The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men

The American Dream is something millions of people strive for year after year. Some achieve it, while countless others do not. The idea that every American has equal opportunity, and therefore equal ability to achieve their goals, defines the American Dream. Some would say that it is unachievable. While it is fact that many people never realize this American promise, it is achievable by anyone. Texts like The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men dive into this topic, followed by multiple articles.

The reason so many people fail can be summed up by the unwillingness to do what it takes. When achieved, the American Dream can bring so much good into one’s life. When failed, pain and sorrow can follow.

In Of Mice and Men, Lennie and George have their own Dream that they are chasing. This is shown when George says to Lennie “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—” (Steinbeck, 1953, p.

8). Their version of the American Dream is to own a house and not have to work for someone else. They work hard, but they never achieve it.

In The Great Gatsby, it is quite the opposite. Several of the characters have achieved what looks like the definition of the American Dream. This is seen when Nick Carraway narrates and says, “His family were enormously wealthy-even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach-but now he’d left Chicago and come East in a fashion that rather took your breath away; for instance, he’d brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest” (Fitzgerald, 1925, p.

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6). Here he speaks about Tom Buchanan, born to a rich family. Tom Buchanan lives the dream that many seek: he has ridiculous wealth and can do anything he wants. This would be a success of the American Dream.

However, not everyone experiences success when chasing this dream. Lennie from Of Mice and Men feels this particularly. “He backed until he was against the wall, and Curley followed, slugging him in the face” (Steinbeck, 1953, p. 31). Another worker on the ranch attacks Lennie with no good reason. If Lennie had not been pursuing his dream, he wouldn’t have been there. This demonstrates the need to make sacrifices to achieve one’s ambitions.

While many never reach the end of their ambitions, Gatsby certainly does. Nick Carraway recalls, “On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains” (Fitzgerald, 1925, p. 39). Gatsby started out dirt poor and turned it all around for himself. Working hard, doing what it took, he built up his fortune for himself.

This was not the case for Curley’s wife from Of Mice and Men. She tells Lennie while in the barn that she “Coulda been in the movies, an’ had nice clothes—all them nice clothes like they wear” (Steinbeck, 1953, p. 44). She wanted to be an actress and enjoy all the glamor that came with it. However, she didn’t pursue it. Instead she got married and settled into a life she didn’t enjoy. This is another example of not doing what it takes and settling for something inside one’s comfort zone.

A good example of doing the opposite of this is shown in The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is telling Nick Carraway about his past and says, “After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe—Paris, Venice, Rome—collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game, painting a little, things for myself only, and trying to forget something very sad that had happened to me long ago” (Fitzgerald, 1925, p. 66). Gatsby chased after his dream and absolutely achieved it. After amassing wealth, he went to Europe and treated himself. He only did things that he wanted to do and never had to worry about money. It was because Gatsby did what it took that he was able to reach this level of success.

For others, especially Curley’s wife, this doesn’t happen. When the wrong steps are taken along the path of the American Dream, disastrous consequences can result. “And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck” (Steinbeck, 1953, p. 45). Because she never pursued her dreams, she ended up on the ranch with Curley. Eventually Lennie came along, and unintentionally killed her. This alternate path she took eventually killed her. This is an utter failure of the American Dream.

This isn’t the only failure related to the American Dream in both novels. In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby loses his calm demeanor in an argument with Tom. “He looked—and this is said in all contempt for the babbled slander of his garden—as if he had ‘killed a man” (Fitzgerald, 1925, p. 144). Tom exposes how Gatsby made his money to Daisy and takes her back in the process. Even though Gatsby made all the money he would ever need, he only wanted Daisy. Losing her broke him, and he showed a darker side of himself in that moment.

Both novels highlight many more failures. For instance, when Gatsby was found floating in his pool. “It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete” (Fitzgerald, 1925, p. 173). Gatsby was murdered by someone who mistook him for his wife’s lover. In Of Mice and Men, Lennie faces the ultimate consequence for killing Curley’s wife. “Lennie jarred, and then settled slowly forward to the sand, and he lay without quivering” (Steinbeck, 1953, p. 8). George kills Lennie because he knows he will be mistreated in prison. Both characters experienced failure due to the American Dream. Lennie while chasing, and Gatsby while living.

Many articles debate if the American Dream is still achievable. Schmitz, author of “Is the American Dream Still Attainable?” states that most Americans don’t seem to believe so. Brown, author of “What Is The American Dream And How Achievable Is It Today?” writes that it absolutely is possible, with hard work.

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The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men. (2019, Dec 03). Retrieved from

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