Of Mice and Men

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The American Dream Theme Analysis

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The American Dream Theme Icon
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LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Of Mice and Men, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The American Dream Theme Icon

The American Dream is written into the Declaration of Independence: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Lennie and George's dream of owning a farm and living off the "fatta the lan" symbolizes this dream. Of Mice and Men shows that for poor migrant workers during the Depression, the American Dream became an illusion and a trap. All the ranch hands in Of Mice and Men dream of life, liberty, and happiness, but none ever gets it. As Crooks says when he hears of Lennie's dream to own his own farm, "Nobody ever gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land."

At the same time, while the dream may never be realized, Of Mice and Men suggests that in order for life to be full and meaningful, it must contain dreams. George and Lennie never achieve their dream, but the dream holds their remarkable friendship together. Their dream is real because it's real in their imaginations. The dream keeps Lennie happy and stops George from becoming "mean" and lonely like most ranch hands. The dream gives them life, even if life never allows them to achieve their dreams.

The American Dream ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of The American Dream appears in each chapter of Of Mice and Men. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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The American Dream Quotes in Of Mice and Men

Below you will find the important quotes in Of Mice and Men related to the theme of The American Dream.
Part 1 Quotes
Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place....With us it ain't like that. We got a future.... An' why? Because...because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

After George finishes complaining about Lennie as a burden, Lennie offers to leave George and run away into the woods. George tells him to stop, and that he wants him to stay. In this quote, George repeats a refrain about his and Lennie's friendship that he often uses to calm Lennie down when they get into an altercation like this one.

Here, George explains that though ranching is a lonely line of work, he and Lennie are special because they have each other. Though they live a nomadic life, working from farm to farm like other ranchers, they look out for each other, and have a future planned together: they want to buy a ranch of their own some day. George sticks with Lennie because he knows Lennie would never make it alone in the world, and he reciprocates Lennie's undying loyalty towards him. Lennie trusts George without question, since George has been his only support system since his Aunt Clara passed away. Though other ranchers might be technically richer since they aren't constantly running away from their jobs, like George and Lennie have to do when Lennie gets in trouble, they are rich in something other ranchers don't have: a friendship that functions like a family. 

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"Well," said George, "we'll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we'll just say the hell with goin' to work, and we'll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an' listen to the rain comin' down on the roof."
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker)
Related Symbols: George and Lennie's Farm, Rabbits
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

When George repeats his refrain about why they, as two traveling friends, are different than other ranchers, Lennie asks George to tell him about the farm that they are going to have together. Lennie often asks George to repeat this story, as a sort of verbal security blanket that calms him when he is upset.

In this quote, George repeats yet another refrain about a piece of land that he and Lennie will own, with their own livestock and crops. As ranchers, they are constantly doing backbreaking labor to harvest the crops that someone else owns, for meager pay. If they were to own their own land, they could "live off tha fatta the lan'," as Lennie is fond of saying--they can be sustained entirely by the food they grow. They would effectively be their own bosses, and therefore "say the hell with goin' to work" whenever they please, rather than risk being fired by an employer. The repetition of this dream keeps both men going even when times are hard. The belief that their future will be better than their current situation is one that they must furtively believe if they are to continue to endure the repercussions of Lennie's antics on various ranches across California. 

Part 3 Quotes
"We could live offa the fatta the lan'."
Related Characters: Lennie Small (speaker)
Related Symbols: George and Lennie's Farm
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Lennie asks George to repeat the story of their dream to own a farm together, and in this quote, Lennie chimes in with one of his favorite lines: "We could live offa the fatta the lan'." Rather than working from ranch to ranch to harvest other people's crops, the two men dream of having their own plot of land from which to sustain themselves and to sell harvest from. They both relish the idea of staying in one place, and working hard for something that they own and is theirs to eat or sell, rather than to turn over for a meager day's pay for backbreaking labor. Lennie and George only have each other, and they cannot get enough of the idea that they could one day have a piece of land to call home. 

S'pose they was a carnival or a circus come to town, or a ball game, or any damn thing." Old Candy nodded in appreciation of the idea. "We'd just go to her," George said. "We wouldn't ask nobody if we could. Jus' say, 'We'll go to her,' an' we would. Jus' milk the cow and sling some grain to the chickens an' go to her
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Candy (speaker)
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Candy overhears Lennie and George talking about the farm they one day want to own and pipes up that he, too, would love to get in on the deal. He says that he has money saved up from the settlement when he was injured, and that he would work on the land for no pay. In this quote, George and Candy both relish the idea that if they owned their own farm, they would not have to answer to anyone--if there was something they wanted to do, they wouldn't have to worry about losing their jobs if they left the ranch for a day. Both men are tired of working to harvest crops that they don't own for very little money, and are seduced by the idea of being their own bosses and owning the fruits of their own land. To finally have a place to call home is an especially tantalizing proposition. 

Part 4 Quotes
I seen hundreds of men come by on the road an' on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an' that same damn thing in their heads . . . every damn one of 'em's got a little piece of land in his head. An' never a God damn one of 'em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever'body wants a little piece of lan'. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.
Related Characters: Crooks (speaker)
Related Symbols: George and Lennie's Farm
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

Despite being warned by George to keep quiet, Lennie proudly tells Crooks of the plan to purchase a farm. Crooks, like Candy, is immediately enticed by the idea of a farm and a place to call home, where he might be treated better than he has been on the ranch. Years of isolation, however, have made him very cynical (for a good reason) and he is scornful of the idea. In this quote, he tells Lennie that though he sees many men come through the ranch with similar ideas, none of them ever follows through with it.

Crooks' statement helps explain why George wants Lennie to keep the land a secret--if another rancher with more money in the bank hears about it, they might poach it before he gets a chance to purchase it. It also shows how similar the lives and dreams of ranchers are--they all long for their own piece of land to call home, and to no longer live a nomadic existence, traveling from ranch to ranch searching for work. Yet, despite the similarities in their sentiments and dreams, there remains very little interpersonal connection. 

Part 5 Quotes
I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker)
Related Symbols: George and Lennie's Farm
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

When George realizes that Lennie has killed Curley's wife, he immediately knows that his dream of owning his own farm, too, has died. The farm was the collective dream of both George and Lennie, and it would never be the same without Lennie.

In this quote, George painfully recalls how much Lennie loved to daydream about having the farm. The story, he now knows, has become one of myth rather than of a future reality. Here, George attempts to convince himself that he had never really believed it would happen--that he had only started to believe it because Lennie made him recite the story so many times, since it delighted him to imagine their own farm (particularly, the rabbits). Like with his fake scorn of Lennie, to make his friend feel badly when he misbehaves, George tells himself it would have never really happened, so he feels less disappointed about no longer holding onto the dream of the farm. Even though he could still potentially buy the farm on his own with Candy, and even with Crooks, he knows he could never bring himself to do it without Lennie. Rather than bringing the peace and freedom he hoped it would, it would only carry with it memories of pain and sadness. 


Part 6 Quotes
No, Lennie. I ain't mad. I never been mad, an' I ain't now. That's a thing I want ya to know.
Related Characters: George Milton (speaker), Lennie Small
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

After killing Curley's wife, Lennie goes and hides out in the brush, just like George told him to if he ever got in trouble. George accompanies the murderous search party, but sneaks away to find Lennie in their chosen spot. Lennie tells George he knows he is probably angry over what he has done, and in this quote, George tells Lennie he is not mad at him--nor has he ever been mad at him. Though Lennie frequently misbehaves and gets both himself and George in trouble, and George acts as if he is very angry and on the verge of abandoning Lennie, George is never truly furious with his friend. He understands that Lennie has a disability and simply does not comprehend his own physical strengths, mental weaknesses, or the actions that result from the dangerous combinations of the two. It is in this heartbreaking final goodbye that George tells Lennie he has never been really mad at him. Rather, this statement implies that he has been truly grateful to have Lennie, who is faithful to a fault, by his side for so many years.