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AS and A Level: John Steinbeck
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John Steinbeck's biography
- 1 John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902. His family owned land in the area so he spent a lot of time outdoors and had a strong appreciation for the natural world.
- 2 Most of his early work is set in Southern California and describes the life of people working on the land. Many of his novels, including Of Mice and Men, are set in this area and portray the lives of working men and women. The natural world he describes is beautiful, but it is also wild and can be cruel and savage.
- 3 In his early novels Steinbeck portrays a world of men, and violence is a common occurrence. His female characters have little status, reflecting the role of women at the time.
- 4 During the war years Steinbeck worked for the American government and in 1943 he went to Europe as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. He lived the latter part of his life in New York where he died in 1968.
- 5 The title of Of Mice and Men is taken from Robert Burns’ famous poem To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough (1785). The last line of the poem refers to things often going wrong and Steinbeck links this to the poor men whose plans were often wrecked by an unkind fate.
Five facts about 'Of Mice and Men'
- 1 It was first published in America in 1937. In the same year it was adapted as a stage play and later as a film. The novel is short and has only a few characters. There are no chapters but the action is broken up into six distinct parts which made it easy to adapt for the stage.
- 2 The novel is set in the 1930s which was a period of economic depression. During this time of failed businesses, harsh poverty and long-term unemployment, hoards of migrant workers went to California in search of work. Men travelled alone, moving from ranch to ranch on short-term, poorly paid contracts.
- 3 By setting the novel on the ranch, Steinbeck shows the reader a microcosm of 1930s American society and portrays the life of the migrant workers in California at the time of the depression. Workers, like George and Lennie, were hoping to earn enough money to settle down on their own piece of land.
- 4 Steinbeck has a distinctive style and structure; the novel starts and finishes with the same description and setting, and each section opens with a specific description of a scene which establishes the setting of place and mood.
- 5 As each character enters we get a brief physical description of him/her. Aspects of the characters are conveyed through their actions, their dialogue and how they respond to each other.
Writing about 'Of Mice and Men'
- 1 When studying the novel it is important to know the social, cultural and historical background of the text. Having this knowledge will help you better understand why Steinbeck has included his characters and how they relate to the themes.
- 2 Characters in the text are revealed through a variety of stylistic features: description, narrative style and how they communicate with each other. All of these features are so that the reader can empathise with the characters.
- 3 There are several themes running throughout the novel: loneliness, friendship, isolation, prejudice, and dreams; and you must understand how the themes are woven through the text and how they link directly to the characters and the society portrayed in the novel. For example, Curley’s wife links to the theme of loneliness because she is the only woman on the ranch and has no-one with whom to talk.
- 4 You must be able to analyse how Steinbeck has used language to create effects – some of his description and storytelling reads almost like stage directions through which he creates a strong sense of atmosphere and mood. This analysis of language is needed to achieve a high grade.
- 5 You must develop your own critical sense and personal response to the novel, showing that you have thought about it, and that you have ideas and reactions of your own, not just those of your teacher. You must never write to a formula or try to recreate an essay you have previously done; you must approach every essay with a fresh, open mind.
- Marked by Teachers essays 1
- Peer Reviewed essays 5
In this essay I will trace in detail soft things that Lennie pets in the novel, showing that the petting grows more serious as the novel goes on.3 star(s)
Jus' a dead mouse, George. I didn't kill it. Honest I found it. I found it dead." The dead mouse is also an allusion to the novel's title, a reminder that dreams will go wrong, even petting a mouse. Lennie's touching of a girl's dress in Weed is what forced them to leave their last job (page8).What happened in Weed is first mentioned by George when he says to Lennie "An' you ain't gonna do no bad things like you done in Weed, neither. The woman was wearing a red dress, and Lennie tried to touch it.
- Word count: 1218
She walks round the ranch dressed inappropriately and seductively. She admits to Lennie that she doesn't like her husband and regrets marrying him. She seems to be of limited intelligence, as she was taken in by other men's promises of film parts. She is frequently associated with the colour red, a colour symbolizing an impure woman, as well as one calculated to enrage a "bull" such as Lennie. It is partly her desire to be petted and admired and allow Lennie to stroke her hair, which in turn leads to her death at Lennie's hands.
- Word count: 756
Among his possessions, in his room he has some books, including "a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905" This tells him his rights as a black man, so he obviously does not want to get on the wrong side of the law, so he keeps to his limits. Him having books suggests to us that he may have been well educated as a child. When he was young boy he lived on a smallholding with his father, so he was probably treated with a bit of respect, however, now he is just a
- Word count: 801
How does John Steinback convey the tension of the situation in the card-playing passage in chapter 3?3 star(s)
about Lennie's dog, though it didn't seem to lift the mood any or make the time pass quicker. "I bet Lennie's out there with his pup..............The silence fell on the room again" The time is shown to be going slowly by commenting on every minute that passes. "A minute passed and another minute." This shows how stuck for words everyone is and that no one quite knows what to do or how to act. Throughout the passage, the writer continuously refers to the silence in the room.
- Word count: 688
'Of Mice and Men' - The killing of candy's old dog foreshadowed Lennie's death. Describe the two killings, pointing out any similarities and differences between the two.3 star(s)
Carlson proceeds to describe to candy how he will kill the dog, "shoot him right in the back of the head" this shows the brutality in how he wants to kill the dog, Carlson does not realise how much what he is saying was hurting candy. Carlson can not understand the love the candy has for his dog. Candy does not put up much of a fight and the dog is lead away by Carlson. Tension is created in the bunk house before the dog is shot.
- Word count: 684
In many of Steinbeck's novels, women are described as dreary housewives or montrous tramps, but in East of Eden we see the evolution of a new kind of woman, one who is brought to goodness with guidance of a superior male.
Her nagging of Samuel, makes Liza a hard character to like because she focuses on Samuel's minor flaws, instead of embracing him for all the good he supplies. With her strict housekeeping regime and the known fact "that Liza and the Lord God held similar convictions on nearly every subject" Liza Hamilton, much like Steinbeck's own mother Olive Hamilton, fits the perfect dreary housewife (Steinbeck 178). Steinbeck continuously uses the negative traits not only to vilify woman but also to glorify his male characters.
- Word count: 1008
It is human nature to dream of a better life, this longing for something better is a theme of The Pearl but as with most of these tales it ends in tragedy for the seeker of the better life. Finding the pearl allowed Kino to fight against his destiny. To change the natural order of his life. To step out of his culture and his society. With the pearl comes hope, the promise of comfort and security but this has to be balanced with the dangerous and disastrous effects of stepping out of the established system.
- Word count: 2523
Readers often feel sorry for many of the characters in of mice and men. Explain why this is so and which character you have the most sympathy for.
The readers also feel sorry for Lennie Small because he is not very intelligent and very forgetful, even though he's a gentle giant, he wouldn't harm anyone not on purpose. Lennie also likes animals that are fluffy like rabbits, puppies, rats and he also likes soft materials like velvet. Lennie is very strong and he doesn't realise his strength for e.g. when Lennie crushed Curley's hand he didn't realise his strength. Lennie also thinks he's lost his things " George I can't find my work card" Lennie also wants George to tell the story of George and Lennie's dream of getting their own land with animals etc " come on George tell me please George.
- Word count: 1346
George came over and introduced them, "Hi, I'm George and this big fella' here is Lennie." Lennie then tried whispered something to George but I heard every word, "George, George, ask him 'bout dem dogs, please George?" George looked a bit embarrassed. "Candy tells us you got some new born pups. If there's one goin' spare, you reckon Lennie could have it?" George asked. "Yeah sure you can Lennie," I said "Come by the barn later and you can pick one out." He went all shy, with a smile from ear to ear, almost like a little kid.
- Word count: 2075
He laughed so loud that in the end he did stand out. Curly stormed over to him, he had a menacing look on his face. Lennie stopped laughing immediately and began to hide his face. "What the hell you laughing at?" Curly asks as he looks down on Lennie. "Nu..Nu..Nothing" Stuttered Lennie. Everyone fell silent as Curly started to crack his knuckles in a fighting fashion.
- Word count: 480
Chapter 7 As the dull evening sun started to fade the two men, Slim and George, started their way back along the dusty track, followed shortly by the slow footsteps of Curley and Carlson
He hated violence. He only did that thing to Curley 'cause I told him to, he didn't want to. He didn't deserve it." "It's o.k. now, its over." answered Slim. As they approached the bunk house, Candy came to meet them. Candy said, "What happened? They didn't get him first, did they?" "No, I found him first. He died painlessly," replied George. "Must've been difficult," reasoned Candy. "T'was," said George. "I nearly couldn't, but I had to, for him. Sorry - I don't want to talk anymore." "Yeah, o.k." said Candy. "Night," said George.
- Word count: 562
Being the son of the owner of the ranch, Curley has considerable power over the men. Curley chooses to abuse the power he has rather than try to befriend those beneath him. The men know this and dislike him for it. Curley knows this and desperately wants more authority on the ranch. Curley wears high-heeled boots to show that he isn't a working man. Curley also married an attractive woman and as none of the other men are married this makes him feel that he is better than the rest.
- Word count: 1021
From your characters point of view, what do you think of the events which happened and who do you feel to be responsible?
Since Lennie first come to the ranch I had a hunch, and when he did what he did to my hand I knew that he was not only mean but he was dangerous. I never told about my hand before, I know what the other guys on the ranch would say, Me, the bosses son being beat up by some guy who couldn't put two and two together, I Wasn't gonna let em' know, I wasn't gonna let my wife know that her husband got beat up by that Bastard.
- Word count: 1520
Apparent simple requests from Martha become games for both her and Martha to play. Martha says, 'Why don't you want to kiss me?' whereupon George replies, 'Well, dear, if I kissed you I'd get all excited...' As one critic of the play wrote, 'They (George and Martha) club each other on the head with gleeful scorn and leave huge patches of scorched earth.' Emotions from both George and Martha become integrated into an ongoing power struggle, and Martha dwells in George's anger as she likes to see the stirred up effect she has on him.
- Word count: 1080
Analyse and comment on the differences and similarities of the ways in which the two movie versions of "of mice and men" portray the events and characters.
In the old film the opening sequence is the same as the novel. But because the novel lacks action an extra scene is added to the old movie. This will engage the audience's attention and they will understand what the director is trying to do. Introducing the element of danger to Lennie, into the story right from the start results in a slow build up of tension all the way through the story because the viewer is always trying to anticipate when the trouble is going to happen.
- Word count: 1593
As the conversation went on, Carlson said thoughtfully, "Well looka here, Slim. I been thinkin'. That dog of Candy's is so god-damn old he can't walk. Stinks like hell, too...Why'n't you get Candy to shoot his old dog and give him one of the pups to raise up..." The first conversation showed the readers that Candy's dog was going to die, especially since Carlson disliked it, and had nothing good to say about it. Slim did not reply back to Carlson's question, which shows there was an uneasy feeling running through the characters.
- Word count: 2780
The rumbling got louder, I couldn't fathom out where it was coming from but it sounded even louder now. Then I turned round and saw a coach drawing towards me. I signalled it, but it carried on towards me, until it was close enough for me to see the driver, he looked quite old, probably in his sixties. I shouted to him "Stop! Stop! STOP!" He didn't even look at me never mind stop. He hurtled past me, dust engulfed me like a giant dustbowl.
- Word count: 1719
As the novel progressed the events only became more serious. He did not only hurt the people around him that love him, but himself. "In Kino's ears the Song of the Family was as fierce as a cry. He was immune and terrible and his song had become a battle cry." Kino turned down pearl buyers, hit his wife, murdered a man, ran away from home and shot his baby. Kino became avaricious. When the pearl buyers had not offered Kino the amount of money he expected, "Kino's face grew dark and dangerous." Maybe he thought they were trying to cheat him. Perhaps, Kino was just being a 'pigheaded fool.'
- Word count: 657
Curley froze in horror when he saw her chilled body showing no signs of movement. He rushed over to her still form, pushed George aside, and checked for any signs of life. When he realized that there was no life left in her, he bowed his head and began to cry. "Who did this" said Curley in a calm voice. "I'm not sure, I came in and..." George was interrupted by Curley. "It was your friend...Lennie?
- Word count: 490
He hates big guys." Candy later says this is probably because he isn�t a "big guy" himself. He also says that Curley spends most of his time picking scraps with big guys. Yet again in chapter two George is warning Lennie to fight back if Curley starts anything, "You keep away from Curley...if the son-of-a-bitch socks you - let 'im have it." This shows that even George has realised that a confrontation is imminent, unfortunately Lennie is too dumb to understand what the danger is. This is a realistic reaction by George trying to protect Lennie considering they have grown up together.
- Word count: 1155
Slim and George both took off their jackets and placed them on the wall. George sat down at a table whilst Slim went behind the bar to make them both a drink. He settled down gradually next to George and calmly passed him his drink. "Thanks..." George murmured. Slim went to speak, "So, are..." All of a sudden, before Slim could finish his sentence, there were loud crashing noises outside. They both sharply got up and as they moved closer, the sound of gun shots could be heard. Both George and Slim, quickly moved to the door but Slim ushered George inside whilst he checked out what was happening outside...
- Word count: 899
Though many of the book's sketches are placed outdoors, its atmosphere is as stifling as a tomb. And the reiteration of the term "grotesque" is appropriate in a way Anderson could hardly have been aware of; for it was first used by Renaissance artists to describe arabesques painted in the underground ruins, grotte, of Nero's "Golden House." The conception of the grotesque, as actually developed in the stories, is not merely that it is an unwilled affliction but also that it is a mark of a once sentient striving.
- Word count: 886
"Ain't nobody goin to suppose no hurt to George." We see the extremes George goes to in order to protect Lennie from danger and ensure he stays with him rather than leaving him to fend for himself. Curley is another character who desperately fears loneliness, he doesn't want to risk loosing his wife and therefore forces her to remain in the house and not talk to others. However, it appears he cares more for his reputation and status than his wife, he considers himself above the workers and if his wife begins to talk with them, she is "lowering to their level."
- Word count: 842
There has been very little life about the place, nobody has came out to meet their friends, go to the bar, or even for a walk, and although it is a cod, rainy day, I don't think it is the reason why so many are worried to show their faces. As the deaths of Lennie Small and Diane Parker were announced yesterday, the local community of Soledad went into a state of frenzy due to shock and disbelief. The news broke out last night about the sudden death of Diane Parker, wife of Curley Parker, and rumors spread that a Mr.
- Word count: 1330
How far do the values of Kino and Juana represent the culture of the Mexican fisher folk in John Steinbeck's novel "The Pearl"?
The fisherfolk's lives were very simple as they lived in poverty and yet they enjoyed the fruits of nature. They lived in brush houses and ate simple food like 'hot corn-cake'. Their sense of unity in the family is shown as they hardly communicate through words because they know what and how one another thinks. (Page 10)- "They had spoken once, but there is not need for speech if it is only a habit anyway". Songs were important in their culture as they linked everything to music.
- Word count: 1782