John Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men in an effort to illustrate the social limitations imposed upon the working class during the Great Depression era by creating various characters who shared one common dream, the "American Dream," Steinbeck dramatized on one individual level, the life of the protagonist, George, the grueling struggles and sanguine dreams of an entire social class of people Poet Robert Burns once said, "The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft a-glad," Steinbeck parallels this quote with the ill-fated dreams of workers. Delving into the mind of George, Steinbeck exposes his yearning desire to be on his own and his conflicting desire to remain guardian of Lennie and follow their dream. George recognizes that without Lennie's companionship their dreams will never suffice. George, one of the two protagonists of the novel, provides insight into the psyche of a member of the working class during the destitute 1930 s. Like all migrant workers during this time period he has a dream, the central theme of the novel, to "live of fa the fatta the lan" and have his own place. Unfortunately, this dream is unrealistic, living in an oppressive society which views him as a nonentity and confines him to the ranch and bunkhouse, a symbol Steinbeck utilizes to represent drastic limitation, he knows his dream is in vain.
George's dream is ironically barred by his relationship with Lennie, his burly companion who suffers from mental disabilities, and often wonders what it would be like without Lennie. He would be free of all obligations and able to go out with the guys, drink and spend his money. He often blames Lennie for depriving him from activities such as these. Despite his desire to be on his own, George realizes that life without Lennie would be meaningless.
George's desire for freedom constantly conflicts with necessity of Lennie's friendship in an otherwise bleak world. The affectionate companionship between George and Lennie is unusual among single, white migrant workers. The arrogance and selfishness of other workers on the ranch, reinforces the importance of the friendship George and Lennie uphold throughout the novel. The friendship between George and Lennie replaces desolation is experienced by many of the workers.
Their friendship also allows them to sustain their dream, which remains alive through their conversation. George tells Lennie, the story of their dream so often that even a smart-minded worker like George comes to believe it. By reiterating their dream George the dream begins to encompass a real versus ideal meaning. George realizes that their dream is only plausible as long as they both believe in its provisions. George realizes his conflicting desire to be on his own will result in not only the loss of his friendship, but of his dream as well. Steinbeck utilizes George's conflicting desires to emphasize the importance of companionship in a world ruled by limitations and isolation.
Many workers yearned to acquire the "American Dream" and failed. Lennie's earnest concern about their dream in conjunction with George's reiteration is what keeps their dream alive. When George faces the decision to compassionately kill Lennie to save him from a more excruciating death, his dream dies as well. Although he gains freedom, George now faces a life of solitude and misery, one he was exempt from as long as he had Lennie by his side. George once again becomes a symbol of the working class during the Great Depression era.