Curley’s wife, for instance, has resigned herself to an unfulfilling marriage.What makes all of these dreams typically American is that the dreamers wish for untarnished happiness, for the freedom to follow their own desires.The itinerant farm worker of the Great Depression found it nearly impossible to establish a fixed home.
Drawing on the biblical story of the Fall in which Adam and Eve sin in the Garden of Eden, Of Mice and Men argues that the social and economic world in which its characters live is fundamentally flawed.
The novella opens by an Eden-like pool that is presented as a natural paradise.
People visit, but they do not own the land and they share its resources amongst themselves, like the giant sycamore whose low branch is “worn smooth by men who have sat on it.” The purity of this world in the opening scene proves to be unsustainable as the story continues.
On the ranch, George and Lennie hold on to their idyllic dream of shared farm ownership, and this dream is compared to paradise when Crooks scoffs: “Just like heaven.
Each desires the comfort of a friend, but will settle for the attentive ear of a stranger.
Curley’s wife admits to Candy, Crooks, and Lennie that she is unhappily married, and Crooks tells Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times of confusion and need.Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities—he is a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship—Crooks zeroes in on Lennie’s own weaknesses.In scenes such as this one, Steinbeck records a profound human truth: oppression does not come only from the hands of the strong or the powerful.Given the harsh, lonely conditions under which these men live, it should come as no surprise that they idealize friendships between men in such a way.Ultimately, however, the world is too harsh and predatory a place to sustain such relationships.One of the reasons that the tragic end of George and Lennie’s friendship has such a profound impact is that one senses that the friends have, by the end of the novella, lost a dream larger than themselves.The farm on which George and Lennie plan to live—a place that no one ever reaches—has a magnetic quality, as Crooks points out.By the time Lennie finds himself back beside the pool, not even the Eden-like qualities of the setting can prevent his death. In many ways, from the outspoken to the subtle (such as Steinbeck's decision to set the novel near Soledad, California, a town name that means "solitude" in Spanish), the presence of loneliness defines the actions of the diverse characters in the book.The characters are rendered helpless by their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they.Perhaps the most powerful example of this cruel tendency is when Crooks criticizes Lennie’s dream of the farm and his dependence on George.