George said softly, "—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." (5.78)
It turns out that dreams, hopes, and plans aren't worth all that much when you know they'll never come true in the first place. But maybe George clung to their shared dream because it helped him schelp along through a rather tough life. Otherwise, why even bother?
Lennie said, "George."
"I done another bad thing."
"It don't make no difference," George said, and he fell silent again. (6.34-37)
And there you have it: the most depressing lines of literature ever. Ish.
Lennie knows he messed up, but we're pretty sure he doesn't understand the extent to which he's been getting in the way of his and George's dreams. George is crushed (duh), but it sounds here like he's almost resigned to it, too. What do you think?
"I remember about the rabbits, George."
"The hell with the rabbits. That's all you can ever remember is them rabbits." (1.18-19)
Not mice, not chickens, not cats: rabbits. All of Lennie's future is wrapped up in rabbits. On the one hand, it's nice to have a concrete goal. On the other hand, this is about as unrealistic for him as it would be if George wanted to become president. (In the meantime, Lennie, try this Tumblr.)
"Well, we ain't got any," George exploded. "Whatever we ain't got, that's what you want. God a'mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an' work, an' no trouble. No mess at all, and when the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go into town and get whatever I want. Why, I could stay in a cathouse all night. I could eat any place I want, hotel or any place, and order any damn thing I could think of. An' I could do all that every damn month. Get a gallon of whisky, or set in a pool room and play cards or shoot pool." Lennie knelt and looked over the fire at the angry George. And Lennie's face was drawn in with terror. "An' whatta I got," George went on furiously. "I got you! You can't keep a job and you lose me ever' job I get. Jus' keep me shovin' all over the country all the time." (1.89)
Some dreams involve a farm of one's own; some dreams involve "cathouses" and "pool rooms." Of course, George is just lashing out. All he really wants is Lennie. Awww.
"O.K. Someday—we're gonna get the jack together and we're gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an' a cow and some pigs and—"
"An' live off the fatta the lan'," Lennie shouted. "An' have rabbits. Go on, George! Tell about what we're gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is on the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that George."
"Why'n't you do it yourself? You know all of it."
"No…you tell it. It ain't the same if I tell it. Go on…George. How I get to tend the rabbits." (1.119-123)
The farm might as well be Lennie's bedtime story, complete with his "you skipped the parts about the rabbits, daddy!" When we encounter the dream farm this way, we're primed to recognize that it's never going to be a reality—but at this points, it's not clear whether the characters know.
"Sure," said George. "All kin's a vegetables in the garden, and if we want a little whisky we can sell a few eggs or something, or some milk. We'd jus' live there. We'd belong there. There wouldn't be no more runnin' round the country and gettin' fed by a Jap cook. No, sir, we'd have our own place where we belonged and not sleep in no bunk house." (3.202-203)
George's story about the dream farm is so detailed that it almost sounds like a plan, complete with how they're going to get whisky. So what's the difference between a dream and a plan? Just money? Or something more?
When Candy spoke they both jumped as though they had been caught doing something reprehensible. (3.212)
All George and Lennie are doing is talking about their farm, but they act like they've been stealing candy or, say, looking at Facebook instead of their essay on Of Mice of Men. On the ranch, there's something pitiful about this kind of dream. For Candy to hear them talking is almost as though he's caught them naked and exposed.
They fell into a silence. They looked at one another, amazed. This thing they had never really believed in was coming true. (3.221)
Candy's money might make the dream farm a reality. It looks like maybe money is the difference between a dream and a plan—and we also find out here that even Lennie never really believed in the dream. On some level, he also thought it was just a story.
"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." (4.62)
Crooks is a little too happy to point out that George and Lennie aren't the first ones to have a dream: every itinerant ranch hand just wants a little plot of land. Are George and Lennie going to make it good—or are they just going to "quit an' go on," like everyone else
[Crooks] hesitated. "… If you … guys would want a hand to work for nothing—just his keep, why I'd come an' lend a hand. I ain't so crippled I can't work like a son-of-a-b**** if I want to." (4.88)
Crooks has a dream, too, and it's a really sad dream: he basically wants to be a slave again. Life in the 1930s was hard for everyone, but it was particularly hard for poor black men, who were often stuck doing the same work that their ancestors did under slavery but without even the minimal care of having food and clothing—instead, they got wages so low that they could barely survive. Their American dream of being free might not be so dream-like, after all. (Note: we're 99.99% sure that Steinbeck wasn't endorsing slavery—he was criticizing a system that basically amounted to wage slavery.)
Crooks called, "Candy!"
" 'Member what I said about hoein' and doin' odd jobs?"
"Yeah," said Candy. "I remember."
"Well, jus' forget it," said Crooks. "I didn' mean it. Jus' foolin'. I wouldn' want to go no place like that."
"Well, O.K., if you feel like that. Goodnight." (4.148-153)
After Mrs. Curley comes in and mocks them all, Crooks seems to realize that the farm is nothing but a fantasy. Poor Crooks: his dream was pathetic enough, and now he doesn't even get to have that anymore.