Bruce Springsteen, American singer-songwriter, once said, “I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American dream” (“Bruce Springsteen Quotes”). This is certainly the case when it comes to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby because the main characters’ reality and dream are completely different. In Of Mice and Men, best friends George and Lennie are traveling workers trying to earn money to have a farm of their own. In addition, Gatsby is willing to do whatever it takes to win back his Daisy, whom he lost after going to war in The Great Gatsby. However, both plans fall short under the circumstances, leading to even more havoc and people moving away. As displayed in Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby, chasing the American Dream, though it seems attainable at first, only leads to tragic and shocking disappointment.
The different settings in Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby greatly affected the main characters’ dreams. In Of Mice and Men, Lennie and George are put at a disadvantage because they are struggling to find work at different ranches in California during the Great Depression. They left the town of Weed and George explains to Lennie, “that ranch we’re goin’ to is right down there about a quarter mile in Soledad. We’re gonna go in an’ see the boss” (Steinbeck 6). George and Lennie’s American Dream was to be able to have their own ranch someday with plenty of rabbits for Lennie to take care of. One of the reasons they were not able to achieve their dream was because of where they lived and how they had to travel to find work all the time.
The setting in The Great Gatsby is quite different; it takes place in New York in the 1920’s. Nick, the narrator and Daisy’s cousin, explains, “I lived at West Egg, the- well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. . .The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard- it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool.
. .it was Gatsby’s mansion. . .Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans” (Fitzgerald 5). Nick’s, Gatsby’s, and the Buchanan’s houses are all different in that Gatsby’s is the largest, Nick’s is small and not as spectacular as the others, and the Buchanans live at East Egg (across the bay from Gatsby).
Where each of the characters lived and the setting (time period, state) really impacted Gatsby and Daisy’s conflicting American Dreams. While George, Lennie, and Gatsby’s dreams are very different, there is still a similarity that caused both of the dreams to fail. Despite multiple differences between Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby, there are still similarities between the main characters’ American Dreams. In Of Mice and Men, the climax of the story occurs when Lennie starts to feel the hair of Curley’s wife, causing her to yell, “‘You stop it now, you’ll mess it all up.
‘ She jerked her head sideways, and Lennie’s fingers closed on her hair and hung on. . .Lennie was in a panic. His face was contorted. She screamed then, and Lennie’s other hand closed over her mouth and nose. .
.’You gonna get me in trouble jus’ like George says you will. Now don’t you do that’. . .And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck” (Steinbeck 91). Curley’s wife’s death is a turning point because once she is dead, Lennie knows he will receive deep trouble from Curley. This eventually leads to his death when George decides that it is best for him to quickly shoot his best friend instead of Lennie dying from a long, excruciating death from Curley.
Once Lennie dies, so does the American Dream Lennie and George once shared. Likewise, the death of a character in The Great Gatsby eventually leads to Gatsby’s early death. Gatsby allows Daisy to drive home one night, and Myrtle, seeing the car and thinking it is Tom, decides to run out and talk to him. However, Gatsby describes to Nick, “It all happened in a minute, but it seemed to me that she wanted to speak to us, thought we were somebody she knew.
Well, first Daisy turned away from the woman toward the other car, and then she lost her nerve and turned back. The second my hand reached the wheel I felt the shock – it must have killed her instantly” (Fitzgerald 143). He also adds that to protect Daisy, he will take the blame for the car accident. This leads to Gatsby’s death when Myrtle’s husband decides to get revenge on the “driver” who killed his wife. Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby are similar in that another character’s death caused the main character to die as well. Another major difference between Lennie, George, and Gatsby is the amount of money that they have.
Lennie and George are extremely poor, which causes them to move constantly to find a job and not be able to buy their own farm until they have saved enough money. In the beginning of the book, Lennie and George are eating dinner outdoors before heading to their new ranch the following morning. “Lennie watched him from over the fire. He said patiently, ‘I like ’em beans with ketchup.’ ‘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 easily.
I could go get a job an’ work, an’ no trouble. No mess at all'” (Steinbeck 10-11). George and Lennie’s lack of wealth is a disadvantage because it will take them a lot of time to be able to pay for their everyday needs as well as save for their American Dream. On the contrary, being extremely rich still wasn’t enough for Gatsby’s American Dream to become a reality. Tom discovers the truth and uses it against Gatsby to say, “He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter.
That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn’t far wrong” (Fitzgerald 133). Gatsby knew Daisy’s American Dream revolved around wealth, causing him to decide to spend five years attaining as much money as he could.
In order to do so, he took part in illegal activities, all to impress the love of his life. Sadly, even this was not enough to earn Daisy’s eternal love and commitment. It is shown clearly in Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby that the American Dream can often go wrong based on the circumstances. For example, the setting, wealth of characters, and death of other characters can lead to dreams being shattered forever. Lennie and George are never able to achieve their dream because of the Great Depression, lack of money, and Lennie’s death following Curley’s wife’s death. Also, Gatsby is never able to be with Daisy permanently because of his extensive wealth still not being enough for her and the circumstances surrounding Myrtle’s death. Steinbeck and Fitzgerald present characters in their books misled by their perception of the American Dream, suggesting that while dreams can help someone cope with life’s reality, they cannot actually attain what they desire to have.