Curlys Wife American Dream Essay Ideas

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

The Predatory Nature of Human Existence

Of Mice and Men teaches a grim lesson about the nature of human existence. Nearly all of the characters, including George, Lennie, Candy, Crooks, and Curley’s wife, admit, at one time or another, to having a profound sense of loneliness and isolation. Each desires the comfort of a friend, but will settle for the attentive ear of a stranger. Curley’s wife admits to Candy, Crooks, and Lennie that she is unhappily married, and Crooks tells Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times of confusion and need. The characters are rendered helpless by their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they. Perhaps the most powerful example of this cruel tendency is when Crooks criticizes Lennie’s dream of the farm and his dependence on George. Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities—he is a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship—Crooks zeroes in on Lennie’s own weaknesses.

In scenes such as this one, Steinbeck records a profound human truth: oppression does not come only from the hands of the strong or the powerful. Crooks seems at his strongest when he has nearly reduced Lennie to tears for fear that something bad has happened to George, just as Curley’s wife feels most powerful when she threatens to have Crooks lynched. The novella suggests that the most visible kind of strength—that used to oppress others—is itself born of weakness.

Fraternity and the Idealized Male Friendship

One of the reasons that the tragic end of George and Lennie’s friendship has such a profound impact is that one senses that the friends have, by the end of the novella, lost a dream larger than themselves. The farm on which George and Lennie plan to live—a place that no one ever reaches—has a magnetic quality, as Crooks points out. After hearing a description of only a few sentences, Candy is completely drawn in by its magic. Crooks has witnessed countless men fall under the same silly spell, and still he cannot help but ask Lennie if he can have a patch of garden to hoe there. The men in Of Mice and Men desire to come together in a way that would allow them to be like brothers to one another. That is, they want to live with one another’s best interests in mind, to protect each other, and to know that there is someone in the world dedicated to protecting them. Given the harsh, lonely conditions under which these men live, it should come as no surprise that they idealize friendships between men in such a way.

Ultimately, however, the world is too harsh and predatory a place to sustain such relationships. Lennie and George, who come closest to achieving this ideal of brotherhood, are forced to separate tragically. With this, a rare friendship vanishes, but the rest of the world—represented by Curley and Carlson, who watch George stumble away with grief from his friend’s dead body—fails to acknowledge or appreciate it.

The Impossibility of the American Dream

Most of the characters in Of Mice and Men admit, at one point or another, to dreaming of a different life. Before her death, Curley’s wife confesses her desire to be a movie star. Crooks, bitter as he is, allows himself the pleasant fantasy of hoeing a patch of garden on Lennie’s farm one day, and Candy latches on desperately to George’s vision of owning a couple of acres. Before the action of the story begins, circumstances have robbed most of the characters of these wishes. Curley’s wife, for instance, has resigned herself to an unfulfilling marriage. What makes all of these dreams typically American is that the dreamers wish for untarnished happiness, for the freedom to follow their own desires. George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm, which would enable them to sustain themselves, and, most important, offer them protection from an inhospitable world, represents a prototypically American ideal. Their journey, which awakens George to the impossibility of this dream, sadly proves that the bitter Crooks is right: such paradises of freedom, contentment, and safety are not to be found in this world.

More main ideas from Of Mice and Men

In writing any essay, a unifying idea must be expressed in the thesis. Perhaps, to find this on the topic of the American Dream, you may wish to refer to characters' remarks, such as Candy's despairing remarks after he stands over the body of Curley's wife:

He looked helplessly back at Curley's wife and gradually his sorrow and his anger grew into words...." You done it, didn't you?  I s'pose you're glad. Every'body knowed you'd...

In writing any essay, a unifying idea must be expressed in the thesis. Perhaps, to find this on the topic of the American Dream, you may wish to refer to characters' remarks, such as Candy's despairing remarks after he stands over the body of Curley's wife:

He looked helplessly back at Curley's wife and gradually his sorrow and his anger grew into words...." You done it, didn't you?  I s'pose you're glad. Every'body knowed you'd mess things up.  You wasn't no good. You ain't no good now, you lousy tart."...Old Candy lay down in the hay and covered his eyes with his arm.

Candy's act of lying down and covering his his eyes is exactly as he has done when his dog was shot. This act expresses his despair.  Without the dream of a ranch with George and Lennie, Candy has no hope; likewise, Crooks, who becomes eager to join in the plan for a ranch with Lennie and the others, is, instead, marginalized by Curley's wife; consequently, he, too, becomes desolate and without hope again since Curley's wife has threatened him, "You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?"

Crooks stared hopelessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk and drew into himself....Crooks seemed to grow smaller...

Thus, it becomes apparent that the "dream" of George and Lennie instills hope in the men, motivating them to work towards a goal of something positive in their lives. This, then, is the unifying idea around which a thesis can be written.  With the idea of owning a farm, their American Dream, the itinerant workers of Steinbeck's novella seek meaning in their lives in the hope of attaining fraternity, happiness, and security if they join together in the ownership of a farm. In a criticism from Enotes, it is written,

The major figures in Steinbeck’s story are all driven by a compelling faith in the possibility of dreams coming true.

The body of the essay will explain how each man feels he will achieve these goals and how he is driven by his faith in the dream. (See the links below for relevant ideas.)

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