Dreams in of Mice and Men: Examples & Quotes

Dreams in of Mice and Men: Examples & Quotes
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  • 0:05 The Dreamers
  • 0:54 The Dreams
  • 2:03 A Dream of Their Own
  • 3:06 Curley's Wife Dreams
  • 3:48 The Dreams Die
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Terri Beth Miller

Terri Beth has taught college writing and literature courses since 2005 and has a PhD in literature.

Dreams play a vital role in John Steinbeck's 1937 classic 'Of Mice and Men.' In his novel, Steinbeck explores what it means to dream, what dreams say about the dreamer, and what happens when a dream dies.

The Dreamers

John Steinbeck's 1937 Depression-era masterpiece, Of Mice and Men, is a novella about dreamers, what we dream and why, and what happens to us when the dreams we chase slip away forever. The novella asks if dreamers die when the dream does. Of Mice and Men is the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two itinerant farm workers in Depression-era California. These two try to find enough work to keep food in their bellies and clothes on their backs. George and Lennie have a dream: to scrounge enough money together to someday buy their own little house and a plot of land to farm. They dream of roots, stability, and independence. They encounter other dreamers in their travels, those grasping for a tomorrow that seems always just out of their grasp.

The Dreams

What do the characters' dreams say about who they are and what they want? Above all, what does it mean to dream? Are George and Lennie just chasing rainbows, or can dreams become a reality? Some passages from Steinbeck's novella may help point the way, like the following, in which George begins the old familiar story that Lennie loves:

Someday--we're gonna get the jack together and we're gonna have a little house and a couple of acres.

Like a toddler with a favorite bedtime story, Lennie knows exactly how George will describe their shared dream. He joyously ends the story by reciting what to George and Lennie is the story's happily ever after, which is the dream to 'live off the fatta the lan'.'

For George and Lennie, it's not about wealth or fame. It's not about a life of ease and luxury. George and Lennie dream of having a claim to the earth, where they can literally put down roots and pull prosperity from the soil. Throughout American history, the ideal has not been a guarantee of success, but a guarantee of opportunity. The American dream promises the chance to create the abundant life you want if you are only willing to work for it.

A Dream of Their Own

George and Lennie are dedicated to working hard for the rest of their lives. They want the chance to work for themselves and to reap the benefits of their own hard labor--not to pass the spoils of their work on to others. They want to live off the land they toil, to sweat for themselves and not for a rich boss. George describes their dream of independence in this way,

It'd be our own, an' nobody could can us. If we don't like a guy, we can say, 'Get the hell out'…An' if a fren' come along, why we'd have an extra bunk, an we'd say, 'Why don't you spen' the night.

George and Lennie dream of finding independence in the land. No more would they have to scrounge to keep a job they hate. Their fate would be in their own hands, not in someone else's. The dream of a home and land, for George and Lennie, is also a dream of self-determination. Their lives as travelling ranch hands are spent submitting to other people's rules. They spend their days working, sleeping, eating, and staying where they're told. It is the life of machines, not men.

Curley's Wife Dreams

Coulda been in the movies, an' had nice clothes--all them nice clothes like they wear. An' I could sat in them big hotels, an' had pitchers took of me.

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