Themes in Of Mice and Men
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Steinbeck explores several themes in Of Mice and Men. The American Dream is one of the most obvious and important themes in the book. Steinbeck's story gives many characters the opportunity to discuss the type of dream that they have for themselves. For George and Lenny, it's their small farm where they can live freely under their own direction; for Curley, it's becoming a movie star; for Crooks, it's simply to have a small garden on George's farm. The dreams change from person to person, but they all describe a better future. As the novel unfolds, though, the American Dream never comes closer to fulfillment. Eventually, George realizes that none of them will ever reach their dreams of freedom and fulfillment. Instead they will continue to struggle just to survive.
This struggle evokes another important theme in Of Mice and Men. Much of the book explores the belief that all people, regardless of how much money or power they possess, have the capacity to act cruelly towards others. Wealthy people clearly take advantage of impoverished people. The poor, however, also act cruelly towards each other. Crooks, for instance, criticizes Lennie for latching onto George's dream of owning a small farm. Crooks degrades Lennie cruelly even though he has a similar dream of tending a small garden on George's farm. With George's twisted back, he certainly is not better off than Lennie. He does, however, derive some pleasure from pulling Lennie down from the comfort of his dreams.