The idea of moving from one place to another, working hard and trying to raise the quality of life for you and your loved ones is known as ‘The American Dream’. Steinbeck invites us to understand how having this dream keeps them going despite the challenging life that each character faces. Throughout the novel, Steinbeck makes this ‘dream’ the main focus of the story for both the reader and characters. George’s dream is to have independence and to “go into town and get whatever I want” but most importantly he dreams of being “somebody”. On the other hand, Lennie aspires to be with George and to “tend the rabbits”.
Ultimately, George and Lennie both wanted to “have a little house and couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs” however, George only tells Lennie about their dream to comfort Lennie. This is shown when Lennie says “No… You tell it. It ain’t the same if I tell it. Go on… George. How do I get to tend the rabbits. ” It is only after they all realised that together, “this thing they never believed in was coming true” Even though the dream is very important to George as well, Steinbeck portrays Lennie as someone who wants the dream a lot more.
This is shown through Lennie’s angry or upset feelings when he feels like he has done something that would jeopardise their dream. George uses this to his advantage to threaten and control Lennie by blackmailing him, “If you do, I won’t let you tend the rabbits. ” Consequently, Lennie tries to please George and to gain his approval as much as possible. Another way in which Steinbeck shows the power of dreams and dreaming in the novel is through how much they want it. Steinbeck portrays each character’s desperation through their lifestyle. The dream that each character has reflects what is missing from their life.
George and Crooks are both very desperate about this dream because they both want their current lives to be like their past. This is shown when, for a second, George loses track of the present and says “we’d keep a few pigeons to go flyin’ around the win’mill like they done when I was a kid” which is referring back to his childhood. Similarly, Crooks wants to return to his past. “The white kids used to play at our place, an’ sometimes I went to play with them. ” This shows that Crooks used to be well respected and equal within his community.
After all, Crooks “ain’t a southern negro”; however, he is not treated well at the ranch, therefore, the dream provides comfort for Crooks. Although George wants to return to his childhood, there is a deeper meaning to his dream. George wants to “just say the hell with goin’ to work” because unlike Candy, George doesn’t want to stay at the ranch too long so he would get ‘canned’. For George, the dream means that “nobody could can us” Furthermore, George doesn’t want to have to keep moving because he would “jus’ live there” and “belong there.
There wouldn’t be no more runnin’ round the country and gettin’ fed by a Jap cook. ” This suggests that he’ll be his own boss. A result of being a migrant worker, no one at the ranch has any friends, which is why Crooks was surprised to hear that Lennie had George. For George and Lennie, the dream of having their own land provides a stable home that will eventually gain them friends and family. On the other hand, Crooks is very pessimistic about the possibility of a dream becoming a reality because he has been segregated in the ranch for as long as he can remember.
His cynicism has led him to believe “It’s just in their head. They’re all the time talkin’ about it, but it’s jus’ in their head”. This suggests that his past experiences have affected his power to dream. Steinbeck reinforces the power of dreaming within the novel, as he shows every character’s reaction when they all realise that there is a possibility of George and Lennie’s dream becoming reality. “They looked at each other, amazed. This thing they had never really believed in was coming true. Once they believed that the dream is a possibility, the tension is ramped up. Suddenly there is something to lose and something to fight for. This massively enhances the power that the dream has over each character and for a while the feeling of doom is lessened. The reader wants to know if each character can escape the curse they seem to be under and reach their goals. For Lennie and candy the dream would provide an exciting opportunity, as both characters are not worth much in the real world. The dream would provide them a chance of appreciation.
To Lennie, the dream is an antidote to disappointment and loneliness, and he often asks George to recite the description of the farm to him for comfort. Like a child, he loved the hear George telling him to “tend the rabbits” correspondingly for Candy it would make him feel more important as he can “cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some” Even though Curley’s Wife was the reason that the dream fell apart, she had big dreams to be in “pitchers” Unsatisfied by her surly husband, she constantly lurks around the barn, trying to engage the workers in conversation.
However, although she may come across as very flirtatious, she only flirts with the men for attention. Which is what her dream would have provided her if she didn’t marry Curley. Shes so lonely, and so desparate for the attention of the men at the ranch that she even flirts with Lennie as she leans “closely” at him to “see if she was impressing him” To look in more detail about how Steinbeck shows the power of the dreams, take each individual character and how they all act to their dreams ending.
For example, Steinbeck has made Curley very bitter after the realisation of his dreams ending when Candy’s wife is killed by Lennie. His bitterness shows how much the dream meant to him and how he needed it because he is old and disabled so he will probably get ‘canned’ soon, He shuffles out of the barn which that he has given up all hope, almost given up on life.
Courtney from Study Moose
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