Discuss the role of dreams in Of Mice and Men. What purpose do they serve? Are they ultimately beneficial or harmful?
In Of Mice and Men, it seems an incontrovertible law of nature that dreams should go unfulfilled. From George and Lennie’s ranch to Curley’s wife’s stardom, the characters’ most cherished aspirations repeatedly fail to materialize. However, the fact that they do dream—often long after the possibility of realizing those dreams has vanished—suggests that dreaming serves a purpose in their lives. What the characters ultimately fail to see is that, in Steinbeck’s harsh world, dreams are not only a source of happiness but a source of misery as well.
For the characters in Of Mice and Men, dreams are useful because they map out the possibilities of human happiness. Just as a map helps a traveler locate himself on the road, dreams help Lennie, George, and the others understand where they are and where they’re going. Many dreams in the work have a physical dimension: Not just wishes to be achieved, they are places to be reached. The fact that George’s ranch, the central dream of the book, is an actual place as opposed to a person or a thing underlines this geographical element. Dreams turn the characters’ otherwise meandering lives into journeys with a purpose, as they take pride in actions that support the achievement of their dreams and reject actions that do not. Having a destination gives the men’s lives meaning. Indeed, when others begin to believe in the dream-space that George has created, it becomes almost realer to them than the farm they work at, a phenomenon illustrated by Candy’s constant “figuring” about how to make good on their fantasy.
Dreams help the characters feel like more active participants in their own lives because they allow them to believe that the choices they make can have real, tangible benefits. They also help characters cope with misery and hardship, keeping them from succumbing to the difficulties they face regularly....