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What do we learn about the hopes and dreams of the characters in the novella, “Of Mice and Men”? Free essay! Download now

Home > GCSE > English literature > What do we learn about the hopes and dreams of the characters in the novella, “Of Mice and Men”?

What do we learn about the hopes and dreams of the characters in the novella, “Of Mice and Men”?

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"Of Mice and Men" essay on the characters and their hopes and dreams


You can tell before you read the novella that it will be about crushed hopes and dreams. This is because the title is taken from a poem called “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns, which is about how humans and little mice alike all plan and hope for their futures, only to have their hopes dashed by cruel fate. In the case of the poem, it is a little mouse who builds himself a home to protect himself from the winter, but unfortunately the farmer destroys it with his plough. The key lines of the poem are:
“The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
Gang aft agley”
Burns is saying that, just like the little mouse, humans find often their own plans and hopes destroyed.

Many of the characters have hopes and dreams that will not come true. The main dream of the novella is the dream of owning a ranch (otherwise known as the American Dream). Itinerant travellers like George and Lennie harbour this dream because of the lives they have to lead. They live in rural California in the 1930s, the time of the Great Depression. Businesses were failing and there was harsh poverty and long-term unemployment. Men like George and Lennie had to travel from ranch to ranch to find temporary work. This was poorly paid but it was the only type of work available to them. George is smart enough to realise he is being exploited and tells us that one of the reasons why he wants his own ranch is that:
“There would be no more runnin’ round the country and getting’ fed by a Jap cook… We wouldn’t have to buck no barley eleven hours a day.” (page 63)
He is also aware that by travelling round alone (or with just Lennie in tow) that he has lost control of his life, something his own ranch would give him:
“An’ it’d be our own, an’ nobody could can us. If we don’t like a guy we can say, “Get the hell out,” and by God he’s got to do it. An’ if a fren’ come along, why we’d have an extra bunk” (Page 64)
More than anything, owning his own ranch would give George a feeling of self-sufficiency and independence; a sense that he could reap (quite literally!) the rewards of his own hard efforts:
“An’ when we put in a crop, why, we’d be there to take the crop up. We’d know what came of our planting.” (Page 63)
George paints a warm romantic picture of life on his dream ranch, with images such as “cream so god damn thick you got to cut it with a knife”. It’s also clear he misses the security and happiness of a past life when he talks of how he will build “a smoke house like the one gran’pa had” and “we’d keep a few pigeons to go flyin’ around the win’mill like they done when I was a kid”. These nostalgic images provide colour and warmth in a dull and difficult life where there is no real hope of change.

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