Family is one of the most important things in a person’s life. Some people have an outstanding relationship with their family, while others have a relationship where they do not talk to each other. In “The leader of the People,” we meet a family who do not respect each other. The father does not like the grandfather, and that brings pain into the family – and maybe they do not know it, but that plays a part in destroying the family.
The small family lives in America in an isolated little valley in the country. The boy Jody does not see any people around him but his mum, dad and the man Billy. Jody wants to be like his Grandfather when he grows up someday, he looks up to his grandfather. He wants to do and see something special some day, something the Grandfather did in his youth. Jody has also a great respect for the grown ups, which is also why he does not dare kill the mice before he has asked Billy and, to be completely sure, his father.
His loves his grandfather and think of him as his idol. The grandfather tries to talk him out of his new dream about exploring the world. The grandfather says to Jody, his grandchild: “There’s no place to go, Jody. Every place is taken.” When the grandfather speaks to his grandchild, he is very depressing and a pessimist, because the American edge is not lost. It has simply changed. The grandfather hadn’t the imagination to see the new American edges: the oceans, the planets and the universe. One of the man’s reasons must now reach further than the mountains and plains; for without a purpose – man is nothing
Jody’s grandfather who was the “Leader of the People”, keenly feels this sense of loss. He has been telling and retelling his stories of “Indians and crossing the plains”, since he got to the sea and could not go any further. For Jody’s grandfather, “it was the movement and the westering” that had mattered. The grandfather hears the son-in-law, Carl, talking bad of him. The Grandfather refers to the groom on the farm where Billy Buck who works hard, as one of the 2nd generation men who hadn’t grown soft. It’s really the whole generation after the westering people that the grandfather thinks are weak.
He thinks that the new generation just have settled down and got themselves a good piece of land, where they starts their farming by them self and also just minding their own business. Steinbeck uses the mice to describe how the little family feels secure in their little ranch cup by writing: “They had grown smug in their security, overbearing and fat.”(page 196). Then there is the 3rd generation, which is Jody, who wants to follow the same dream as the Grandfather once had, to discover new lands and to discover the world but also the American dream. Meaning the dream of a new beginning and creating you own fate and destiny. The grandfather tells Jody that he feels, as it wasn’t worthwhile. “I tell those old stories,” he continues, “but they’re not what I want to tell. I only know how I want people to feel when I tell them.” the grandfather decides that what he wants to communicate is a sense of loss: “Then we came down to the sea, and it was done,” he says. “That’s what I should be telling instead of stories.”
Jody’s father, Carl, wants to be a respected person and maybe that is why he does not like the Grandfather and talks bad about him. Carl sees the grandfather as a week old man, and do not have any kind of respect for him. It is shown in the text, where he wants to give permission to everything going on at the farm, because on the farm Carl is the leader. It does not matter if the work is important or not, since he is the leader. For example Jody has to ask for his fathers permission to kill the mice, even though his father probably did not even know anything about them anyway. The way Carl is introduced into the story also shows us that he sees himself as something lifted above the others on the farm. Even the dog stops its actions every time he sees Carl and starts looking at him.
The story is involved with three generations, which shines through the surface easily. The first generation was pursuing the American dream; to discover new lands, making way for the new generation. America was the land of opportunities which the 2nd generation took advantage of. We have to remember and think about the things that made the settlers able to settle down. Still we can’t get lost in the old days and hang on to it because of the great progress in the world nowadays. Because of that Carl and the Grandfather can’t find the middle path and cant agree about their meanings, therefore they do not get along very well. We have to combine the old days with the present to get along. Respect for the older and the younger is something we have to keep in mind, especially when it comes to family.