John Steinbeck's Works

John Steinbeck's Works

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Common Ground

In many of John Steinbeck's works there are themes and elements that
parallel his other works. Steinbeck often tackles the result of people's
bad fortune and the realization that their dreams have been destroyed. We
can see that in his Pulitzer Prize winning The Grapes of Wrath and his
critically acclaimed novel Of mice and Men Steinbeck shows us the results
of people having their dreams destroyed. Steinbeck shows us that in his work he
gives different characters similar goals and aspirations and has them
destroyed in similar ways.
In both of the above mentioned books key characters have their dreams
destroyed. "Steinbeck often created characters possessing lofty goals;
lofty goals in a world of despair and corruption. His characters did not have
a dream of tangible luxuries, but a dream of corporal well being and
refuge with loved ones"(Thomas 238). In Of Mice and Men, Lennie and George
travel to California in order to find work. Once they salvage up enough money,
Lennie and George plan on being independent and not worrying about the outside
world and its enigmas. George stated "Someday we're gonna get all the
jack together and were gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an' a
cow and some pigs." (Roberts, 187). George's dream ran deeper than a love
for farming and independence. The motivation for this dream was not just a
product of the poor state of the country and widespread unemployment,
but it was a dream that could ensure a happy ending for Lennie. George is
anxious to secure his own place so that Lennie can live the type of life where
he can be happy and not be hurt by people who do not understand his simple
ways. George would run the farm; Lennie would tend the rabbits. This was
Lennies dream, to tend the rabbits. He could think of nothing else more
enjoyable than tending the rabbits. "Lennies dram is to have all the rabbits that he
can take care of, and his attempts to do the right thing are motivated by his
fear that George won't let him take care of the rabbits." (Tedlock 243). In The
Grapes of Wrath the Joad family also dreams of moving out west. They do this in
hopes of escaping the direful situation in Oklahoma. "Gonna buy a car
and shove out west where it's easy living." (Steinbeck 57). The Joads like
Lennie and George plan on saving up enough money for their own plot of land.
Once this task is accomplished they hope to live a self-sufficient life and

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rely on one another. They believe that once in California they will find life
easier and find all they need in surplus. "Jus' let me get out to California where
I can pick me an orange when I want it. Or grapes, there's a thing I ain't
never had enough of. Gonna get me a whole bunch of grapes off a bush, or whatever,
an' I'm gonna squash 'em on my face an' let 'em run off my chin".(Steinbeck
105).
There is clearly a parallel between the themes of these two books. As
both works have the same basis for the characters dreams. How the dream
mwas destroyed George and Lennie never had their dreams come true. When
they arrived at the homestead for work; George and Lennie at once felt
hostility from the ranch owner's son Curley. Curley was a sinister
short-tempered man possessing little physical stature. From Curleys
first encounter with Lennie, Curley was looking for an excuse to fight the
simple-minded Lennie. "Curley develops a hatred for the bigger man which
will be expressed in his desire to mutilate Lennie in the final scene."
(Magil 4296) Lennie ended up killing Curleys wife. This was not a malicious act
however. It was an accident that had an unfortunate consequence.
"Lennies greatest difficulty is remembering. While he never plans to do anything
wrong, he simply cannot remember what is wrong and what is not." (Magil
89). That consequence being the death of Curley's wife, and that Curley
ordered the men to kill Lennie. The workers assembled and took up arms.
George knew that the men were not out to right a wrong, but out to seek
vengeance. George decided that he must kill Lennie. George knew that
this was the only solution that would spare Lennie the misery that would be
inflicted on him by Curley and his men. Like George and Lennie the Joads
never saw their dreams materialize. They to were victims of the greed of
this time period. The people of the west were averse to change. They were
afraid of the migrants because of their different life styles. "Sure they talk
the same language, but they ain't the same. Look how they live. Think any of us
would live like that? Hell no!" (Steinbeck 302). The Joads soon learned that
the people of the west actually hated the "Oakies". A man returning back to
the Midwest from California told of the troubles to be found ahead. "People
gonna have a look in their eye. They gonna look at you an' their face
says, "I don't like you, you son-of-a-bitch." Gonna be deputy sheriffs an they'll
push you aroun'. You camp on the roadside an they'll move you on. You gonna
see in peoples faces how they hate you."(Steinbeck 306). As the Joads arrive
into California they see that their dreams will go unanswered. The land
looked beautiful but the circumstances would not allow for prosperity. "Looking
into the valley the Joads regret that theirs cannot be the tranquil life that
it promises."(Tedlock 40). The dreams of George of and Lennie were
destroyed as a result of apathy.
Throughout this novel we can see how Steinbeks characters have a
total lack of interest in others well being. In the first chapter the
bus driver drops George and Lennie off miles from their destination. The driver did
this just to spare himself a few minutes of work. The dream was not destroyed
due to killing of Curley's wife at the hands of Lennie. But as a result
of Curley's lack of empathy. If Curley were more understanding and
considerate of Lennies condition the dream may have grown and bloomed into reality.
However given the circumstances George had no choice but to sacrifice he
and Lennies dream so that Lennie would not suffer at the hands of
Curley. George decided that the only solution was to kill Lennie. The Joads also
had their dreams destroyed at the hands of apathetic people. The Joads were
treated and looked at by the ranch owners like a team of oxen. They were
expected to work long and hard hours for insulting wages. The authorities did
not have any concern for the poor who were being taken advantage of.
Children were not even spared from the work and, like their parents went
hungry. "The kid's yo ought to see them. Little boils, like comin' out,
an' they can't run around. Give 'em some windfall fruit, an' they bloated up."
('Steinbeck 363). They turned their heads away from the atrocities that
were taking place in front of them, and bowed their heads to the almighty
dollar. The migrants had no choice if they wanted to work. If they refused the
wages somebody else would be glad to take the job. "Suppose you got a job an'
work, an' there’s jus' one fella wants the job. You got to pay him what
he ast's. But suppose them men got kids, an' them kids is hungry. Spose a
dime'll buy a box of mush for them. An you got a hundred men, jus' offer 'em a
nickel. Why, they’ll kill each other fighting for that nickel".
(Steinbeck 324). It was a rat race. The only way to get ahead in the world portrayed by
Steinbeck was to turn your back on your fellow man.
In these to works of Steinbeck the plight of the migrants is examined.
Often it's the wealth of the landowners pitted against the poor. In both
works this wealth has molded the authorities into cold heartless men. These
greedy individuals destroy the dreams of the migrants. The villainous
characters he portrayed only had a sense of present pleasure. They had no concern for
the fact that at the present moment a child had no life or food. The lower
class had no way of getting ahead. Steinbecks charecters never had their
dreams materialize into achieved goals. This was true in both of Steinbecks
above mentioned works. George and Lennies followed their dream only to have it
turn into a nightmare. The Joads journey led them from the barrenand
sterile land, to the green, fertile yet poisonous land. In the end dreams turned
out to be just that, dreams, nothing more.

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