going to happen and the tension starts to rise because Lennie usually moves and is described as a “calm, big bear”. Lennie’s actions make the reader imagine Lennie as being big, cute, cuddly and harmless – “he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws”. Steinbeck set the last chapter in the late afternoon when “already the sun had left the valley to go climbing up the slopes of the Gabilan mountains, and the hilltops were rosy in the sun”.
He set the chapter at that particular time of the day because the day is coming to an end at that point, neither in the evening nor night because the day would have come to an end by then. He is telling us that as the day ends, the dream ends as well due to the death of Lennie by George’s love for Lennie. The dream of Curley’s wife was to be in the movies. “If I’d went, I wouldn’t be livin’ like this, you bet”. The reason Curley’s wife does not fulfill her dream to become an actress was because she met a producer who said “he was gonna put me in the movies. Says I was a natural”. He takes an advantage of her naivety and tricks her by convincing her that “he was gonna write to me about it”. But never did – “I never got that letter”. Because of her anger on her mother who she thought stole the letter – “I always thought my ol’ lady stole it. I ast her if she stole it, too, an’ she says no”- and despondency she married Curley without even loving him just to revenge on her mother – “So I married Curley. Well, I ain’t told this to nobody before. Maybe I oughtn’ to. I don’ like Curley.
He ain’t a nice fella”. Steinbeck tells the reader through this novel that women were treated as personal possessions and as providers for mans needs during those times. Throughout the novel, all women characters are presented as either a possession or provider. For example: even thought Lennie’s aunt Clara isn’t present in the novel as a character, she is described as a provider for Lennie’s needs – “That was your own Aunt Clara. An’ she stopped givin’ ‘em to ya. Your Aunt Clara give you a rubber mouse and you wouldn’t have nothing to do with it”- supports my point. Another example is seen with Curley’s wife who is shown as a personal possession to Curley – “’Any you guys seen my wife?’ he demanded”. Steinbeck tells the reader via this sentence that Curley is not looking after his wife as he should be and does not spend time with her considering that she is the only women on the ranch surrounded by men who see her as “jail bait”.
Curley’s wife only seeks company, but as she is a young, flirtatious and beautiful woman – “She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her finger nails were red” – the men fear her as they think she will get them in trouble. Also in the sentence – “Her finger nails were red”- the finger nails are red colour and red is seen as danger, meaning that it is dangerous to get involved with Curley’s wife. The quotes – “What’s the matter with me? Ain’t I got a right to talk to nobody? Whatta they think I am, anyways? I don’t know why I can’t talk to you. I ain’t doing no harm to you” and “Well, George says you’ll get us in a mess.” And “What kinda harm am I doin’ to you?” support my point. The sentence “Seems like they ain’t none of them cares how I gotta live” tells the reader that no one cared about women at those times.
And also the fact that Curley’s wife does not have a name, but is only referred to as “Curley’s wife” and that Slim’s dog is given a name – “Lulu” – shows the reader that dogs were treated better than women at those times. The failure of Curley’s wife’s dream leads to her death, which also takes place in late afternoon, as the days ends so does her life. John Steinbeck tells us through this cyclical novel that dreams are futile. The closer the characters got to achieving their dreams, they suddenly lost them unexpectedly. “The beak swallowed the little snake while its’ tail waved frantically” tells the reader that the death of the snake was sudden and unexpected in the same setting as the first chapter.
The dream was first mentioned in the same place and at the same time in the first chapter and it is mentioned again at the same time and place in the last chapter. By making the same setting in the first and last chapter cyclical and mentioning the dream in both chapters, Steinbeck tells us that as the day ends, the dream ends. And that whatever happened in between was futile. Therefore, John Steinbeck tells us that everyone had the American Dream to make life worth living, but society would let only few achieve it during the Great Depression of the 1930’s America.
Courtney from Study Moose
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