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Laura Amy Schlitz

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2. Overview: Dream denied.

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck, 1937
Famous for: Bunnies, an “interesting” perspective on women, a horrible, tragic ending.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald looks  at greed and the American Dream.Before you’ve finished Of Mice and Men, perhaps long before, you may notice that John Steinbeck is trying to tell you something. Something about the American Dream, that ideal of prosperity for anyone willing to work for it.

When Steinbeck brings you into George and Lennie’s America, he brings you to a place the American Dream seems to have forgotten. A place where ordinary people work extraordinarily hard. Where decent men like George and Lennie are pawns in a power game beyond their comprehension.

In Steinbeck’s America, Big Money rules, and the American Dream doesn’t apply to folks like George and Lennie. They’re just good people, like most people. And doomed from the start.

No Crystal Stair: The (almost) failure of another American Dream

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A basic fact about John Steinbeck’s writing: His novels are deeply rooted in the American experience. OK, so, what the heck does that mean?

Here’s what the American experience has to do with Of Mice and Men. This book is all about the failure of The American Dream. So, knowing something about the American Dream will help you understand this book.

Refresher: The American Dream is the idea that America is a land where anyone can make it. If you work hard enough, you can create a good life for yourself and find prosperity. You know, all that Declaration of Independence stuff about “certain inalienable rights” and all men—and women!—being created equal.

Unfortunately, if you want to believe that American Dream business, you probably shouldn’t read this book. Because in Of Mice and Men, everyone’s dreams are dashed.

It’s a cruel, unforgiving, lonely world you’re going to find in this story, where dreams are for the weak and dreamers meet with tragedy.

I know it sounds a little over-the-top, but trust me. In John Steinbeck’s hands, the failure of the American Dream isn’t melodrama; it’s a meditation on real life.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck | 60second Recap study guide resources


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