The American Dream In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

The American Dream in a time of hope, struggle, and hardship was characterized by Americans fighting for the land of their own. In Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck shows the struggles that men faced to achieve their dream. Lennie and George are two polar opposite friends fighting to pursue their dreams. Lennie is a big guy with special needs and his sidekick George is navigating the farmlands in search of property to call their own. Their friendship has many ups and downs but their goal is simple; own a farm with lots of rabbits.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, shows the tragic effects of the American Dream, including the struggle to find money during hard economic times, the effects of the power of friendship, and the struggle of a person with mental illness. This book is said to be a classic of American literacy and truly shows the power of the American Dream.

During the book, John Steinback brings up the hardships of earning money.

Trying to achieve the American dream is one of the hardest times in American history due to the lack of money and the struggle to survive. John Steinbeck uses world issues in different lights as a way to prove points about the American Dream. “Jeffersonian agrarianism…was essentially democratic: it insisted on the widespread ownership of property, on political and economic independence, on individualism; it created a society in which every individual had status; it made the dignity of man something more than a political slogan….

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Of Mice and Men shows clearly Steinbeck’s interest in agrarianism, even though he is still haunted by psychological abnormality… Lennie and George, migratory workers in the California fields, cherish the dream of a little farm of their own where, as Lennie’s refrain has it, they can ‘live off the gatta the lan’. George yearns for his own place where he could bring in his own crops, where he could get what comes up out of the ground. He wants the full reward of his own labor. He wants the independence that partnership can give him… these give men the dignity that is rightfully theirs in a democracy.” (Eisinger.) This piece of evidence shows how Stienbeck used Jefferson’s agrarianism to exemplify the lack of money. In the book the author wrote the ideas through the characters to make this point clear. According to Kenneth D. Swan he says in his article that John Steinbeck was a writer who was a “first-rate interpreter of the American scene” John Steinbeck was awarded Nobel prizes on his take of the instincts of America, good or bad. ‘Sure they all want it. Everybody wants a little bit of land, not much. Jus’ som’thin’ that was his. Som’thin’ he could live on and there couldn’t nobody throw him off of it. I never had none. I planted crops for damn near ever’body in this state, but they wasn’t my crops, and when I harvested ’em, it wasn’t none of my harvest.’ (Steinbeck, 37.) This shows how the character is saying that the goal is to have a small piece of land where the profits of it are his and his only. They don’t have to give your money to a rich owner, even if the work was done by them. ‘You guys is just kiddin’ yourself. You’ll talk about it a hell of a lot, but you won’t get no land . . . Hell, I seen too many guys. Lennie here’ll quit an’ be on the road in two, three weeks. Seems like ever’ guy got land in his head.’ (Steinbeck, 37.) This is showing that many people living on farms have a sort of depression from constantly feeling empty. They have no money, no family, no friends, and have no reason to live for a goal. Lennie and George had a goal in the story; no matter what they had to keep going for this goal. Many of the American characters in this story are living the financial status as the true Americans who went through it. John Steinbeck uses real life ideas to portray this story.

To continue, John Steinbeck uses the power of friendship to portray the loneliness faced in the American dream. Lennie and George share a connection in the story that is unlike any other. They may go through hard times and struggle to find money but no matter who goes against them they have each other’s back. “The main purpose of this essay is to analyze the relationship between the two main characters George and Lennie in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (1937) and determine what kind of relationship they share, how their relationship is built and whether they are genuine friends or not… Besides Aristotle’s definition of friendship, the novella will be examined from a perspective with a primary focus on the concept of friendship and it will also to some extent touch the field of interpersonal relationships. The concept will then be applied to the examination of their relationship and will only take the content of the novella itself into account. To assist the theory and provide with an extended view upon friendship, the works of Allan” (Lynn.) This article is affirming how one of the main purposes of the book is to show the power of friendship. They have each other; many characters in the book and in real time never had anyone to travel with, just themselves. ‘I was only foolin’, George. I don’t want no ketchup. I wouldn’t eat no ketchup if it was right here beside me.’ If it was here, you could have some.’But I wouldn’t eat none, George. I’d leave it all for you. You could cover your beans with it and I wouldn’t touch none of it.'(Stienbeck, 14.) Lennie is disabled and his George can get frustrated with him from time to time throughout the story. Yet no matter how frustrated George gets at Lennie he could never leave him. ‘With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If the other guys get in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us.’ (Steinbeck, 47.) According to Winifred Dunsenbury Frazer, they said how in the novel the loneliness of the characters keeps the plot moving. The relationship of Lennie and George pushes the idea that they are the ones who can make the dream come to life. The two main characters have something that sets them apart from the other characters in the story and that’s why John Steinbeck made the book the way it is; because it’s different and shows so much power through the actions of the character. Lennie and George work for their goal and their friendship endlessly sets them apart from others.

Mental Illness is something that affects many Americans today and has for many years prior. Lennie Smalls struggles with mental illness and it affects him throughout the story. In Of Mice and Men many events occur that make you see the struggle people with mental illness go through. As part of his disability he prefers to touch soft animals. Part of why George and he are moving is because Lennie got into big trouble for touching a woman’s dress. They had to move away from the town to have Lennie safe. Lennie has killed many animals due to his immense strength; which has also caused him to kill a woman. His mishaps have caused a lot of trouble for George. It had got to an extent where Lennie had to die just to get over torture. “John Steinbeck created figures characterized by a low level of intelligence and low morality out of deep social concern, which is often misinterpreted as his preference for describing primitives, idiots, or deviants. Those characters are used by Steinbeck to reveal essential socio-psychological aspects of human life, as such social relations may not be so vivid in more sophisticated personalities depicted by Steinbeck in his other novels” (instructional.) This quote shows how John Steinbeck is using the idea of loneliness to drive the story onward. He used the power of disability to show the reader how effective this is in people’s lives. The effects mental illness has on the book, truly shows how Steinbeck uses disability to show how in today’s world and the lives of people back then, it is a struggle to continue on with life when the character is constantly being pushed down. Mental illness is a struggle that Lennie goes through in the book and it affects his take on the American Dream.

In conclusion, John Steinbeck’s writing in Of Mice and Men shows the repercussions of the start American dream. He explains the powers of economic times and how money was not an option for many people, they worked through filthy conditions just for minimal pay. Stienbeck shows how relationships affect the outcome of people’s lives and the power redemptive love can have on someone. No matter how hard life got Lennie had George and that’s all that mattered. Finally, how mental illness can upshot the power someone withholds. Lennie has problems and he constantly is put to the test even when he didn’t know any better. He worked hard; yet, didn’t always succeed, which is something that happens in today’s society. John Steinbeck used the characters in the book to exclaim to the readers how powerful this historical event really was. The American dream is a hardship and something many Americans urge to conquer.

Work Cited

  3. Chester E. Eisinger “Jeffersonian Agrarianism in The Grapes of Wrat
  4. Kenneth D. Swan, “John Steinbeck in Search of America,”
  5. (Kinship and Friendship in Modern Britain: 1996), Lynch (Philosophy and Friendship
  6. 2005), Spencer (Rethinking Friendship: Hidden solidarities today: 2006) and Pahl (On Friendship: 2000) will be applied.
  7. Winifred Dusenbury Frazer, “Homelessness,” In The Theme of Loneliness in modern
  8. American Drama. University of Florida Press, 1960.
  9. Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. Albatross, 1947.

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The American Dream In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. (2021, Apr 19). Retrieved from

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