In today’s world, we have come to see that trial, error, pain, and the striving for living a glamorous life are common; we all know it’s an exhausting task. Everybody seems to “go through the motions” at one point or another; we all seem to have this point in life where everything seems like a black hole that’s going nowhere. In the book, Of Mice and Men, and play Death of a Salesman, we see this is common, among many other similarities. However, no story is ever the same between two people’s lives, and this is also shown in these two works of literature. In these two pieces, it is apparent that one of the main motifs is struggle.
Steinbeck and Miller both intricately weave in the worries, desires, and hurt of trying to get the ultimate American Dream. George from Of Mice and Men and Willy from Death of a Salesman tend to share common ground; they both are striving to make sure their family (or what comes closest) is doing well. George does what he can to protect himself and Lennie, while Willy does what he can to protect his family. Steinbeck portrays George’s will to protect Lennie towards the end of the book, “‘Lennie, look down across the river, like you can almost see the place. … George looked down at the gun. There were footsteps crashing in the brush now. George raised the gun and steadied it, and brought the muzzle of it close to the back of Lennie’s head” (106). George didn’t want to have to pull the trigger on his closest friend and confidant, but he had to in order to save him from being hurt further. Willy did something like this, only he took his own life instead. He feels the only way out of his and his family’s debt and misery is to kill himself to get life insurance money for his family: WILLY.
Remember, it’s a guaranteed twenty-thousand-dollar proposition. BEN. What’s the proposition? WILLY. It’s twenty thousand dollars on the barrelhead. BEN. … Twenty thousand– that is something one can feel with the hand, it is there. (Miller 2. 802-804,809). Willy thinks that this is the only way to protect his family from not having heat, food, or any of the other essentials in living a successful life. This main motif throughout these works implies that, in the end, struggle is a constant part of every one’s life.
It seems that when we’re in the middle of things and the issue is happening right at that very moment, we don’t stop and think of what the outcome could be very often. Willy briefly thought about what Biff would think: BEN. He’ll call you a coward. WILLY. No, that would be terrible. BEN. Yes, and a damned fool. WILLY. No, no, he mustn’t, I won’t have that! BEN. He’ll hate you, William. (Miller 2. 811-815). But, in the end he chose to go through with his plan anyway. After Willy kills himself, we see that it really does impact his family. Linda makes that apparent here, “Why did you ever do that?
Help me, Willy, I can’t cry. … Why did you do it? ” (Miller Requiem. 28). We see this in Of Mice and Men too; George killed Lennie as a reflex without it entirely crossing his mind of what life would be like afterwards, and Slim shows compassion here, “You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. Come on with me” (Steinbeck 107). On the contrary, there are different ways of viewing life in the two pieces of literature. In Death of a Salesman, we see that Willy seems to think that just by being well-liked by people and having an alluring personality will help him rise to the top.
He’s also constantly making his boys think that they need to be popular to be successful. Biff gets in a fight with Willy towards the end of the book, saying, “And I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody! ” (Miller 2. 881). It seems that Willy is clouded by this false idea right up until the point where his job doesn’t bring in enough income, and he goes to his boss for help. When he tries to come off as a smart guy, Howard denies the request to stop driving and fires him.
So instead Willy pleads to Howard, “If I had forty dollars a week–that’s all I’d need. Forty dollars, Howard” (Miller 2. 142). He finds that sometimes personality isn’t everything, and knowledge gets a person through more than charisma does. And how many times have you thought to yourself the same thing? We all have probably considered that having charm is better than the wits. The American Dream can be related to this too; people think that if they’re charming enough, they’ll make it to the top. On the other hand, George is a worker.
George knows that in order to get what he wants, he has to attempt to get it. Instead of dragging his feet, George is always on the prowl for jobs and more money, in the hopes that he’ll get enough to start “the dream farm” with Lennie. George acknowledges this here: Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch.
They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to. … With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. (Steinbeck 13-14). Even though George has to grit his teeth and do the work, he has an image painted in his head of what life is going to be like if he waits long enough. When you put the American Dream aspect with the idea of hard work, doesn’t it seem more realistic? People tend to forget how difficult it is to actually get where they want to be. In my opinion, Of Mice and Men is a great way of showing how we as Americans work pretty hard for something that we think will make things better.
We’re always wanting the better, and Of Mice and Men paints that kind of picture. Steinbeck has a way of intertwining things so that it makes a person look at the deeper meaning of the book. In Death of a Salesman, it makes me think about my family and how I can relate. In the play, there is a lot of worry, strife, and angst present. It seemed like Miller was trying to over-exaggerate life in a family; with the fighting, the lies, the debt, hurt, and eventually death, it seemed to blow the idea of the American Dream out of proportion.
Most families don’t go through all of the things that the Loman family did. Then again, maybe that was Miller’s intent- to show all possible sides of a normal (or what comes close) family’s life and what they may go through. Overall, I prefer Of Mice and Men. I really liked how it tied into the American Dream and the different ways it made me think about friendship, work, and just our country as a whole. In the end, we all have ambitions to live another life or be in another place at one point in time. What it all comes down to is how we make the best of our lives.