In Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, he introduces his audience to a band of characters that all want one thing: “The American Dream.” In this 1950s, the American dream was owning a house, having a dog, two kids, and a loving wife. During the 1930s, the dream was quite different –surviving was the dream. Using characters such as Lennie and George, as futile as it is, is extremely powerful because even though there is no chance that they can fulfill their dream of living off the “fatta’ the lan’,” there is power in that dream that allows them to have and hold onto a sense of hope that one day they will own a house and farm. Steinbeck’s use of vivid foreshadowing, unrelenting irony, and futile theme help the reader see that no matter how hard some characters try to alter their lives, fate is always there to have its way with their lives.
The idea that imagery has a place in fate is evident at the start of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. George and Lennie are constantly running from the law and can never break their never ending cycle of getting jobs, Lennie getting in trouble, and moving to another part of the country. Their dream of living off the “fatta’ the lan” is an unattainable dream since they can never settle down and actually save money (Steinbeck 14). Steinbeck even lets the readers know that something awry is going to take place as he carefully and strategically places a foreshadowing in chapter one when the character of George tells Lennie, “Look, Lennie. I want you to look around here. You can remember this place, can’t you?” (Steinbeck 15) In this scene, George is telling Lennie that if he gets in trouble to come back to where they are spending the night and wait for him there so they can again escape. Even though George has some type of hope that things will be different as they meet Candy, another worker willing to be a benefactor for them, he still knows that Lennie’s mental disability and state has some kind of influence on whether or not fate will smile kindly on them.
The characters in Of Mice and Men play an important part of demonstrating the failure of “the American dream.” Throughout the story, characters eventually reveal their own dreams –and how they fail to achieve them. George and Lennie’s dream is mentioned in the beginning of the story, indicating they included each other in the dream. George and Lennie’s friendship held a strong bond between the two. When Lennie died, it was evident George had no motive to continue towards that dream without Lennie. As the story moves on, Curley’s wife says to Lennie, “…I met one of the actors. He says I could go with that show. But my ol’ lady wouldn’t let me,” showing she had a mother who kept her being an actress. Her mother was an obstacle in achieving her dream (Steinbeck 88). Instead, she marries Curley, not realizing she’s setting out on a blocked path that leads to her being an actress.
Amongst all the failing characters, there is a conversation about a man who wrote a letter to a magazine and wanting it to be published. After a while, it was finally published. It’s ironic how successful a small goal was stated in this book in comparison to the number of crushed dreams mentioned by