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