Comedian, George Carlin once said, “That’s why they call it the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” Of Mice and Men follows the journey of two men trying to achieve their version of the American Dream, which leads them to their unfortunate demise. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck conveys that the American dream is unattainable – through foreshadowing and symbolism – no matter how much hard work is put in, it leads to pain and sorrow.
Foreshadowing was used to hint at the inevitable ending. “Lennie- if you jus’ happen to get in trouble like you always done before, I want you to come right here an’ hide in the brush … hide in the brush till I come for you.” (Page 15) Steinbeck indicated that inevitably Lennie will get into deep trouble that will lead to him needing to hide in the bush. George deep down knew that Weed(Lennie was accused of rape and got both himself and George chased out of the town) wouldn’t be the last time Lennie would get into trouble so, as a precaution he set a meeting spot. Foreshadowing was used towards the middle of the book as well. Just as Candy, George was meet with the same choice of letting strangers kill his long-time companion or take responsibility and do themselves. “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog.” (Page 61) Candy later regretted not killing his long-time companion and ending his suffering. George, in the end, knows that he needs to be the one to kill Lennie. “ Lennie. Look down there acrost the river, like you can almost see the place. Lennie obeyed him … You… an’ me. Ever’body gonna be nice to you. Ain’t gonna be no more trouble. Nobody gonna hurt nobody nor steal from ’em.” (Page 106) George was the only one that would be able to give comfort and relaxation to Lennie in his final moments. Since Lennie continuously kills animals unintentionally it foreshadows the fate of Lennie and what he could potentially do to a human being. “you’ve broke it pettin’ it” (Page 9) Often Lennie didn’t know the strength he had and often had trouble controlling it. In the case of the mice, the mice would bite Lennie and he’d squeeze their heads hard enough to kill them but, he was never aware until after the fact. “You wasn’t big enough … I di’n’t know you’d get killed so easy.” (Page 85-86) After unintentionally killing his puppy Lennie understood what he has done. These foreshadowed events eventually lead to the deaths of Lennie and Curly’s wife.
George and Lennie’s farm is a symbol of how unobtainable the American dream really is. Their dream farm portrays that nothing goes wrong, they’ll live their best lives out on the farm. “I seen hunderds 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. Hunderds of them. They come, an’ they quit an’ go on; an’ 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.” (Page 74) Even when it was brought to their attention, that many before them had the same dream and failed. George and Lennie believed they’d had a better chance to succeed because they were different from the rest. Other men’s past failures didn’t stop Candy from believing that all three of them could achieve that dream. Another symbol is the rabbits. The rabbits symbolize Lennie’s dream, what he’s working toward. The rabbits are extremely important to him. He’ll do anything to get them and eventually he kills for it. “Then Lennie grew angry. ‘Now don’t,’ he said. ‘I don’t want you to yell. You gonna get me in trouble jus’ like George says you will. Now don’t you do that.’ And she continued to struggle, and her eyes were wild with terror. He shook her then, and he was angry with her. ‘Don’t you go yellin’,’ he said, and he shook her; and her body flopped like a fish. And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck.”( Page 91) His biggest fear is that George will take them away from him if he makes a big enough mistake. In the end, Lennie will never be able to get his rabbits. Candy’s dog is a symbol of Lennie’s later fate. “Awright- take ‘im.’ He did not look down at the dog at all. He lay back on his bunk and crossed his arms behind his head and stared at the ceiling.” (Page 47- 48) The only difference is, is that candy’s dog was killed by people who didn’t care for him as much as candy did. Lennie was killed by his long-time companion George. Lennie’s dog was also a symbol of the weak, those who couldn’t defend their selves against the strong (Lennie).
Lennie ends up killing anything he comes in contact with to pet. Also, it symbolizes the later fate of Curly’s wife and how Lennie ended up killing her as well. Of Mice And Men makes you think will you ever reach your version of the American Dream or settle for less than what you think you deserve.