Ranchmen Shouldn’t Dream
You look up only to have your eyes blinded by the white hot sun yet again, your hands are blistered and swollen from moving countless barrels of wheat. As you look up, your mind clutches onto your dream of getting off this ranch and moving into a little house on a couple acres of land, and living out the rest of your simple life. But after years of arduous work, blistered hands and lonely nights, your life has not changed. It has remained insignificant and will stay that way. Dreaming leads to failed expectations and a feeling of emptiness. Steinbeck uses characters and dialogue to show that people should not dream and instead accept the way things are.
Candy is an old man, missing his right hand, who knows he will end up on the streets, and out of a job because he can’t work. After the men in the bunkhouse complain about the repugnant smell of Candy’s dog, Carlson asks, “He ain’t no good to you, Candy. An’ he ain’t no good to himself. Why’n’t you shoot him, Candy?” (Steinbeck 80). This shows that Candy and his dog are identical, they were once both great, but as they aged through the difficulties of the ranch life, they end up unable to stand up for themselves. Candy wants to be apart of George and Lennie’s dream but reminds them of the possibility of failure by saying, “I won’t have no place to go, an’ I can’t get no more jobs” (Steinbeck 98), by telling them what had happened to him. Candy’s dreams have led him to a missing right hand, his companion dead and lost hope. Dreaming coupled with the emotional trauma that comes with being a ranchmen left Candy empty and emotionally damaged, to the point where he is unable to kill his own dog, immediately regretting not doing it after by saying, “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog” (Steinbeck 99).This shows that Candy’s inability to shoot his own dog symbolizes his failed dreams. After Curley’s wife is killed at the hands of Lennie, both George and Candy realize that the dream wasn’t going to pan out. This also shows that dreaming accompanied by high expectations is what left both Candy and George feeling empty and lost. Candy is the embodiment of what despair looks like for a ranchmen.
Curley’s wife is a flirtatious but troubled woman, who feels lonely being married to Curley. She is yet another victim of lost dreams, she met a man at the Riverside Dance Palace who told her he would put her in Hollywood movies, but as she says, “I never got that letter-I always thought my ol’ lady stole it,” (Steinbeck 127). This shows that even though Curley’s wife purposely flirts with the other men, knowing they will suffer from Curley’s hot-headed beatings, her dreams of acting in Hollywood movies were short-lived. These high expectations and failed dreams left her with a broken relationship, lost opportunity, extreme self-obsession and the thoughts of “what if?”. After Curley’s wife dies, she is described as, “very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young, Now her rouged cheeks and her reddened lips made her seem alive and sleeping very lightly,” (Steinbeck 132). This shows what woman Curley’s wife could have been, a woman with a good life and opportunity. But dreaming is what led to lowered expectations, lost potential and the self-obsession she acquired after marrying Curley, which ended up killing her. If Curley’s wife had never begun to dream she would not become the miserable and lonely woman that she is.
George Milton is an average ranchmen who is practical and likes to stay focused on the present.
Even though Lennie is the one who benefits from his friendship with George, Lennie gives George a chance to dream, and after Lennie dies, he says, “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” (Steinbeck 134). This shows that once George started dreaming about the farm, that’s when everything awful happened (mostly Lennie’s death). George could have continued to live out the rest of his meaningless life, though he wouldn’t amount to much, he would never experience the pain of lost hope. After Lennie’s death George comes to the realization that he has become just another ranchmen by saying, ““I’ll work my month an’ I’ll take my fifty bucks an’ I’ll stay all night in some lousy cat house-An’ then I’ll come back an’ work another month an’ I’ll have fifty bucks more” (Steinbeck 134). This shows that George has accepted the fact he has become another soul lost in The Great Depression. Lennie was what made George different from the other ranchmen, he gave George something to look forward to instead of aimlessly floating around. If George hadn’t started to dream along with Lennie, he would still feel pain for the death of his companion but that pain doesn’t even amount to knowing your life is worthless.
As you look down again, you remember that you are just another ranchmen working for next to nothing every month, and that same feeling of emptiness and thoughts of what could have been set in again. Steinbeck tries to tell the reader to not dream through his usage of characters and dialogue. The three characters Steinbeck uses, Candy, Curley’s wife and George are wildly different people, but they all share one common trait, they once dreamt of a better life, yet they all ended up in the exact same place. They all had their hopes crushed by the reality of their circumstances, but if they had never begun to dream, they would still be in the same place but they would not feel as if they had lost something.