Similar to the philosopher of old and new ,Of Mice and Men is a novella that tries to explain what it means to be human. Basically, humans are very small piece of a much greater puzzle and in the grand scheme of things, most people come and go without leaving any big, lasting impression on the world.
However, somewhere deep inside all people is a longing for a place in nature, the desire to be something, anything, and not just another wasted life. The struggle to find such a place is universal, and its success is uncertain, and through characters such as the protagonists Lennie and George, who frequently dream of having their own farm. John Steinbeck, author of the novella Of Mice and Men, brings these subjects to the forefront of the reader’s mind.
Steinbeck’s use of motifs, themes, and conflicts allows readers to understand the struggles of human existence, and in doing so Steinbeck touches upon several themes; the nature and importance of dreams and the idea of loneliness. In relation to the “Nature of Dreams,” Of Mice and Men is a story about the nature of human dreams and aspirations and the deterrents of life that attempt to stray them of their path. Humans give meaning to their lives, and to their futures, by dreaming dreams. If we didn’t have goals or aspirations life wouldn’t be worth living. Time would go by as an endless stream of days, weeks, months, years that have little meaning or importance. Dreams give us a purpose to do something.
George and Lennie’s dream is to own a little farm and this idea is so central to the book that it shows itself in every part of the book. In fact, the telling of their desired future, soon becomes a ritual between the two men: George tells the story and Lennie, who has difficulty remembering things due to a severe cognitive disability, picks up at points during the story by finishing George’s sentences. For each man the farm offers something that they deeply desire. For George, the dream represents independence, security, and most importantly, being “somebody.” For Lennie, the dream is about the things he values, it means companionship and an oasis where he won’t ever have to be afraid and can live with his best friends. To Candy, the dream of the farm gives the hope of the security for an old man with no family, and a home where he will fit in.
For Crooks, the farm will be a place where he can start fresh and have some type of self-worth and dignity. For each man, George, Lennie, Candy, and Crooks human dignity, companionship, and security is something they all wish for, and aspire for, through the vision of the farm.However, having a dream without a plan to reach that goal, isn’t enough. Each man must make a sacrifice or battle some internal or external influence that seeks, to prevent them from getting to their goal. At first, the obstacles are somewhat difficult but not impossible. Simple acts of self-control such as: staying out of trouble and working at the ranch long enough to save money to buy the land. But greater obstacles soon come into fruition. Some of these obstacles are external, an example being the constant threat of Lennie doing something bad .
An instance is when Lennie kills Curley’s wife. Essentially what happened here is that Lennie was petting Curley’s wife’s hair and began pulling too hard. She told him to stop but he wouldn’t so she began to scream. This made Lennie scared and he began to shake her in an attempt to get her to quiet down. Lennie, unaware of his own strength, snaps her neck and kills her. George and the other ranch hands come into the barn and quickly figure out that Lennie was the culprit. After he finds the body of Curley’s wife, George notes that though Lennie does many bad things, but he never acts out of meanness, only out of an inability to understand the world or control himself. He acts with the best intentions at heart, but simply fails to stay out of trouble.
Lennie doesn’t mean to do bad things – he just does. Lennie is just unable to understand how fragile other living things are and because of his exceptional strength he ends up hurting people. Lennie likes soft things but he cannot measure when he’s pulling to hard or hurting someone. His puppy is soft, so he pets it to death, the mice are soft so he pets them to death, Curley’s wife’s hair was soft and he ended up killing her. George is the only one who understands Lennie fully, understanding his threatening mixture of innocence and dangerousness. However, some people, including Crooks, treat him as a sort of channel where they can voice their own complaints and fantasies.
A mixture of everyone’s (besides George’s) inability to understand the danger that goes along with Lennie’s childlike innocence and Lennie being too babyish to understand the world and realize his own strength results in the bad things that Lennie does. For George, all the baggage that comes with Lennie, such as him being a danger to himself and others, becomes the greatest threat to the dream. Ironically, it is also Lennie who contributes to making the dream meaningful. LonelinessIn addition to dreams and aspirations, people crave contact with others to give life meaning. The idea of loneliness is seen throughout this novella. On the most obvious level, we can clearly see this motif when the workers on the ranch go into town one night to ease their loneliness with alcohol and women. Similarly, Lennie goes into Crooks room to find someone with whom to talk, and later Curley’s wife comes for the same reason. Crooks says, “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody.
Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you.” Even Slim mentions, “I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain’t no good. They don’t have no fun. After a long time they get mean.
” The fact that George and Lennie are best friends and look out for each other and their dream of owning a farm are attempts to not conform to the prevalent pattern of loneliness that is often seen with others.An example is when George says, “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.” This is an illustration of the loneliness of migrant workers and can be seen with people as a whole too.
Likewise, Lennie’s obsession with petting soft things stems from his desire to feel safe and secure, to touch something that gives him that feeling of not being alone. For Lennie, the dream of the farm parallels that security, because on the farm he would be able to touch and tend to the soft rabbits that he so desperately craves and he’ll be with George and Candy, never alone and feeling safe. You can see this when Lennie goes into Crooks’ room and Crooks’ tries to paint a picture where George doesn’t it come home from his night out. Lennie cannot comprehend that thought and soon gets mad because without George, his only companion, he’ll be lost and lonely forever. Another example is when Crooks says to Lennie “Maybe you can see now. You got George.
You know he’s goin’ to come back. S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunkhouse and play rummy ’cause you was black. How’d you like that? S’pose you had to sit out here an’ read books. Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody- to be near him.
” He whined, “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya,” he cried, “I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.” Isolation seems to be the disease no one wants but everybody gets, and being away from anybody and not having anyone with you is detrimental to someone’s psyche because the need for social interaction is crucial to human nature, the failure to fulfil this need is dangerous.