What is the American Dream in Of Mice and Men – Explained

Of Mice and Men, a novella by John Steinbeck, explores the theme of the American Dream. Set during the Great Depression in the US, the novel follows the lives of two migrant ranch workers, George Milton and Lennie Small, as they search for job opportunities and hope for a better future.

The American Dream is the idea that anyone can achieve success and improve their lives through hard work, which is deeply ingrained in American culture and is closely tied to the US Declaration of Independence that declares “all men are created equal.

Check out this Youtube video: “Of Mice and Men‘s Context: The American Dream – YouTube” to gain an insightful understanding of the American Dream in this classic novel. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to expand your literary knowledge and engage with exciting ideas about American culture and identity.

Defining the American Dream in Of Mice and Men

In Of Mice and Men, the American Dream is portrayed as the idea that with hard work and determination, anyone can achieve success and improve their lives. For George and Lennie, this dream is symbolized by their desire to one day own their own piece of land and live off of their own hard work.

However, their dream is different from the typical American Dream in that it is not motivated by greed or selfishness, but rather by a desire for companionship, security, and self-sufficiency. They do not dream of becoming wealthy or famous, but instead long for a simple, peaceful life away from the hardships of migrant labor.

Throughout the novel, Steinbeck uses the recurring imagery of the dream farm to symbolize this ideal, and George and Lennie’s shared vision of it serves as a source of hope, motivation, and comfort throughout their struggles.

However, the dream never becomes a reality, and ultimately, it is crushed by the harsh realities of the world they live in. The tragic ending of the novel serves as a commentary on the unfulfilled promises and broken dreams of the American Dream, especially during the Great Depression.

Examples from the novel that support this interpretation of the American Dream include the characters of George and Lennie, their shared vision of the dream farm, and the recurring imagery of rabbits symbolizing their hope for a better future.

The Illusory Nature of the American Dream

In Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck presents the American Dream as an unattainable goal for many characters. The idea that hard work can enable anyone to achieve success and improve their lives, as touted in the United States Declaration of Independence, is questioned and criticized throughout the novel.

For instance, George and Lennie’s dream of owning their own land is constantly undermined by economic inequality, as they struggle to save enough money while working grueling hours for low pay. Similarly, Curley’s wife dreams of becoming an actress in Hollywood, but her gender prevents her from reaching her goal in a society that places women in traditional roles.

Additionally, Steinbeck emphasizes that racism and prejudice further hinder characters from attaining their American Dream. Crooks, the African American stable hand, is excluded from white society and unable to achieve his dream of acceptance and companionship.

Similarly, Curley, the boss’s son, uses his power to bully and intimidate others, including Lennie, due to his small stature.

Steinbeck’s portrayal of the characters’ hopeless situations serves to criticize the false promises of the American Dream. However, he also suggests that dreams are necessary for people to find hope and purpose in their lives, even if these dreams are ultimately unattainable.

Overall, the American Dream in Of Mice and Men is a symbol of hope and perseverance in the face of overwhelming obstacles. However, Steinbeck’s novel highlights the harsh realities of American society during the Great Depression and questions the validity of the American Dream for many individuals.

The Impact of the Great Depression on the American Dream in Of Mice and Men

The Great Depression, which lasted from 1929 to 1939, had a significant impact on the American Dream in Of Mice and Men. During this time, the American Dream was focused on achieving financial success and social mobility through hard work and determination.

However, the stock market crash in 1929 led to widespread unemployment, poverty, and despair across the country.

In the novel, the characters’ struggles reflect the wider economic and social problems caused by the Great Depression. George and Lennie are just two of the many migrant workers who are displaced and struggling to find work.

They dream of buying a piece of land and living off it, but this dream is shattered when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife and they are forced to flee.

Steinbeck uses the character of Crooks, an African American stable hand, to show the racial inequality and discrimination that was present during the Great Depression. Crooks is isolated and mistreated by the other ranch workers because of his race, which highlights the systemic racism that was prevalent at the time.

Furthermore, the economic and social instability during the Great Depression made it difficult for anyone to achieve the American Dream. The dream of financial success and upward mobility became more and more unattainable as the country struggled to recover from the economic crisis.

In conclusion, Of Mice and Men portrays the challenges that people faced in achieving the American Dream during the Great Depression. The novel illustrates how the dream was shattered for many and how systemic issues like racism made it even harder for marginalized communities to achieve the dream.

The Role of Relationships in the American Dream in Of Mice and Men

The concept of the American Dream is central to John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men. The American Dream refers to the belief that anyone can achieve success, prosperity, and happiness through hard work and determination.

In the novel, this idea of the American Dream is often connected with the theme of relationships.

George and Lennie’s relationship plays a vital role in shaping their shared dream of owning a piece of land. They believe that by working hard and saving their money, they will eventually be able to live a comfortable life on their own terms.

George hopes to provide stability and security for Lennie, who has a mental disability. For Lennie, the prospect of owning a farm with George is a powerful motivator – something to hold onto during times of hardship and uncertainty.

Other characters in the novel have their own unique aspirations that are tied to their relationships. For instance, Curley’s wife dreams of becoming a movie star, but her marriage to Curley limits her opportunities and stifles her ambitions.

Crooks, the African American stable-hand, also longs for a better life, but he is pessimistic about his prospects due to the color of his skin.

Throughout the novel, Steinbeck reminds us that the American Dream is not always attainable, and that relationships have a significant impact on one’s ability to reach their goals. However, even in the face of obstacles and setbacks, the dreamers in Of Mice and Men continue to hold onto their dreams – for in doing so, they are able to find meaning and purpose in their lives despite the adversity they face.

Examples from the novel that support this theme include George and Lennie’s conversations about their shared dream of owning a farm, Curley’s wife’s interactions with the ranch hands about her aspirations, and Crooks’ discussion of his desire for a better life.

Challenges to the American Dream in Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men highlights the major challenges that characters faced in pursuit of the American Dream, a concept that is difficult to achieve even in America. The American Dream is symbolized by the characters’ desire for a better life through hard work, but the authors show that the dream is elusive due to the socioeconomic circumstances of the time.

For instance, the characters in the novella are migrant ranch workers and can never achieve enough financial stability to attain their own piece of land. George and Lennie have the dream of buying their own home, but they are lost in a cycle of menial labor in a world where wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few.

They face constant difficulties of low wages and job instability, making it hard to break free from their poverty.

The novel shows how Lennie’s disability makes him vulnerable to society’s unfair treatment, and his dream of living on the land is crushed because he does not “fit in.” On the other hand, Curley’s wife has the dream of becoming an actress but is held back by her gender role embedded in society during that period.

She is not allowed to pursue her dream through hard work because of a lack of opportunities available to women.

The challenges faced by the characters affected their responses to realizing their dreams. George is forced to make the toughest decision of his life when he realizes that his dream of owning a farm with Lennie will never come true.

Lennie’s disability and his fear of not being accepted made it impossible for him to achieve this goal, and George sacrifices his and Lennie’s dream by killing him for Lennie’s sake.

The author uses these examples in the novel to demonstrate how the harsh socioeconomic circumstances of the time make achieving the American Dream almost impossible. Despite this, the characters continue to dream and hope for a better life, as their shattered dreams are the only thing keeping them from giving up on life.

In conclusion, Of Mice and Men portrays the challenges that characters face in their quest to achieve the American Dream.


In Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck portrays the American Dream as a complex and often-unattainable concept. The characters of George and Lennie strive for their version of the American Dream, owning their own land, and working only for themselves.

However, throughout the novella, Steinbeck suggests that this dream is far from reality, especially for impoverished migrant workers during the Great Depression. Despite this, the American Dream remains an important concept in American culture, representing the desire to fulfill one’s goals and create a better life.

Ultimately, Steinbeck’s portrayal of the American Dream highlights the tensions between ambition and the harsh realities of life in America.


Jonathan B. Delfs

I love to write about men's lifestyle and fashion. Unique tips and inspiration for daily outfits and other occasions are what we like to give you at MensVenture.com. Do you have any notes or feedback, please write to me directly: [email protected]

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