Describe an important change that occurred in a character or individual. Explain how this was important to the text as a whole.
The novel “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck tells the story of two migrant workers, George and Lennie, who try to achieve their dream of “living off the fatta the lan” amidst the backdrop of the 1930s Great Depression. An important character is George, who changes throughout the novel from having an optimistic and positive outlook on their dream and future to one that is negative. Through the use of repetition, assonance, alliteration, symbolism and imagery, Steinbeck shows us this change’s importance to the text as a whole by helping us understand the American Dream’s tragic reality.
George at the start of the novel is optimistic about their dream of owning their own place together. This can be seen through George and Lennie’s discussion about their dream. Just the thought of it, instantly made them “grin with delight.” The thought of this dream made him so excited that he told Lennie that “[they’re] gonna fix her (ranch) up a little, and [they’re] gonna do her." Through the use of assonance in “grin with delight”, Steinbeck emphasises the dream’s importance on George’s life, as it is the only thing that connects him with Lennie and brings them together. Moreover, this dream of theirs helps him escape from reality and his driftless lifestyle. It gives him comfort and stability, knowing that the hardship that they’re going through now will eventually pay off when they turn their dream into a reality. The use of repetition through “we” when George tells Lennie that they’re going to purchase the ranch, the readers are able to understand that he is confident and convinced in their plan. There is almost no doubt in his mind that they’re “gonna live off the fatta the lan.” Through George’s idealism, it makes it easy for the reader to root for him and Lennie in their quest to make their dream come true, but as we know through various hints and past events, this dream of theirs may not come to fruition. Furthermore, Steinbeck imparts part of his purpose: the American Dream only serves to subvert our expectations and lead to devastation. As humans, we can’t help but find hope in a harsh and dire setting, even though there may be none of it. It is in our innate nature to believe instead of doubt, so we do not fall into a state of despair and lose our sense of purpose.
George starts to have a negative outlook on their dream and also his future. After Lennie killed Curley’s wife, Candy and George contemplate on whether they should go ahead with their plans without Lennie. Here, George confides in Candy that “deep down [he knew] they were never gonna do her.” Steinbeck uses alliteration “deep down” to help us gain a better understanding of the reason as to why he lied to himself and ignored the signs. This is because he wanted to keep their dreams and hope alive, because he didn’t want to face the truth that their dream is unattainable. This is further reinforced in the climax of the novel, where George pulls out Carlson’s gun and, with “his hand shaking violently,” shoots Lennie. The use of symbolism through Lennie to represent their hope and dream, shows the reader that the act of killing him meant that their dreams will never fully be realised. The use of imagery “shaking violently” portrays George, in this moment, as scared and emotionally frustrated. Here, we see that George doesn’t want to kill Lennie and their dream, but he knows that “he has to do it” in order for his friend and himself to move on. Through this change in George, Steinbeck teaches the reader by showing us it’s tragic reality, so that we don’t glorify the idea of The American Dream. Furthermore, Steinbeck helps us understand that the reason we lie to ourselves is so that we avoid getting hurt. We ignore the facts and run away from the truth, like George did, because it’s easier. However, even though it is harder, we must learn to accept and face the truth in order to move on.
In conclusion, “Of Mice and Men” is a captivating and challenging piece of literature, which helps us to not only reflect on ourselves but also others. This change in George from having a positive to a negative outlook on their dream is important to text as a whole. This is because it shows the reality of the American Dream, and how we shouldn’t glorify it, as it will only lead to devastation.