Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
George and Lennies dream to buy a ranch of their own is a powerful
symbol of the 'American Dream'. With reference to specific characters
in the novel, to what extent is Steinbeck protesting to the attitudes
and values of the time?
The book is set in the time of the depression. There was no work, no
benefits so the unemployed had to make do with what they could find.
For many this meant travelling many miles for simple jobs with low
pay. You were lucky if you could find a job. There was panic as people
tried to get their money. Companies and banks disappeared overnight.
At this time 14million people were unemployed. The government took
many people's homes away as bills could not be paid, people were
forced on the streets and many starved. There was no hope in people's
lives except for the 'American Dream'. This was that someday they
would be rich and famous and they would get there if they worked hard
enough. Millions each with its own variation shared this dream. This
stayed just a hope until a new light was shone. California 'The Golden
State' brought new hope in to peoples lives. There were many jobs
available, but even these were low paid with long hours. People didn't
care all they knew was this was a chance for them to pull themselves
up and out of poverty. Thousands of people flocked to California with
high hopes but jobs went quick and pay got lower and lower. The
'Golden State' was soon swamped with refugees.
George and Lennie are two migrant workers with the same dream. They
one day want their own plot so they can 'live off the fatta the lan'
and not have to work for anyone else. Lennie is not the smartest
person so George has to spend most his time watching out for him and
making sure he doesn't get into any trouble. This puts boundaries on
George's life and he often points out to Lennie how life would be so
much better without him;
'I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn't have you on my
George and Lennie are so sure that their dream is different to
everyone else's because it's all planned out. George claims he knows
where they can buy the land and if they work for a month they'll have
Candy lives at the ranch. He is very old and his only companion is his
dog. His dog means a lot to Candy. They are very alike, both old and
crippled. Candy's had his dog since he was a pup. He used to be an
able sheepdog but now in his old age he cannot work;
'That dog ain't no good to himself, I wish't sombody'd shoot me if I
was old an' cripple'.
Candy also only has one hand. This means he can't work properly and so
his only use is to clean the bunkhouse. He has no future to look
forward to that is until he meets George and Lennie. When Lennie tells
Candy about their dream to get a ranch, Candy...