We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Migrant Workers and the American Dream Essay Sample

The whole doc is available only for registered users OPEN DOC

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all the help you need with your essay and educational goals.

Get Access

Migrant Workers and the American Dream Essay Sample

First published in 1937, Noble-laureate John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men narrates the tragic tale of George Milton and Lennie Small, two Migrant ranch workers in California during the Great Depression of the nineteen-thirties. Growing up in Salinas, California, Steinbeck lived in the heart of a region that relied heavily on migrant farm workers like George and Lennie in his novel. The author had thus observed from very close quarters, the life, the dreams and the despair of these displaced workers. In Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck painted a heart-rending picture of the plights of this populace, who, without home, without roots, without any anchor to ground them or haven to save them from the rough storms of life, drifted about the country in search of a meager livelihood. And yet, like George and Lennie, deep inside all they longed for was a place to call home – this desperate desire to own a small piece of land some day, a home, a ‘shelter from the storm’ is what drove them on.

During the years of 1880s to 1930s, huge number of men traveled all over America, mostly during the seasonal harvest seeking work in the farms. As Steinbeck’s novel tells us, they earned a paltry sum as salary, along with food and very basic accommodation. The First World War, followed by a recession, and the severe unemployment problem during the Depression, only served to complicate matters and the problems of the migrant workers multiplied a hundredfold. Agencies were set up under the New Deal to send farm workers to where they were needed. In the novel, George and Lennie got their works cards from Murray and Ready’s, one of these agencies. In the 1930s these farm workers had a very difficult life. Steinbeck describes the life of Lennie and George with bold and revealing strokes. It is a hard life harvesting barley. The weather is hot and dry, the wages are scant, and the atmosphere itself is unreliable on any given ranch. Moreover, the company the two men keep is a bad influence. As they travel from ranch to ranch, saving every penny they earn.

George and Lennie set themselves apart from the other workers who spend their money on liquor, gambling, and women because between themselves they cherish a dream of their own. But the novel reveals the difficulty of dreaming for these migrant workers. Lennie and George are just ordinary men, yearning for their own space to find peace, leisure, and self-fulfillment: just “a little house and a couple of acres.” But their plans go horribly wrong; they cannot seem to avoid their inevitable defeat just by yearning for a different fate. “Tell about how it’s gonna be,” (17) begs Lennie, the huge, bear-like child-man, who clings to hope through unlikely but eager friendship with George. Lulled like a little child by soft things and George’s repeated assurances, Lennie looks forward to the day he will pet and care for rabbits on the ranch he and his best friend have secured.

But George, smarter and more of a realist than Lennie, understands better the difficulties of ever fulfilling the dream they pursue together. He grumbles about how things are: “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world.” (41) He is too aware of the empty, unstable life of itinerant workers. But, he too is a dreamer, and having left Murray and Ready’s in San Francisco to find ranch work in the Salinas Valley, George yearns to quit the life of bouncing from one job to the next with everything he owns wrapped in one bundle. But tragedy runs in their wake and the novel ends with the death of Lennie and the death of George’s dream. The life of the migrant workers of the 1930s as presented in this story serves to reveal the emptiness of the Great American Dream. Peace, prosperity, freedom, land – everything America promised to its citizens – remained a never achievable dream for this tragic lot. Of Mice and Men hums with the uncomplicated pessimism voiced by the stable-hand, Crooks: “Ever’ body wants a little piece of lan’ … Nobody ever gets to heaven and nobody gets no lan’.” (38)

Surely, things have changed a great deal from the dark days of Depression. The migrant workers of today’s America get a variety of securities, are better paid and work under better condition. But some things remain the same. They are still pathetically poor. In fact, “In 1994-95, sixty one percent of farm workers lived in poverty….”(Farm Worker Conditions, 2000). And even today, “800,000 of the 2.5 million migrant workers in the U.S. do not have the proper living conditions that they should be entitled to” (Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, 1998). The lives of the migrant workers and their families still remain in a continuous state of flux; they still dream about a piece of land of their own, and they still suffer from the chronic rootless ness. However, surely things have changed for the better.

Works Cited

Farm Worker Conditions. 18 Sept. 2000. Agricultural Missions Inc <http://www.nccusa.org/publicwitness/mtolive/boycott>.

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Viking, 1989.

Timmerman, John H.  “The Squatter’s Circle in The Grapes of Wrath.” Studies in American Fiction (Autumn 1989):  203-211.  Literature Resource Center. Gale.

“As U.S. Economy Booms, Housing for Migrant Workers Worsens.” New York Times 31 May 1998. 5 Mar. 2002 <http://www.ufw.org/hythsg.htm>.

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

A Fake Promise

The American Dream, along with the escape from the calamities of one's home land has always been the primary reason that immigrants are so drawn to America. Although the American Dream remains one of the greatest attractions of the land of the free, it has faced heavy criticism. One of the main criticisms is that the American Dream is misleading, that it is simply not...

Best teeth whiting services

Many of us dream of having teeth as white as our famous faces we see all over TV. There could be many reasons for that, such as teeth yellowing over time and making us lose confidence within ourselves. There are many steps you can take to achieve the results you want from teeth whiting. Some may be more expensive than others, but one thing is...

The History of the American Dream

The American Dream is widely considered to be the most important national ethos of the United States of America. The ideology of the American Dream is that the basic rights of freedom and liberty in the US include the opportunity for everyone in the land to achieve prosperity, success and upward social mobility through hard work and determination. It is centred on the right of...

Can We Know What Dreams Mean?

Contrary to how others viewed him, Viktor Frankl neither practiced psychoanalysis nor accepted psychoanalytic theory.  However, along with psychoanalytic and other psychodynamic theorists, he did share the belief that an unconscious motive or need accounted for human behavior.  Frankl believed this need was for “meaning,” which seems to apply to a search for the meaning of dreams that can be traced back to ancient Greece...

The American Dream Boat

            The year 1979 was a very significant year for several Vietnamese families who decided to fled from the communist rule an their country even though it meant risking their lives in the sea, simply to be able to reach for a better life in the United States. Sta. Ana California became a home to the said refugees. The narrator in the story The American...

Get Access To The Full Essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Become a member

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59
Become a Member