From 1920 – 1921 many Americans experienced a reduced quality of life, as the majority were suffering from economic and social decline brought about by a severe depression after the end of World War 1. Steinbeck portrays the pain of living in that time in his book ‘Of Mice and Men’, when families were separated, and lives were destroyed. He introduced the ‘American Dream’ – the idea of working hard to be able to afford a nice car and support your family, raising your quality of life. Steinbeck invites us to understand how people of this time live their lives, and how having this dream keeps them going. Throughout the Novella, Steinbeck makes this ‘dream’ central to the story for both the reader and the characters. The impact of the dream affects everyone’s lives and mood. If Lennie does a ‘bad thing’, he instantly gets aggressive and upset about losing the dream. If they make a step towards making the dream come true, George and Lennie instantly get excited and happy. Many dreams are made, many are broken. From the first mention of the dream where Lennie asks George to tell him about their future together, to get “a flat a land” and how Lennie will “tend the rabbits”, to Lennie’s last words; “let’s do it now, I wanna get that place now”.
George rarely gets excited, in fact it seems to be that he only mentions the dream to make Lennie happy, or to comfort him. Lennie’s constant attention to the dream means he is rarely thinking of anything else. He is always worried his actions will effect and destroy the dream, and George uses this to his advantage, and manages to threaten and control Lennie by blackmailing him about the dream, for example when he says “If you do, I won’t let you tend the rabbits.” This affects the relationship, and makes it less friendly because George feels the need to control Lennie, as Lennie is often forgetful and unreliable. He is oblivious to what is happening around him, and at times does ‘bad things’. Lennie doesn’t realize the result of his actions, unless it affects his dream. So George uses his dream as a threat as Lennie cares about that a lot, and will be aware of what he does. Tending the rabbits is all Lennie seems to care about. At times, Lennie is even described to be animal like and naive. Lennie needs constant attention and reassurance about the dream from George; “tell me like you done before.”
He would say to George. George would reply with “I jus’ tol’ you, jus’ last night.” His reply implies many things; either he doesn’t care about the dream as much as Lennie does, he is bored of repeating their dream, or he has other things on his mind. At the moment, this ‘dream’ is simply a plan, so he isn’t attached to it yet. Without any of these dreams, the story wouldn’t be so interesting for the reader. Watching everyone’s dreams and ambitions slowly rise to the surface throughout the story, makes us realize that everyone is wishing for a better life. Candy’s dream is nonexistent until he gets involved with George’s and Lennie’s. They ‘looked at each other in amazement’ and instantly get excited about the reality of the dream is possible. Candy suggests that he puts forward the money and says he knows a house they can buy, which gives him something to look forward to and work for as well. Though this adds excitement, it takes the sentimental value of the dream away. George’s and Lennie’s friendship is based around the dream, and now there is someone else added to the situation and they don’t have it to work towards, it isn’t the same.
Candy was probably very excited to get added to the dream and finally do something for himself. Ever since his dog got shot by another man, Candy has regretted not doing it himself. He has probably been inspired by that, and jumped at the chance of doing something good and having something else to put his mind to. Candy’s regret also inspired George to kill Lennie himself. His dream to have killed his dog for himself impacted George’s life – without knowing how Candy felt after his dog was killed, George probably would have let the other boys at the ranch do it instead. Throughout the novella, George’s and Lennie’s dream grows and thrives, each time becoming more real. Lennie begins to tell people about it, and boast about tending his rabbits. It looks like the dream will happen, until Lennie does a really ‘bad thing’. Lennie strangles Curly’s wife to death. This instantly destroys any hopes about the dream for Lennie, because now he and George will be on the run.