Of Mice and Men is a novel written by John Steinbeck in 1937, this novel concentrates on the lives of migrant workers. Steinbeck’s purpose is to show the reality of achieving the American Dream- as the title suggests. ‘To a Mouse… The best laid schemes o’ Mice and Men, Gang aft agley,’ is the source of the book’s title. It translates roughly into ‘no matter how well we may plan the future, things often go wrong. The American dream posed the idea that every individual – through hard work and personal sacrifice could achieve success, by being their own boss on their own land.
The American government started this concept; they encouraged the idea by giving out free land. But unfortunately the Wall Street Crash crushed the dream in 1929. The U. S entered a period of economic depression, and during this period hoards of migrant workers came to California in search of work, the dream on their minds. Most of these migrants were men who traveled alone; they had no friends or family around. They moved from ranch to ranch working for a short time at each never able to settle. They worked very hard in poor conditions on poor pay, therefore Migrant workers had to dream of a better future in order to survive.
Without dreams no one would have a reason to keep going. Steinbeck’s main task is to show the reality of a migrant workers life, to achieve this he must make the story seem as real-life as possible. Steinbeck does various things in the story to create an atmosphere of reality. One thing is he uses a geographical setting- the places are real and the storyline is in a chronological order; chapter 1 is Thursday night, chapter 2 is Friday morning, chapter 3 is Friday evening and so on. Real life items are used like the pulp magazine. Steinbeck uses dialect and colloquial language, which helps to add to the realism of the story.
For example ‘Awright,’ he said brusquely. ‘Gi’me that mouse! ‘ says George Milton. The purpose of this essay is to compare the migrant workers reality with their dream. I will start by looking at their dreams. George and Lennie are the two migrant workers’s who are the focus of the story. Every migrant worker would dream of a better future. George and Lennie represent any migrant of their time. Their dream is to save up enough ‘stake’ money to buy their own small ranch, thereby escaping from the poverty, insecurity and inevitable loneliness of the life of a migrant worker.
George and Lennie see themselves different from other migrants. When they first recite the dream, George describes the life of a migrant worker who has no future: ‘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 the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They aint got nothing to look forward to. ‘ George and Lennie however travel together; they have someone who cares about them. ‘We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.
If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all nobody gives a damn, but not us’. ‘But not us’, as Lennie says ‘I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why. ‘ George and Lennie are poor homeless migrant workers, doomed to a life of wandering and labour. George and Lennie desperately cling to the thought that they are different from other workers who drift from ranch to ranch because, unlike others, they have each other and a future. George and Lennie dream of one day to be free to do as they please, no one to tell them what to do – being their own boss and living on their own land.
George and Lennie imagine of living on a 10 acre ranch, with a windmill, a chicken run, rabbits, pigs, a cow or goat etc. And to picture their wealth ‘the cream is so God damn thick you got to cut it with a knife and take it out with a spoon. ‘ Anything their imagination could come up with would be added to the dream. They would ‘live offa the fatta the lan. ‘ But to do everything they would need a lot more money, which they didn’t have, but they would keep adding ideas to the dream just to keep hope alive that they will have a better future.
The dream that Lennie and George have is not a reality till the characters are introduced to Candy. He is a old, one handed man, he befriends George and Lennie when they first get on the ranch. His substantial amount of money and the fact that he knows a place makes it hard for George and Lennie to refuse his offer. Candy clings to this hope of a nice future. George and Lennie have a very poor lifestyle in comparison to their dream. I will now look at the reality of George and Lennie’s lifestyle, remembering they are an example of any migrant worker at the time.
Being a migrant worker they do not have a lot of possessions, when we first meet George and Lennie in the story they are dressed roughly carrying their life in a rolled up bindle. As they go to find a new job they stop off to have dinner – 3 cans of beans between them! George and Lennie stay in a bunkhouse while working on the ranch, the reality of where they live. The bunkhouse walls are whitewashed unpainted floor and the door was solid. This presents the image of a cold, unwelcoming room, which is sort of like a prison, or a barracks utilitarian.
The room had no comforts or chairs and the workers would have to come up with their own entertainment. Everything on the ranch was communal, including the eating house and the washhouse. The workers didn’t have any privacy, the community was rather like a prison, you don’t want to be there and you can’t like all the people but you had no choice. Another reality of their lives is they couldn’t afford medicines. When they got hungry they would eat turnips – the only thing available, but when they ate turnips they would make you sick, so the men would use ‘ old wives cures’ for example taking a swig of whisky to cure the stomach- ache.
Their life was so demeaning; the highlight of a migrant workers week would be going to the brothel on a Saturday night. Crooks is a character that also works on the ranch, but his job is permanent – he is the stable buck. He is called crooks as he has a crooked back, which is the result of a horse kicking him. Crooks is also openly referred to as ‘nigger’. He suffers from racism from almost everyone in the ranch, he is shown no respect but shows respect to everyone else. Crooks – who is not a migrant has his own room – a little shed to himself. He is not allowed in the bunkhouse, therefore he doesn’t let anyone in his shed.