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The American Dream According To John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck, author of many classic American novels, greatly influenced modern American literature. Steinbeck often referred to the Salinas Valley of California in his writing. He often referred to the settlers and the adversities they had faced during the migration to the Salinas Valley area. With novels such as Of Mice And Men and The Grapes Of Wrath, Steinbeck explained the harsh reality of the severe hardships the settlers faced to accomplish the American Dream. These novels share many similarities in regard to their themes.

To understand Steinbeck’s work, we must first understand Steinbeck. John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902. His father was a treasurer for the county. Steinbeck’s mother was a school teacher. His mother taught him to appreciate books. Steinbeck attended high school locally. During his summers, he worked on ranches and farms to earn money. After high school, he studied marine biology at Stanford University. By the late 1920’s, he moved back to California without an academic degree. Steinbeck had never planned to work in the field of his major.

He had always known he would be a writer. In 1929, now living in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Steinbeck was given an advance from a publisher to write a book. The publisher gave him $250. This book, called Cup Of Gold, failed to make a profit. Steinbeck did not get discouraged. By 1935, he released a novel called Tortilla Flat. This novel earned him recognition as well as money. Steinbeck was paid thousands of dollars for the film rights to this novel. From this, Steinbeck went on to write many more great American novels.

These novels include Of Mice And Men and The Grapes Of Wrath which were both written in the late 1930’s as well as East Of Eden, written in 1952. Steinbeck eventually earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his works. John Steinbeck died in 1968 having written countless classic novels. In Of Mice And Men, the main characters, George and Lennie, are poor migrant workers who travel throughout the Salinas Valley in search of work. Throughout the novel, George and Lennie are in search of the American Dream. They crave the opportunity to work, land to call their own and being their own bosses by working off of that land.

George and Lennie feel that they are different than other migrant workers because they have dreams and they rely on each other. George and Lennie find work on a farm “bucking barley. ” On this farm they meet the laborers as well as other characters of this novel including Candy (an older laborer), Crooks (the black stable hand), the boss, Curley (a short man who happens to be the bosses son), Curley’s wife (a lonely woman easily excited by the attention of men), Carlson (a ranchhand) and Slim (the local authority figure).

The characters in this novel all seem to want to transform their lives and are not able to do so. Curley’s wife, a failed actress, is living day to day hoping that she will be able to fulfill her lifelong dream of acting. Slim, has nothing to show for a lifetime of laboring. He, just like George and Lennie, had hoped and dreamed for many years to own a piece of land to call his own. He has to live with the realization that he will probably die laboring just as he has done for so many years before. Crooks, on the other hand, has more of a sociological issue to deal with.

He dealt with constant racial issues preventing him from accomplishing the American Dream. He has struggled to be treated as a human being because he has been oppressed by the white workers for so many years. The characters constant struggle to accomplish the American Dream is apparently overshadowed by each characters different degree of loneliness. George is tormented later in the story by Lennie’s actions. He accidentally broke Curley’s wife’s neck and killed her. Fearful of his own life, George takes the law into his own hands.

George shoots Lennie in the head and kills him. George killing Lennie signifies yet another theme of the novel. This theme of course, “Survival of the Fittest. ” George is now able to attempt to acquire his dreams by owning a piece of the American Pie without the burden of fleeing to cover Lennie’s mistakes. In The Grapes Of Wrath, the pursuit of the American Dream cannot be more obvious. The Joad’s, the main characters of the novel, are evicted from their farm in Oklahoma after a bank foreclosure. With no place to go, the family decides to head west toward California.

The Joad’s dreamt that they could claim a piece of land in California. The trip to California was a struggle among the Joad’s as well as other characters throughout the novel. The grandfather died along the journey signifying a death and rebirth. The death being the foreclosure of the Joad’s farm and uprooting the family. The rebirth being the arrival of the Joad’s in California and replanting the family’s roots. When the family reached California, they quickly learned how money was not only a factor back in Oklahoma.

The landowners of the Salinas Valley were wealthy and greedy. The wealthy farmers threatened to run small farmers out of business and succeeded. These landowners would then cut the wages of the workers forcing poverty among the laborers. The rich landowners then buried and burned unsold food while many laborers and migrants starved. This forced the Joad’s to migrate elsewhere for food and work. The all mighty dollar has been proven to be a key factor in the pursuit of the American Dream.

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