The Unjust Ideals of the American Dream

Marco Rubio explains the American Dream as such, “The American Dream is a term that is often used but also often misunderstood. It isn’t really about becoming rich or famous. It is about things much simpler and more fundamental than that”. As a country, the United States of America does tend to overthink what the American Dream is. By definition it means the ideals that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative (Dictionary). It was introduced in 1774 and since then had many different formal definitions but has primarily had the same intention. As a country we take those definitions and turn it into how many zeros are in our bank account, how many people wish they could be us, how many people fight to be friends with us, and what address we write on invitations. In Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men, he exposes how the American Dream had disappointed people during the Great Depression in 1937 California.

In Of Mice and Men, George and Lennie are working towards what they believe will be their American Dream, a plot of land. “‘An’ live off the fatta the lan’,’ Lennie shouted. ‘An’ have rabbits. Go on, George! Tell about what we’re gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is on the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that, George’” (Steinbeck 15). Now the reads don’t know if they believe they will ever achieve this goal of having in their own land when George and Lennie keep having to leave farms due to Lennie’s obsession with petting soft things. It does however explain Lennie’s obsession with rabbits throughout the theme of the book. Back during the Great Depression, finding work was hard, but being able to buy your own land, and being able to afford to keep it running, was ever harder. Due to what many Americans believe are the ideals of the American Dream, having a land to yourself definitely qualifies you for having met those ideals. In reality for George and Lennie, it was all an illusion

“‘We travel together,’ said George coldly. ‘Oh, so it’s that way.’ George was tense, and motionless. ‘Yeah, it’s that way.’” (26). George and Lennie aren’t related, even though it may seem that way to many readers in the beginning. They both don’t have family that are still alive or that they are in contact with. They are each other’s family. Lennie wouldn’t be able to survive or work without George watching over him, hiding his secrets. George feels a sense of responsibility for Lennie for reasons very few understand. Another form of the longing for the American Dream in Of Mice and Men is the desperation for a family. The closest they have been to a family is the workers at Curley’s ranch, however, they still only trust each other. They idea of having a family is one that has been passed down for centuries. To have loved ones and to be loved is the ideal of true happiness in many cultures.

“Crooks stared hopelessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk and drew into himself….Crooks seemed to grow smaller and he pressed himself against the wall (78).” Crooks is the only character that is recognized as being African American in the book. Once we meet him it becomes clear he has considered himself an outsider due to his ethnicity. He has alienated himself from the others, he is even forced to have a different bunkhouse due to not being allowed to sleep around the white men. In the 1930’s, African Americans had to work twice as hard to keep their jobs over white men. Curley’s wife, who goes unnamed the entirety of the book, was known for saying cruel remarks to Crooks, who had to sit there and take them out of fear for his job and more importantly his life. One of the core ideals in the American Dream is the ideal of equality. Crooks character is used to point out the fact that minorities weren’t treated fairly and frankly, still aren’t. As a country, we have a long history of having issues with immigrants. Whether it be we have too many or not enough coming in. Our workforce to this day is filled with immigrants and those of dissent.

In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses fictional character to bring to light some of the larger issues the country of the United States of America has with our definition and use of the ideals of the American Dream. The idea that having your own land could be the key for a poor farmer to be successful, when in the long run he could honestly never make it. The idea that having a proper family is what you need in life to be truly happy, when whether your family is just the closest people you have around or blood relative, they are still able to let you done, or kill you in George and Lennie’s case. The idea that reaches equality is what you need to finally feel free when, there will always be discrimination in the world no matter how hard we push to eradicate it. Equality in the world will be a forever injustice.