Of Mice and Men on the American Dream
Of Mice and Men: The American Dream Quote #1: “I remember about the rabbits, George. “”The hell with the rabbits. That’s all you can ever remember is them rabbits. ” (1. 18-19)| This is the first mention we have of the American dream. Even from the introduction, it seems Lennie is more excited than George about the prospect. George’s easy dismissal of “them rabbits” makes it seem as though he thinks the whole thing is silly. This will get more difficult as we realize that George might be as excited about the dream as Lennie; it seems he is just more cautious about that excitement, given that he’s more knowledgeable than his companion.
Quote #2: “Well, we ain’t got any,” George exploded. “Whatever we ain’t got, that’s what you want. God a ‘mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an’ work, an’ no trouble. No mess at all, and when the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go into town and get whatever I want. Why, I could stay in a cathouse all night. I could eat any place I want, hotel or any place, and order any damn thing I could think of. An’ I could do all that every damn month. Get a gallon of whisky, or set in a pool room and play cards or shoot pool. Lennie knelt and looked over the fire at the angry George. And Lennie’s face was drawn in with terror. “An’ whatta I got,” George went on furiously. “I got you! You can’t keep a job and you lose me ever’ job I get. Jus’ keep me shovin’ all over the country all the time. ” (1. 89)| George explodes at Lennie and rattles off what he imagines to be the dream-life of a travelling worker without any burdens (like Lennie). George dreams of a carefree life and is careful to emphasize that Lennie is the barrier. What George outlines for himself here is strangely predictive, given what will come to him later in the story.
Quote #3: GEORGE “O. K. Someday—we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs and—” “An’ live off the fatta the lan’,” Lennie shouted. “An’ haverabbits. Go on, George! Tell about what we’re gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is on the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that George. ” “Why’n’t you do it yourself? You know all of it. ” “No…you tell it. It ain’t the same if I tell it. Go on…George. How I get to tend the rabbits. ” Well,” said George, “we’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we’ll just say the hell with goin’ to work, and we’ll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an’ listen to the rain comin’ down on the roof—Nuts! ” (1. 119-123)| This seed is one of the foundational pieces of the whole play, perhaps it’s most important. There are numerous bits to analyze in this passage, ranging from its reflection of the American Dream during the Depression to the fact that the dream is so repeated among the two men that even dull Lennie has memorized some of it.
For our purposes, it’s very important that this talk of the farm is talked about wildly throughout the play – it seems like the farm is a dream to George, a hope for Lennie, and (eventually) even a plan for Candy. It’s especially interesting that sometimes it seems the farm is the dream that keeps them going, and sometimes it is just a reminder of the lack of usefulness of dreaming. Quote #4: Lennie watched him with wide eyes, and old Candy watched him too. Lennie said softly, “We could live offa the fatta the lan’. ” “Sure,” said George. All kin’s a vegetables in the garden, and if we want a little whisky we can sell a few eggs or something, or some milk. We’d jus’ live there. We’d belong there. There wouldn’t be no more runnin’ round the country and gettin’ fed by a Jap cook. No, sir, we’d have our own place where we belonged and not sleep in no bunk house. ” (3. 202-203)| The bottom line of the dream for George is not the absence of work, or the easy living, or even having a lot of money. It is simply grounded in having some place to belong to him and Lennie and Candy.
Quote #5: When Candy spoke they both jumped as though they had been caught doing something reprehensible. (3. 212)| Dreams are delicate things in the real world, and George and Lennie have always carefully kept their plan a secret. Faced with the gaze of someone from the outside world, the men seem ashamed. The real world they live in would never allow or look kindly upon such a trifle as their dream, precious as it is to them. Quote #6: They fell into a silence. They looked at one another, amazed. This thing they had never really believed in was coming true. (3. 221)| On one hand, this could be amazing.
On the other hand, we’re suddenly forced to ask whether the dream isn’t better off as a dream, something they can believe and imagine that’s bigger and better than any reality. One might argue that when Candy gets close to George and Lennie, he spoils the dream of the farm by making it a genuine possibility (and ironically, something that could be a disappointment), rather than an ongoing and eternal hope. Quote #7: [Crooks] hesitated. “… If you … guys would want a hand to work for nothing—just his keep, why I’d come an’ lend a hand. I ain’t so crippled I can’t work like a son-of-a-bitch if I want to. (4. 88)| Dreams are almost infectious. Even Crooks, whom we’ve only come to know for his not the person to believe up to now, he seems ready. It’s at this point we feel like this thing is really going to happen – or that it might just be too good to be true. Quote #8: Crooks called, “Candy! ” “Huh? ” ” ’Member what I said about hoein’ and doin’ odd jobs? ” “Yeah,” said Candy. “I remember. ” “Well, jus’ forget it,” said Crooks. “I didn’ mean it. Jus’ foolin’. I wouldn’ want to go no place like that. ” “Well, O. K. , if you feel like that. Goodnight. ” (4. 148-153)| Crooks’s hope is broken.
He can continue to live on the ranch, seemingly happy to be aloof, but we know from this episode that he stays on the farm because he has no dreams of anything better anymore. He had that dream for a moment again with the other guys, and was quickly pulled back into the vicious world of those with no hope. When you can’t even dream, you really don’t have anything, and it seems Crooks’s lot in life is to be resigned to some pitiful nothingness. Quote #9: George said softly, “—I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we’d never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would. (5. 78)| Ironically, in the case of the dream farm, it is Lennie who is the main threat to the dream’s success, and it is also Lennie who makes the whole idea worthwhile. Quote #10: Lennie said, “George. ” “Yeah? ” “I done another bad thing. ” “It don’t make no difference,” George said, and he fell silent again. (6. 34-37)| It seems now that George has given up on the dream, nothing much matters. Lennie’s “bad thing” obviously makes a huge difference, but within the fact of George’s concerns (making their dream a reality), what Lennie did or didn’t do doesn’t matter. The dream is over.