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AS and A Level: John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck's biography

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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  1. Of mice and men - Show how the constant suggestion and realisation of anger and violence makes this a gripping story.

    First Lennie neglects where they are going and George constantly has to prompt him, corresponding to that George detects Lennie's got a inanimate mouse in his pocket but the only reason George is mad at this point is, as the reader finds out later on in the book, Lennie does not know his own strength, even though he loves 'pettin' small animals such as mice, he keeps exterminating them, "... You've broke it pettin' it.... you always killed 'em." All this about the dead mouse is significant to the manslaughter of Curley's wife, whom due to the sexist character of the male workers on the ranch has not been given a name.

    • Word count: 2911
  2. Who in you opinion is the greatest victim Of mice and men?

    George is amking a big effort to protect, advise and save Lennie from the dangers of life. George and Lennie had to escape from Weed due to Lennie�s ununtentionally aggressive behaviour towars a woman. George warns Lennie about everything. Foe example, when he told Lennie ��hide till I come for you. Don�t let nobody see you.�� This type of advice is of the sort George tells him constantly so he doesn�t forget the simple issue of what or where to go in case of getting involved in a problem. Another characteristic sign of George�s father figure behaviour is when George is tired of having to listen to Lennie�s complaints about everything.

    • Word count: 931
  3. Of Mice and Men - The differences between the book and the film.

    The film shows a threshing machine on the ranch, which is showing that the men on the ranch are forced to work at un-human rate; they are working at the pace of the machine. In the book the macrocosm and microcosm reflect on each other. In the film pools of light are used to insolate people for example: whilst George is seeing to Lennie's wounds and whilst Crooks is alone in his room. The idea of Crooks joining the dream has been omitted from the film.

    • Word count: 777
  4. The Killing of Candy’s Old Dog For Foreshadowed Lennie’s death. Describe the two killings and point out any similarities.

    Carlson persuades Candy to let him shoot the dog with his lugar and says he will shoot him at the back of his head so he won't feel it at all. Whit and Slim tried to change the subject but Carlson wouldn't be put off and kept on persisting. Candy eventually gave up and disappointingly agreed. Carlson then put the dog out of his misery. Afterwards candy felt the guilt of not shooting the dog himself and told George " I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog."

    • Word count: 1347
  5. Of Mice and Men - Curly’s Version of the Fight

    It was a warm summers night and Carlson, Fredrick, Slim, George and Curly were at a tavern in Soledad. The tavern was lit brightly and it was swarming with men. "You're pretty lucky, that's what you are," replied the girl, " most guys, I know, get their entire han' cut off. In fact, I ain't never met a guy, who's han' was spared from a machine before." Curly was suddenly uneasy. He wasn't sure whether Rose knew it was all a lie or whether she was just curious. Thinking hard, yet quickly, it struck him, he could use the story of the fight to his advantage and impress this girl.

    • Word count: 797
  6. Loneliness in Of Mice and Men

    Although there are social outcasts on the ranch who are not allowed to socialise with the others. This can be because of their skin colour or maybe even just for the fact that nobody likes them. I am now going to focus on four characters in the novel, exploring how, and explaining why each of them is lonely. The four characters are George Milton, Old Candy, Crooks and Curley's Wife. The first character who I am going to talk about is Old Candy.

    • Word count: 3247
  7. November the 12th 1939. Autumn. The hotel....

    I remember the old days when I use to swimming in the lake on those hot summer days, but I would go near it now with all the pollution, which has been pumped, into it. "Where are we going to start our search?" George asked " On the top floor, follow me" I locked the car and headed to the door. Weeds and insects have taken over the hotel now. Nettles grew up from the floorboards. We entered... Outside the rain stopped, but how long I asked myself The hotel was very quite accepted of the noises of the insects, too quite in my opinion.

    • Word count: 2507
  8. Stranger on a Train - Alfred Hitchcock

    It is at this point when Guy calls Bruno crazy. Bruno begins to invade Guys life after murdering Miriam, as he wants Guy to kill his father. Bruno has a close up shot done of his hands when his mother is acting as though she is his servant and this shows that Bruno has no respect for his mother, but more than his father. This is shown when Bruno says that his mothers painting looks just like his father. Bruno's mother's painting is very strange and sinister, and could symbolise that Bruno's mother has a twisted mind too.

    • Word count: 832
  9. How does the beginning of 'Of mice and men' differ from chapters one and two of the novel? Why do you think these changes have been made? How successful do you think the start of the film is?

    Candy shows the men to their bunkhouse, which is very basic. Lennie and George meet the boss of the ranch who is angry with them for not being at the ranch the night before, so they could work the next morning like their wok cards told them to. Lennie has a run in with the boss's son Curley who sets on Lennie when he doesn't say anything to him, as George told Lennie the previous night to keep his mouth shut. George and Lennie meet Slim and the other characters from the ranch.

    • Word count: 2129
  10. Do you think that the ending to 'Of Mice and Men' is satisfactory?

    This raises alarm and he and George are forced to hide in a pool of water before they could run away at night. Lennie is a very strange person, not only is he very simple minded but he is also very complicated. He can be very gentle and then flare up with emotion. For example, after George threw his mouse away Lennie started to cry "Lennie's lip quivered and tears started in his eyes." Although he may be simple minded he very much possesses a conscience.

    • Word count: 1100
  11. The Weed Times

    The 25-year-old ranch worker unlike his surname is big in size, has a round face and is retarded. He attempted to rape the young weak Sally whom had just visited her father at his ranch to give him his lunch. When she delivered her fathers lunch she went and sat peacefully at the ranch gate. There stood Lennie who attacked her and attempted to rape her.

    • Word count: 419
  12. George's first diary

    Its safe and hidden away so I could easily find him! But if it comes to that, if he messes up again. I'll kill him, I'm sure I will. I've had my full of him and I don't think I have much patience left! Oh yeah, he made me tell him yet again about the house we're gonna get. Him and his rabbits. He always makes me remind him about our house and his damned rabbits! I love thinking about what our life will be like too when we get the house but he drives me crazy, having to remind him every two seconds.

    • Word count: 2883
  13. Steinbeck uses many techniques to present the characters of Lennie and George in Of Mice and Men.

    Although it seems as though Lennie is dependent on George, this is not the case. I believe that George, enjoys the company of Lennie; however a burden he may seem. Together they both hold the goal of accomplishing the ?American dream? This dream is what boosts both Lennie and George to go on. Lennie is set on ?tending rabbits? while George could have more freedom in general. Steinbeck places importance on these two and dream, while we believe they will be successful as the story develops.

    • Word count: 1948

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