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GCSE: John Steinbeck
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Who is John Steinbeck?
- 1 John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was one of greatest American writers of the 20th century.
- 2 He was born in Salinas, California. The majority of his novels are set in the area and have authentic sense of place.
- 3 He was very left wing and joined Communist writers league. He refused to testify against his friend and fellow writer Arthur Miller during the MacCarthy anti-Communist trials.
- 4 Of Mice and Men is about migrant workers in the Great Depression of 1930s, which is the same theme as many of his other novels. Some critics have said his novels are too sympathetic to workers and are too critical of capitalism.
- 5 Of Mice and Men is a contemporary tragedy and follows some of the criteria established by Socrates for dramatic tragedies.
Themes in 'Of Mice and Men'
George wants be his own boss,
Lennie dreams of being with George,
Candy longs for security in his old age,
Crooks dreams of self-respect and acceptance,
Curley’s wife dreams of being an actress.
- 2 The American Dream – The right of everyone to be equal and to own their own home and live off the land. This is a critical issue as it is only a dream (rather than a plausible reality) for the majority of the characters.
Loneliness – It is the fear of loneliness which keeps Lennie and George together,
Crooks suffers from loneliness as he is excluded or at best tolerated because of his skin colour,
Curley’s wife’s loneliness forces her to flirt with the men because she is desperate for any attention. To stress this theme further, Steinbeck names the nearest town ‘Soledad’ which means 'loneliness' or 'solitude' in Spanish.
Powerlessness – All of the characters have a sense of their own lack of power, whether this is over their intellectual, economic or social circumstances.
Lennie ,who could be considered to be the least empowered character, has a great deal of physical power which leads to tragedy.
- 5 Lennie and George’s relationship – This is pivotal to the novel and it is necessary to understand the complexities of their familiar relationship, which is almost like that of a father and son.
Top tips for preparing to write an essay on 'Of Mice and Men'
- 1 You must read the text several times at least to make sure you know the characters, their relationships and how they are linked.
- 2 Consider how the ranch is a microcosm of 1930s American society and portrays the life of migrant workers in California at the time of the Depression.
- 3 Consider the significance of Steinbeck’s style and structure. Think about how the novel starts and finishes with the same setting and description. Consider how each chapter opens with a specific setting of place and mood.
- 4 Consider how Steinbeck engages the reader through a variety of stylistic features - description, narrative style and characterisation - so the reader is able to have empathy with the characters.
- 5 When writing essays for the new GCSE controlled assessments in English literature you should aim to write a response of around 400 words which should be well planned before you start to write.
- Marked by Teachers essays 43
- Peer Reviewed essays 19
Explore the way in which Steinbeck presents the relationships between between Curleys Wife and other characters in Of Mice and Men4 star(s)
In chapter 2 Candy begins to describe Curley?s relationship with his wife. ?Married two weeks and got the eye? Maybe that?s why Curley?s pants is full of ants.? Steinbeck tells us here that the couple do not have a strong relationship at all and suggests that Curley?s Wife has become bored with her new husband and she has turned to the ranch hands, perhaps to make Curley jealous. The reader expects a close affectionate relationship between Curley and his wife but Steinbeck presents it completely differently and this makes the reader feel slightly hostile towards Curley?s Wife. In chapter 4 this hostility is intensified during the scene between Curley?s Wife and the ?Weak one? Lennie, Candy and Crooks.
- Word count: 1293
Of Mice and Men: In a letter .John Steinbeck Wrote of Curleys wife: Shes a nice girl and not a floozy. Discuss and explain your own impression of Curleys wife.4 star(s)
She leans against the door frame teasing the men, she knows she will get lots of attention because she is a young pretty girl and the men are always in the ranch and she is the only girl there. She also talks very flirtatiously with the men as she says things ?playfully? showing she has no interest of finding her husband as she intended to do in the first place. When she is about to leave she says ?Nobody can?t blame a person for lookin?? which has a double meaning.
- Word count: 1165
His only family, his aunt, has passed away, and he has the mind of a very young child. He would not be able to survive on his own: it is because of George that he is able to find work, and it is George who ultimately cares for him. George stays with Lennie, I believe, out of a sense of duty and an overwhelming loneliness. George promised Lennie's aunt that he would look after Lennie, and now he has become so used to being with Lennie that he does not know any other way. Lennie, despite the frustration George feels in taking care of him, is George's only friend.
- Word count: 1307
The characters all live a very disheartening life, with the lack of happiness, love and affection in their lives. This can be seen also when George mentions that 'ranch workers are the loneliest people in the world and don't belong nowhere". Of the many characters in the novel, Curley's wife might be one of the most pathetic and reviled of the outsiders. Steinbeck introduces her to us as an outcast, where she is isolated from the community. Being a minor character in the novel, Steinbeck manages to illustrate her as a character that deeply influences the lives of the main characters George and Lennie.
- Word count: 1757
How does Stainbeck use the characters Curley's wife and crooks to explore at least 2 of the themes in "Of mice and men"?4 star(s)
- the actor had flirted with her instead of being honest with her but being the teenage-believe-in-anything-kind-of-girl, she fell for it. He was only taking advantage of her looks and her naivety. The first time that Curley's wife was introduced to us in the book, Steinbeck focused on her appearance. She dressed and looked like she wanted to be a movie star, she had 'full rouged lips', ' heavily made up eyes', 'her fingernails were red', 'cotton house dress and red mules'.
- Word count: 1607
This is the same technique people use to catch animals and that is exactly what Curley is trying to achieve with Lennie. An important style of how Steinbeck represents people and themes is through rabbits and example of this is, at the beginning of the story Lennie and George are fleeing from their home town. This is shown by the rabbits as they are fleeing themselves, "The rabbits hurried noiselessly for cover". Steinbeck compares the animals to people very early on in the story, which gives you an idea that Steinbeck will compare the characters and themes through animals throughout the story.
- Word count: 1403
She is 'heavily made up', with red fingernails and wore a 'cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers'. This clearly shows that Curley's wife was wearing quite a lot of red. Wearing might just be the color that Curley's wife enjoys wear, however wearing red might indicate danger towards Lennie and George and especially Lennie because when referring back to the incident back in weed the girl that Lennie harm was also wearing a red dress.
- Word count: 1598
this quote emphasises how private the menn keep their lives. Slim is an exception to this as he is always willing to talk if others wish to. However many of the others, despite their urge to talk, seem to be less inviting or trustworthy. George and Lennie seem to be an exception to this general life. They "...got somebody to talk to that gives a damn..." Slim describes what living on a ranch does to a man and really how lonely it is that "...they get mean... they get so they don't want to talk to anybody...".
- Word count: 1901
How does Steinbeck present the characters of George and Lennie, and their relationship, in Section 1 of the novel?4 star(s)
This shows that he's quite fit and athletic, perhaps used to this sort of traveling as a migrant worker. His "restless eyes" tell the reader that, although he has been traveling for probably a long time, he is still eager to get to his destination. Following George's description, there is a considerable amount of contrast when it comes to describing Lennie, "a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders." He is metaphorically compared to a bear, dragging his feet and his arms hanging loosely. Being compared to animal shows that he obviously has animal features, possibly mentally as well as physically, so he may not be as psychologically advanced as the average man of his time.
- Word count: 1337
Everyone had this dream work a month or to get the money and buy land but that's all it was a dream. George had got this idea into Lennies head and that's all he would talk about until you started to talk about George. This is when I realised that George was really special to Lennie even more special than them damn rabbits. I sat there trying to torment this vulnerable fellow just for my self enjoyment really and I hit a nerve when I said "what if George don't come back" constantly and the white, strong, tall disheartened lost and confused male stood up and shook the dear life out of me.
- Word count: 1076
Of Mice and Men – How does Steinbeck use symbolism to reflect the characters relationships with each other and the society in which they live?4 star(s)
The 'dream farm' represents the ambition and possibility to escape from the itinerant workers' loneliness and poverty. George's dream is destroyed by Lennie, as Lennie is always getting himself into trouble, and George has taken on responsibility for Lennie and therefore deals with Lennie's troubles, and his own life and career are destroyed because of it. Curley's wife has a dream of a better, more fulfilling life, but these are based on glossy film magazines. Her dreams are destroyed by Curley's selfishness of making her live on the ranch. The title itself also relates back to Lennie.
- Word count: 1851
However George needs Lennie for companionship. As he admits to Slim when discussing their unique relationship. ?It?s a lot nicer to go around with a guy you know.? George doesn?t mind coming across as being homosexual, if that?s what people think. This can be shown when Curley demands Lennie to speak but the conversation is interrupted by George who states clearly to Curley that ?we travel together? the reply from Curley is dumbfounded ?oh so it?s that way? his tone resembles and is associated with sexual connotation. This shows the symbiotic mutualism relationship they share. Both have the same American dream they want to peruse, both have something to offer each other.
- Word count: 1440
a frosty reception, 'you ain't got no right coming into my room, this here is my room, nobody got any right in here but me, this shows that the room is his only right of possession and defends this indefinitely. He says 'I ain't wanted in the bunk-house' which shows again he is left out of social happenings and left all by himself on a regular basis. He says to people who come in his room; 'you ain't wanted in this room' this is because he has no social skills and because he thinks why should anyone come in his room when vice-versa in unacceptable?
- Word count: 1047
How is the theme of insecurity developed in the novel 'Of Mice and Men' through the use of characters, language and setting?3 star(s)
Because of his race he is discriminated against, no-one ever goes into his room or talks to him 'I'm black, they say I stink'. Crooks is cruel to Lennie 'You got no right to come in my room' this shows a sense of insecurity and bitterness, he is trying to shut people out, as this is the only way he knows to live. Crooks lives in a barn, he is treated like an animal, he sleeps in a straw bed 'Crooks bunk was a long box filled with straw', this shows nobody has any respect for him, he is considered worthless, this will add to his insecurity.
- Word count: 1268
These give us a clear vivid picture of the natural world surrounding the characters. This technique is used in the first and last scenes in the forest near the river. This scene is remembered the most clearly as its placed at the two crucial points where readers will be reading every word in detail to gain a good understanding of the book. The film adaptation of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" opens with scenes of a woman in a red dress, running through fields in desperate escape from some undefined terror. Her flight frames the movie, as though she is running, headlong, into the nameless dread of the future.
- Word count: 1072
'Curley's wife can sure move quiet. I guess she's had a lot of practice, though'. The reason they do not want to be seen with her is because she is married to Curley, a 'pugnacious' little man, who is very possessive. '"Have you seen a girl around here?" he demanded angrily'. The fact that Steinbeck never gave Curley's wife a name other than 'Curley's wife' is to show that she belongs to Curley. It shows her as his possession rather than a separate person. To get attention, she dresses up and hangs around the workers when Curley is not there.
- Word count: 1044
During this era there was lots of prejudice and discrimination against black people, women, the elderly and the disabled. This affected them the worst as any time when life was getting tough they were hit much worse and were the first to experience suffering. This tough lifestyle encouraged people to dream as many people believed in the American Dream which was that everyone deserved a piece of prosperity if they worked hard enough. So a dream helped people to get by as it encouraged people to work hard and remain optimistic that they can succeed and it also helped people by temporarily escaping from reality.
- Word count: 1760
You'll see plenty. She ain't concealin nothing. I never seen nobody like her. She got the eye goin' all the time on everybody. I bet she gives the stable buck the eye. I don't know what the hell she wants". The writer has made use of language in several occasions to draw meaning and give more sense to the piece of work and the most notable and obvious is the kind of language used which is so casual and local portraying the setting where the characters are acting in as well as their status in the society.
- Word count: 1322
Consider the theme of loneliness in the novel, Of Mice and Men. How dose it affect the friendships and relationships in the novel?3 star(s)
George and Lennie are total opposites. George is decribed as "small and quick, dark of face with restless eyes and sharp, strong fetures." Lennie on the other hand is " a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes with wide, sloping sholders". Stienbeck decribes Georges personality as careful and protective while Lennie seems to be rather stupid with a child's mind. He's very forgetful and likes to pet nice things with his finger's "sof' things". George likes to be in charge of himself, and this is why he appreciates the time out under the stars where he can relax with his friend Lennie.
- Word count: 1493