Of Mice and Men – Importance of Dreams
Dreams are an ingrained part of our lives, and those who strive to achieve them show extraordinary devotion and resolve. The allure of a brighter future, of a better life, can both benefit and harm, as John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men illustrates. Living in a time of pain and loss, the characters in the novella cling to their dreams. However, these dreams are beyond attainment, of no importance for accomplishment, and bring them nothing but regret. This essay will demonstrate how hopes and dreams are unimportant for success and happiness, as they are unachievable and bring only pain.
Firstly, the pursuit of dreams is futile, as they cannot be achieved. The dream that the two protagonists, George and Lennie, harbour recurs throughout the novel. Their dream is to one day own their own property and to become self-sufficient, and the realization of this dream becomes more likely as the novel nears its climax. However, the dream shatters with the death of Lennie, devastating George, as George cannot envisage the dream without Lennie.
The dreams of the other characters, such as Candy and Crooks, are also shown to be beyond realization. Candy, knowing that he is soon to outlive his usefulness, hopes that he can come and live with George and Lennie and to have the freedom to work or rest as he pleases. However, this also is broken when Lennie dies. The black stable-hand Crooks is the only character that clearly understands the futility of dreams.
“I seen hundreds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches. . . every damn one of ’em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it. Just like heaven… Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.”(Crooks, Chapter 4)
Crooks dreams of being equal to the other workers, but he understands that he is not considered equal. He briefly joins the dream that George and Lennie have, but withdraws his offer to help on the farm when he accepts that dreams are not possible: the freedom and happiness that they wish for is not found in the world they live in. The impossibility of achieving dreams makes them unimportant; they remain unfulfilled, leaving the holder with nothing.
Secondly, when unfulfilled, dreams cause regret and misery. The unfulfilled dream of Curley’s wife’s has left her discontent, and she lives a lonely life with her inattentive husband. Her dream was to escape from her oppressive mother and become an actor.
“‘A show come through, an’ I met one of the actors. He says I could go with the show. But my ol’ lady wouldn’ let me…If I’d went, I wouldn’t be livin’ like this, you bet.’”
(Curley’s wife, Chapter 5)
Because of her mother, Curley’s wife was never able to achieve her dream, just like the other characters, leaving her only with the knowledge that she could have had a better life. Her attitude and manner around the ranch evidences this. Her bitterness and attempts to draw attention from the other men, simply so she can have some companionship, are clear indicators of her dissatisfaction and loneliness. Curley’s wife is an example of dreams leaving the holder with regret when unfulfilled, and of how they are not important for success.
Lastly, without dreams, people can still be successful and satisfied. The ranch’s skinner, Slim, is described as a highly skilled and content man, and as “the prince of the ranch.”
He moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen… his authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love.
(Chapter 2, Of Mice and Men)
However, while the other characters have dreams, Slim appears to have none. He never mentions any of his own, but rather supports others with theirs. It is demonstrated that he does not want anything outside of what he has, and that he has not created any plans. Whether it is because he, like Crooks, understands the futility of dreams, or because he is simply satisfied with his place in life, Slim does not possess them, and despite of this, he has the highest status among the workers. He stands as the primary example of how dreams are not required for somebody to be successful.
In conclusion, it can be seen that dreams are not important. Not only do dreams leave those who keep them with unhappiness, such as with Curley’s wife, but they also cannot be achieved due to the cruel nature of fate, leaving them unfulfilled. These dreams, whether they are fulfilled or not, are shown to be unnecessary for contentment, as evidenced by Slim, the most successful worker. Ultimately, the nature of dreams is best illustrated by the poem from which the novel draws its name.
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promis’d joy.
(Robert Burns, To a Mouse)
As it has been shown, dreams are not important; they are beyond reach, offer nothing, and bring only unhappiness to those who keep them, whether they are accomplished or not.
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