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Steinbeks Works Parallels Essay, Research Paper

Introduction

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 ill 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

novella 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 (the Joads) 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 was 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”. An Oakie being someone from middle America who was

currently in the west. 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 novella 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. “George’s tragic last action is the

last gesture in their extraordinary relationship – a relationship that others

fail to understand because it is based on tenderness rather than greed.”

(Magil 4296).

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. “Steinbeck see’s man as

corrupt , bent, fallen, a sinful creature who has reached for a promising

fruit only to realize dark knowledge in a world that is also distorted and

hostile. (Donohue 258). 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. Dreams and ideas of a life of stability and equality were

never achieved. 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 roads journey led them from the barren, the sterile to the green, the

fertile, yet poisonous land. In the end dreams turned out to be just that,

dreams, nothing more.

33a


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