Common Ground Essay, Research Paper
Common Ground In many of John Steinbeck’s works there are themes and elements thatparallel his other works. Steinbeck often tackles the result of people’sbad fortune and the realization that their dreams have been destroyed. Wecan see that in his Pulitzer Prize winning The Grapes of Wrath and hiscritically acclaimed novel Of mice and Men Steinbeck shows us the results of people having their dreams destroyed. Steinbeck shows us that in his work hegives different characters similar goals and aspirations and has themdestroyed in similar ways. In both of the above mentioned books key characters have their dreamsdestroyed. “Steinbeck often created characters possessing lofty goals;lofty goals in a world of despair and corruption. His characters did not havea dream of tangible luxuries, but a dream of corporal well being andrefuge with loved ones”(Thomas 238). In Of Mice and Men, Lennie and George travel to California in order to find work. Once they salvage up enough money,Lennie and George plan on being independent and not worrying about the outsideworld and its enigmas. George stated “Someday we’re gonna get all thejack together and were gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ acow and some pigs.” (Roberts, 187). George’s dream ran deeper than a lovefor farming and independence. The motivation for this dream was not just aproduct of the poor state of the country and widespread unemployment,but it was a dream that could ensure a happy ending for Lennie. George isanxious to secure his own place so that Lennie can live the type of life wherehe can be happy and not be hurt by people who do not understand his simpleways. George would run the farm; Lennie would tend the rabbits. This wasLennies dream, to tend the rabbits. He could think of nothing else moreenjoyable than tending the rabbits. “Lennies dram is to have all the rabbits that hecan take care of, and his attempts to do the right thing are motivated by hisfear that George won’t let him take care of the rabbits.” (Tedlock 243). In TheGrapes of Wrath the Joad family also dreams of moving out west. They do this inhopes of escaping the direful situation in Oklahoma. “Gonna buy a carand shove out west where it’s easy living.” (Steinbeck 57). The Joads likeLennie and George plan on saving up enough money for their own plot of land.Once this task is accomplished they hope to live a self-sufficient life andrely on one another. They believe that once in California they will find lifeeasier and find all they need in surplus. “Jus’ let me get out to California whereI can pick me an orange when I want it. Or grapes, there’s a thing I ain’tnever had enough of. Gonna get me a whole bunch of grapes off a bush, or whatever,an’ I’m gonna squash ‘em on my face an’ let ‘em run off my chin”.(Steinbeck105). There is clearly a parallel between the themes of these two books. Asboth works have the same basis for the characters dreams. How the dreammwas destroyed George and Lennie never had their dreams come true. Whenthey arrived at the homestead for work; George and Lennie at once felthostility from the ranch owner’s son Curley. Curley was a sinistershort-tempered man possessing little physical stature. From Curleysfirst encounter with Lennie, Curley was looking for an excuse to fight thesimple-minded Lennie. “Curley develops a hatred for the bigger man whichwill be expressed in his desire to mutilate Lennie in the final scene.”(Magil 4296) Lennie ended up killing Curleys wife. This was not a malicious acthowever. It was an accident that had an unfortunate consequence.”Lennies greatest difficulty is remembering. While he never plans to do anythingwrong, he simply cannot remember what is wrong and what is not.” (Magil89). That consequence being the death of Curley’s wife, and that Curleyordered the men to kill Lennie. The workers assembled and took up arms.George knew that the men were not out to right a wrong, but out to seekvengeance. George decided that he must kill Lennie. George knew that
this was the only solution that would spare Lennie the misery that would beinflicted on him by Curley and his men. Like George and Lennie the Joadsnever saw their dreams materialize. They to were victims of the greed ofthis time period. The people of the west were averse to change. They wereafraid of the migrants because of their different life styles. “Sure they talkthe same language, but they ain’t the same. Look how they live. Think any of uswould live like that? Hell no!” (Steinbeck 302). The Joads soon learned thatthe people of the west actually hated the “Oakies”. A man returning back tothe Midwest from California told of the troubles to be found ahead. “Peoplegonna have a look in their eye. They gonna look at you an’ their facesays, “I don’t like you, you son-of-a-bitch.” Gonna be deputy sheriffs an they’llpush you aroun’. You camp on the roadside an they’ll move you on. You gonnasee in peoples faces how they hate you.”(Steinbeck 306). As the Joads arriveinto California they see that their dreams will go unanswered. The landlooked beautiful but the circumstances would not allow for prosperity. “Lookinginto the valley the Joads regret that theirs cannot be the tranquil life thatit promises.”(Tedlock 40). The dreams of George of and Lennie weredestroyed as a result of apathy. Throughout this novel we can see how Steinbeks characters have atotal lack of interest in others well being. In the first chapter thebus driver drops George and Lennie off miles from their destination. The driver didthis just to spare himself a few minutes of work. The dream was not destroyeddue to killing of Curley’s wife at the hands of Lennie. But as a resultof Curley’s lack of empathy. If Curley were more understanding andconsiderate of Lennies condition the dream may have grown and bloomed into reality.However given the circumstances George had no choice but to sacrifice heand Lennies dream so that Lennie would not suffer at the hands ofCurley. George decided that the only solution was to kill Lennie. The Joads alsohad their dreams destroyed at the hands of apathetic people. The Joads weretreated and looked at by the ranch owners like a team of oxen. They wereexpected to work long and hard hours for insulting wages. The authorities didnot have any concern for the poor who were being taken advantage of. Children were not even spared from the work and, like their parents wenthungry. “The kid’s yo ought to see them. Little boils, like comin’ out,an’ they can’t run around. Give ‘em some windfall fruit, an’ they bloated up.”(’Steinbeck 363). They turned their heads away from the atrocities thatwere taking place in front of them, and bowed their heads to the almightydollar. The migrants had no choice if they wanted to work. If they refused thewages somebody else would be glad to take the job. “Suppose you got a job an’work, an’ there s jus’ one fella wants the job. You got to pay him whathe ast’s. But suppose them men got kids, an’ them kids is hungry. Spose adime’ll buy a box of mush for them. An you got a hundred men, jus’ offer ‘em anickel. Why, they ll kill each other fighting for that nickel”.(Steinbeck 324). It was a rat race. The only way to get ahead in the world portrayed bySteinbeck was to turn your back on your fellow man. In these to works of Steinbeck the plight of the migrants is examined.Often it’s the wealth of the landowners pitted against the poor. In bothworks this wealth has molded the authorities into cold heartless men. Thesegreedy individuals destroy the dreams of the migrants. The villainouscharacters he portrayed only had a sense of present pleasure. They had no concern forthe fact that at the present moment a child had no life or food. The lowerclass had no way of getting ahead. Steinbecks charecters never had theirdreams materialize into achieved goals. This was true in both of Steinbecksabove mentioned works. George and Lennies followed their dream only to have itturn into a nightmare. The Joads journey led them from the barrenandsterile land, to the green, fertile yet poisonous land. In the end dreams turnedout to be just that, dreams, nothing more.