Demonstration of a Concept of Destructive Dream in the Novel Of Mice and Men
The definition of a “dream” according to Merriam Webster is, “Just a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep.” This definition takes no part in associating with goals or aspirations. So, why is it so common for people to perceive goals as dreams when, in reality, there is no connection? Originally, realists began calling their goals, “dreams” because they acknowledged the fact that their goals were consistently too difficult or impractical to ever achieve in their lifetime, they comprehend that most of their goals can only be achieved in an unconscious dream state. While the word “dream” sounds positive, it’s actually just a term subtly reminding everybody that they will never be able to accomplish their goals. Perished dreams can haunt and linger in your thoughts, which can lead to poor life decisions and overall discontent. These concepts are thoroughly expressed in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes. Steinbeck’s story is set during the Great Depression and follows two migrant workers who face conflict while working on a ranch. A woman married to the son of the ranch owner referred to as “Curley’s Wife” is unable to stop obsessing how her life would have been different, had she achieved her dream to become an actress. This obsession lead to feeble life decisions and eventually, her brutal death. A Dream Deferred is written from the perspective of a person wondering what unfortunate events occur when somebody fails to accomplish their dreams. Hughes uses metaphors and imagery to demonstrate the possible negative effects that a fallen dream have on a person. Steinbeck and Hughes use various literary elements such as repetition, metaphors, and imagery to demonstrate the idea that failed dreams are grievous burdens that will linger and haunt for the remainder of one’s life, and may even leave a person filled with agony and regret.
Steinbeck’s depiction of Curley’s Wife demonstrates the extreme and damaging effects that a failed dream can have on an individual. Steinbeck uses repetition of the word, “coulda,” in Curley’s Wife’s dialogue to demonstrate how often Curley’s Wife thought about her failed dream. When talking to Lennie, Curley’s Wife says, “Coulda been in the movies… I coulda sat in them big hotels… When they had them previews I coulda went to them(Steinbeck 89).” The constant thoughts of what “could have been” cause Curley’s Wife to become discontent with her life and make miserable life decisions such as choosing to marry Curley. There were two instances where Curley’s Wife had the opportunity to achieve her dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress. The first occasion was when Curley’s Wife was fifteen, an actor asked her to join his show and travel with them, but her mother wouldn’t allow it. On the second occasion, a “guy in pitchers” said he was going to put Curley’s Wife in a movie and write to her about it, she never received the letter and blamed her mother for taking it. Curley’s Wife was erroneously motivated by her fallen dreams and made the disastrous life decision to marry Curley the same night she met him, just to spite her mother. When talking to Lennie, Curley’s Wife says, “I don like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella.(Steinbeck 89)” Curley’s Wife’s opinion of her husband further demonstrates that she wouldn’t have married him if she had become an actress. Curley’s Wife’s failure to achieve her dreams slowly constructed a chain reaction that provoked her death. Curley’s Wife marries Curley out of spite, Curley only lets her talk to him, which causes her to grow lonely and feel the need to seek attention from Lennie, and results in her violent death. The downfall of Curley’s Wife’s life transpired when she gave up on chasing her dreams and married Curley as a result, which demonstrates the vital importance of chasing dreams. The failed attempt to become an actress governed Curley’s Wife’s decisions and thoughts, and eventually consumed her entire life.
Hughes uses imagery and metaphors to reflect the unfortunate effects of fallen dreams. The narrator is wondering what happens when somebody is unable to achieve their dreams. Hughes compares abandoned dreams to the smell of rotten meat in the metaphor, “Does it stink like rotten meat?”(Hughes 5).
Rotten meat suggests a great deal, perhaps Hughes is reminding us that the “meat” is rotten and not thrown away, making the distinction that A Dream Deferred is about a dream being ignored, not a failed dream. The distinct and worsening scent of rotten meat is often considered a reminder that the meat needs to be either cooked or thrown away, similar to way people choose to either chase their dreams or give up on them. Hughes sparks the reader’s sense of smell to convey deaths close association with rotten meat, suggesting that a forgotten dream is not far from dying. Hughes uses imagery to compare fallen dreams to a dried up raisin by asking, “Does it dry up/like a raisin in the sun?” (Hughes 2-3). Hughes is visually implying that an raisins are like dreams. Dreams are similar to raisins in the sense that grapes start out large and full, and gradually become small and withered by losing their juice. Hughes uses imagery and metaphors to visually and descriptively express how failed dreams can eat away at people who give up on them.
Of Mice and Men and A Dream Deferred demonstrate the vitality of chasing your dreams by revealing the harrowing consequences many face through repetition, imagery, and metaphors. The harsh reality of failure that these stories express may motivate its readers through fear of consequences to chase their dreams and not give up on them. A person not being able to achieve their dreams is far from uncommon, thus, people should educate themselves of the possible unappealing consequences of a failed dream. In the long run, Steinbeck and Hughes highlight the vital fact that achieving your dreams could mean the difference between a prospering life, and a life full of regret.
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