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By making detailed comment on specific scenes, compare the way in which Steinbeck and Dickens effectively create fear, tension and atmosphere in their novels, ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘Great Expectations’.

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Comparative Assignment By Kate Graham By making detailed comment on specific scenes, compare the way in which Steinbeck and Dickens effectively create fear, tension and atmosphere in their novels, 'Of Mice and Men' and 'Great Expectations'. 'Of Mice and Men' is the story of George and Lennie, two men who, in the hard years of the great depression, are struggling to raise enough money to buy a little plot of land, on which to live. However, money is hard to come by and they are forced to travel from ranch to ranch to try and find work. We join Lennie and George, as they travel to a new ranch, after being driven out of the last, when Lennie, with his childlike intellect, and the strength of a ' bear ', was accused of being a rapist when he grabbed a girl's skirt to see how the material felt, and due to his distress when the girl started screaming, was unable to let go, and unfortunately, was accused of being a rapist. In the new ranch Lennie and George make friends, but Curley, the son of the ranch owner creates trouble for Lennie, and when his wife was accidentally killed by Lennie, in a situation similar to the unusual happenings on the last ranch, George is forced to put Lennie out of his misery, before he is caught by Curley, or made to stand trial for his crime. The novel is set in Southern California, where millions of people flocked at the time of the depression, due to the rumours that land was as plentiful as work. In sharp contrast to this, at least in terms of social context and date, 'Great Expectations' written by the literary legend Charles Dickens, is set in rural southern England in the 1860s, and is the story of how a little orphan, named Pip, matures in the small village in which he lives with his aunt and uncle. ...read more.


In 'Of Mice and Men' Steinbeck uses his unique original style to write about the death of Curley's wife. Steinbeck deliberately does not name Curley's wife in the book, to show how women at that time were regarded as unimportant compared to men, so, right the way through the book, she is known as 'Curley's wife'. Right the way through the book, Curley's wife has been making a nuisance of herself, or so the men on the ranch see it, it was a combination of her, combined with Curley's temper which caused the fight between Curley and Lennie, but it is only in this scene that we really get to know her as a person. Sadly, this scene also happens to be her last. The men on the ranch don't want to have any sort of relationship with her, they don't even want to talk to her, because they see her as a 'jail bait', or a woman who gets a man into trouble. She is a very lonely person, and tries to find someone to talk to her. She finally succeeds in her mission to find a friend, in Lennie, but sadly, their friendship was tragically short-lived. Lennie's movements in this scene are reminiscent of an animal, when he moves 'cautiously' close to her, as if trying to test her, to see if she would hurt him. This is typical of Steinbeck's characterisation of Lennie, as he compares him to an animal throughout the book. This movement, together with Lennie's speech about mice and rabbits, ( 'I like to pet nice things. Once at a fair I seen some of them long-hair rabbits. An' they was nice you bet. Sometimes I've even pet mice, but not when I could get nothing better.'), makes Curley's wife nervous, and she moves 'away' from Lennie slightly, and Steinbeck shows us what the character is nervous about, when she tells Lennie that she thinks he is 'nuts'. ...read more.


Dickens has the characters refer to each other using terms of endearment, such as 'Dear boy', used by Magwitch to speak to Pip. Also, Magwitch tells Pip how has never 'deserted' him, and Pip responds with an affectionate gesture, namely, pressing his 'hand' silently. Magwitch is happy to die, and Dickens shows us that his death is near by telling us about the way he is 'breathing with great difficulty'. Dickens shows us this love between the characters again, when he writes about how he 'smiled' when Pip lay his hand on his breast, and Magwitch looked 'most affectionately' at him. Dickens describes Magwitch's movements as 'gentle', a sharp contrast to the movements in chapter one, which inspired fear into a younger Pip. Magwitch uses the last 'faint' bit of strength in his body to 'raise' Pip's hand to his 'lips', after Pip informs him he loves his long lost daughter. Then Dickens describes Magwitch's death, by writing about the way his 'placid', at peace look he had earlier came back to his face, and his head 'dropped quietly' onto his chest. Pip displays one last piece of affection before the chapter finishes, when he prays to God, and asks him to forgive Magwitch. He does this by finishing the chapter with the memorable words, 'Lord, be merciful to him, a sinner!'. In my opinion, Dickens' descriptive writing, heavily littered with adjectives, is a much more effective style of writing than the gritty verbs used by Steinbeck to write his novel. Dickens' style builds a picture of the situation in the mind of the reader, with painstaking attention to detail, this is imagery, which Dickens' certainly uses with great skill and ease. Steinbeck does not use this imagery, and although his style of writing is much more tension building, nail biting material, the more experienced reader appreciates being able to imagine the character's plight themselves. Dickens' masterful writing certainly helps them do this. ...read more.

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