Theme Of Sadness And Dreams in Of Mice And Men By John Steinbeck
Have you ever compared yourself to a mouse? Probably not, but can you think of any similarities there might be between the most powerful mammal on Earth and a tiny mouse?
In 1785, a famous poem titled “To a Mouse” was written by Robert Burns. His poem explored and considered the similarities of the life of a mouse to that of a human’s. He writes, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go askew, and leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy”. This line echoes the reality of many people who dream of something, planning it out and striving towards it, and just when it seams in the realm of becoming true, it slips out of the grasp that once so tightly the dream, leaving the dreamer with a life of regret and sorrow. This profound analysis made by Robert Burns prompts the reader to realize that the life of what might seem as an insignificant mouse has a deep connection with the lives of all humans, big or small, particularly the characters in the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, which follows the life of humans whose plans and dreams drifted off course and then afflicted a life of pain and misery. John Steinbeck demonstrates how hunger, thirst, and restless chasing of a dream eventually leads to their downfall is through his characters Candy and Curley’s wife.
The first scenario where Steinbeck integrates Burn’s quote into the lives of the characters is with Curley’s wife. Curley’s wife has a dream of being an actress in the movies and explains to Lennie that an agent: “says I would go with that show. But my ol’ lady wouldn’ let me. But the guy says I coulda. And if I went, I wouldn’t be livin’ like this, you bet . . .’Nother time I met a guy, and’ he was in the pitchers. Went out to the Riverside Dance Place with him. He says he was gonna put me in the movies. Says I was a natural. Soon’s he got back to Hollywood he was gonna write to met about it . . . coulda been in the movies, an’ had nice clothes-all them nice clothes that they wear. An’ I coulda sat in them big hotels, an’ had pitchers taken of me. When they had the previews I woulda went to them, ‘an spole in the radio, an’ it would’ta cost me a cent because I was in the pitcher. An’ all them nice clothes that they wear. Because this guy said I was a natural”. This dream is clearly is coming from the part of Curley’s wife that longs for attention, the feeling of importance, respect, specialness, and the thirst to make something out of herself. She longs to escape the ranch and particularly the isolation and loneliness associated with it and gain fame and recognition. However, when the letter from the man did not come, she was quick to blame her mom for the letter not coming by saying, “I always thought my ol’ lady stole it. Well, I wasn’t gonna stay no place where I couldn’t get nowhere or make something of myself, an’ where they stole your letters. I ast her if she stole it, too, an’ she says no. So I married Curley. Met him our to the Riverside Dance Palace that same night. . . I don’ like Curley, he ain’t a nice fella”.
Curley’s wife married Curley to get away from her mother who she has believed to have spoiled her chances of become famous. By doing this, Curley’s wife has now committed herself to a life full of loneliness and dissatisfaction with her marriage, and a loathing dislike for her mother but most of all disappointment and aching for the dream that never came true. Nonetheless, Curley’s wife is not the only character that experiences the pain and sorrow of a plan and scheme that did not go as planned. Secondly, Candy undergoes a miliar flow of events similar to Curley’s wife“Everybody wans’ a little bit of land, not much. Jus’ som’thin’ that was his. Somethin’ he could live on and there couldn’t nobody throw him off of it. I never had none. I planted crops for damn near ever’body in this state, but they wasn’t my crops, and whe I harvested ‘Em it wasn’t none of my harvest. But we [Candy, George, and Lennie] gonna do it now, and don’t make no mistake about that”. Candy joins George and Lennie’s dream to go live on a ranch because he for a short while believed that at long last he could achieve the American Dream where freedom and independence are so sought after. Candy wanted something that was his, and understandably, after moving from ranch to ranch and being of an old age, he wants to settle down. He attaches himself onto George and Lennie’s dream out of sheer fear that just like his dog, who had been old and of no use and tossed away, he would too. Candy’s eagerness to come along with Lennie and
George reflects his fear at being cast out as an outsider and being lonley and so he holds on to George and Lennie’s dream where he can be of use. On the other hand, after Curley’s wife has died, Candy came to the realization of what the outcome of Lennie’s action would mean for his dream and: “he repeated the old words: I could of hoed the garden and washed dishes for them guys’. ‘ If they were a circus or a baseball game… we could of jus’ went to her . jus’ said ‘ta hell with work, an’ went to her. Never ast nobody’s say so… an’ they’d of been a pig and chickens… an’ in the winter… the little fat stove… an’ the rain comin’… an’ us jus’ setting there.’ His eyes blinded with tears and he turned and went weakly out of the barn”. Candy did not feel any pity for Curley’s wife, but felt extreme hatred and utter and complete devestation. This would leave him the rest of his life yearning for the American Dream he was so close to experiencing, as Robert Burns quote had explained.
In conclusion, in the same way Steinbeck’s characters Curley’s wife and Candy dealt with the hurt and sadness of not achieving their dreams that was so clearly planned and their triumphs envisioned, the same holds true in real life when plans do not go the way we expect or want them to go. It is okay and healthy to grieve the loss of a dream once held so close, but it is absolutely not okay to let the dying of a dream yield a life full of sadness and melancholy. Instead the suffering and pain should be taken as an opportunity to grow. It is not trials and hardships of life that make people stronger and builds character. It is all about how we conduct ourselves and what we choose to do with our lives- either spiral down and endless path of misery, or take it as a growing opportunity. It is how we react to them, what we do to keep optimistic. It how we do not let a downfall define who we are and how we spend the rest of our life, that builds authentic character and true resilience. So, next time an outcome takes a negative turn, people must remember to keep our greatest successes and triumphs of life close, but your heartaches and particularly the lessons learned closer. And when you think of life’s events in that way, there isn’t much of a difference between our lives and a mouse’s, is there? The two doors and the wide open roads are standing before everyone, whether that be a small mouse, a lion, or even humans. But, most importantly, path are you going to take?
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