Importance of Dreams in Of Mice and Men
Many people have dreams in Of Mice and Men but I intend to discuss the dreams of Lennie, Candy and Curley's wife.
Lennie's dream is of owning a farm of his own with George. In his dream he looks after the rabbits. He likes this idea because he likes to pet things and the small things he finds as he is travelling around, like mice, are too easily hurt or killed when he pets them heavily. Rabbits
are big enough for him to look after without hurting them. He also remembers that he used to pet rabbits when he lived with his Aunt Clara.
As George and Lennie travel around they tell each other their dream as a way of coping with the loneliness of being migrant workers in America in the 1930s. Unlike most men in their position, they have something to look forward to and something to share. At the beginning of the novel, it seems that George and Lennie's dream is just a fantasy that will never come true, but when they meet Candy things change
. Candy has almost enough money to buy a small farm. If George and Lennie save their money and don't get 'canned' (fired from their jobs) it seems that the three of them would really be able to achieve their dream. Lennie's dream also affects Crooks, the stable buck. Lennie shares his dream with him and for a moment even Crooks has a vision of a better life.
Candy doesn't have much hope at the start of the story, but when he meets Lennie and George and finds out what they are planning, he suddenly sees how his future could be different. Candy is most worried about being useless. He knows that he is employed on the ranch because he lost his hand there, but he is afraid that eventually he will be canned. If this happens, he will have nowhere to go and no one to care about him. When he hears George and Lennie's dream he sees a future in which he will own a farm and be forever safe from being canned. He is willing to put up his compensation money to achieve his dream and he has the pleasure of planning what he will do on his own place. Candy's dream is shattered by the death of Lennie.
Curley's wife has a different dream. She dreams
of being a film star. She obviously hated the place where she grew up and when she was told she had the potential to be in movies she thought she could escape to Hollywood. However, she never got as far as Hollywood and ended up being trapped on the ranch with no one to talk to. Curley is not interested in her dream and the only person she finds to share it with is Lennie. Curley's wife's dream is also ended by Lennie.
All three dreams make me feel differently about the characters. Without his dream Lennie would have had no direction in his life and his behaviour would be annoying rather than sad. As it is, Lennie's dream gives hope to George, Candy and even Crooks. Lennie's ambition to look after rabbits shows him to be a gentle man in spite of the violence that goes on in the novel. Crooks' dream of sharing in George and Lennie's plans gives him more depth, particularly after the death of his dog. Curley's wife's dream reveals another side to her character. Generally in the story she appears to be trying to get the men into trouble, but her dreams and frustrations show that she is as lonely as the other people on the farm.
John Steinbeck makes very good use of dreams throughout the novel. Each character is shown to have greater depth than we might have expected and we are able to see how lonely and disappointed their lives are through the quite humble ambitions that they have. The men just want some sort of security in their lives whereas Curley's wife wants to escape from the boredom and loneliness of being the boss's daughter-in-law.
Lennie's dream holds the whole novel together. We hear it at the beginning, when it sounds like fantasy. We hear it in the middle, when it seems likely it may come true, then we hear it again at the end when everybody's dreams have been shattered. Steinbeck doesn't give the migrant workers unrealistic ambitions but he does show how conditions during the Great Depression frustrated them. This is most clearly shown by Crooks who talks about not only George and Lennie's dream but the dreams of many men at that time for a piece of land of their own.