John Steinbeck Essay, Research Paper
Common Ground In many of John Steinbeck’s works there are themes and elements that parallel his other works. Steinbeck often tackles the result of people’s bad fortune and the realization that their dreams have been destroyed. We can see that in his Pulitzer Prize winning The Grapes of Wrath and his critically acclaimed novel Of mice and Men Steinbeck shows us the results of people having their dreams destroyed. Steinbeck shows us that in his work he gives different characters similar goals and aspirations and has them destroyed in similar ways. In both of the above mentioned books key characters have their dreams destroyed. “Steinbeck often created characters possessing lofty goals; lofty goals in a world of despair and corruption. His characters did not have a dream of tangible luxuries, but a dream of corporal well being and refuge 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 outside world and its enigmas. George stated “Someday we’re gonna get all the jack together and were gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs.” (Roberts, 187). George’s dream ran deeper than a love for farming and independence. The motivation for this dream was not just a product of the poor state of the country and widespread unemployment, but it was a dream that could ensure a happy ending for Lennie. George is anxious to secure his own place so that Lennie can live the type of life where he can be happy and not be hurt by people who do not understand his simple ways. George would run the farm; Lennie would tend the rabbits. This was Lennies dream, to tend the rabbits. He could think of nothing else more enjoyable than tending the rabbits. “Lennies dram is to have all the rabbits that he can take care of, and his attempts to do the right thing are motivated by his fear that George won’t let him take care of the rabbits.” (Tedlock 243). In The Grapes of Wrath the Joad family also dreams of moving out west. They do this in hopes of escaping the direful situation in Oklahoma. “Gonna buy a car and shove out west where it’s easy living.” (Steinbeck 57). The Joads like Lennie 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 and rely on one another. They believe that once in California they will find life easier and find all they need in surplus. “Jus’ let me get out to California where I can pick me an orange when I want it. Or grapes, there’s a thing I ain’t never 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”.(Steinbeck 105). There is clearly a parallel between the themes of these two books. As both works have the same basis for the characters dreams. How the dream mwas destroyed George and Lennie never had their dreams come true. When they arrived at the homestead for work; George and Lennie at once felt hostility from the ranch owner’s son Curley. Curley was a sinister short-tempered man possessing little physical stature. From Curleys first encounter with Lennie, Curley was looking for an excuse to fight the simple-minded Lennie. “Curley develops a hatred for the bigger man which will 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 act however. It was an accident that had an unfortunate consequence. “Lennies greatest difficulty is remembering. While he never plans to do anything wrong, he simply cannot remember what is wrong and what is not.” (Magil 89). That consequence being the death of Curley’s wife, and that Curley ordered 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 seek vengeance. George decided that he must kill Lennie. George knew that this was the only solution that would spare Lennie the misery that would be inflicted on him by Curley and his men. Like George and Lennie the Joads never saw their dreams materialize. They to were victims of the greed of this time period. The people of the west were averse to change. They were afraid of the migrants because of their different life styles. “Sure they talk the same language, but they ain’t the same. Look how they live. Think any of us would live like that? Hell no!” (Steinbeck 302). The Joads soon learned that the people of the west actually hated the “Oakies”. A man returning back to the Midwest from California told of the troubles to be found ahead. “People gonna have a look in their eye. They gonna look at you an’ their face says, “I don’t like you, you son-of-a-bitch.” Gonna be deputy sheriffs an they’ll push you aroun’. You camp on the roadside an they’ll move you on. You gonna see in peoples faces how they hate you.”(Steinbeck 306). As the Joads arrive into California they see that their dreams will go unanswered. The land looked beautiful but the circumstances would not allow for prosperity. “Looking into the valley the Joads regret that theirs cannot be the tranquil life that it promises.”(Tedlock 40). The dreams of George of and Lennie were destroyed as a result of apathy. Throughout this novel we can see how Steinbeks characters have a total lack of interest in others well being. In the first chapter the bus driver drops George and Lennie off miles from their destination. The driver did this just to spare himself a few minutes of work. The dream was not destroyed due to killing of Curley’s wife at the hands of Lennie. But as a result of Curley’s lack of empathy. If Curley were more understanding and considerate of Lennies condition the dream may have grown and bloomed into reality. However given the circumstances George had no choice but to sacrifice he and Lennies dream so that Lennie would not suffer at the hands of Curley. George decided that the only solution was to kill Lennie. The Joads also had their dreams destroyed at the hands of apathetic people. The Joads were treated and looked at by the ranch owners like a team of oxen. They were expected to work long and hard hours for insulting wages. The authorities did not have any concern for the poor who were being taken advantage of. Children were not even spared from the work and, like their parents went hungry. “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 that were taking place in front of them, and bowed their heads to the almighty dollar. The migrants had no choice if they wanted to work. If they refused the wages 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 what he ast’s. But suppose them men got kids, an’ them kids is hungry. Spose a dime’ll buy a box of mush for them. An you got a hundred men, jus’ offer ‘em a nickel. 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 by Steinbeck 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 both works this wealth has molded the authorities into cold heartless men. These greedy individuals destroy the dreams of the migrants. The villainous characters he portrayed only had a sense of present pleasure. They had no concern for the fact that at the present moment a child had no life or food. The lower class had no way of getting ahead. Steinbecks charecters never had their dreams materialize into achieved goals. This was true in both of Steinbecks above mentioned works. George and Lennies followed their dream only to have it turn into a nightmare. The Joads journey led them from the barrenand sterile land, to the green, fertile yet poisonous land. In the end dreams turned out to be just that, dreams, nothing more.