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GCSE: John Steinbeck

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Who is John Steinbeck?

  1. 1 John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was one of greatest American writers of the 20th century.
  2. 2 He was born in Salinas, California. The majority of his novels are set in the area and have authentic sense of place.
  3. 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. 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. 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'

  1. 1 Dreams
    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. 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.
  3. 3 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.
  4. 4 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    How does Steinbeck present the character of Crooks in the novel 'Of Mice and Men'?

    5 star(s)

    The title 'Of Mice and Men' was taken from a famous poem written by Robert Burns. The meaning behind the title is that 'the best laid plans often go awry'; this is a pessimistic phrase that associates with Crooks. This analysis of Crooks will show how Steinbeck presents Crooks as a lonesome and a lack of social interaction with the other white characters in the novel. The name 'Crooks' arose from the character having a crooked back; however he is often referred to as 'nigger'. This reflects the casual racism which was present in America during 1930's. The first reference the reader gets of Crooks is in chapter 2 during a conversation between two other characters.

    • Word count: 2739
  2. Marked by a teacher

    The Slave's dream

    5 star(s)

    The rhyme scheme is regular and the lengths of lines have a repetitive pattern. The poet has conformed to such a rigid way of writing poetry, as a slave in America would have to conform to their master's commands. The poet may also have chosen to write in this regular way because it is similar to the slave's life, which is monotonous. A slave does the same thing everyday like the stanzas all follow the same pattern. In stanza one, there is also the internal rhyme of the words "bare" and "hair". This emphasises how uninteresting the slave's life is.

    • Word count: 2442
  3. Marked by a teacher

    How is the theme of racism and loneliness shown through the character of Crooks in OF MICE AND MEN?

    3 star(s)

    This all shows that black people was still treated in an appalling manner and the other white ranch worker still have a disuse for 'niggers and make him an out cast and disempowered because he is an afro-American which I find absolutely appalling. Through the character of Crooks in chapter 4, John Steinbeck shows the loneliness and desperation of the character. Steinbeck describes him in great detail because chapter 4 is the only time we are really introduced to him, Steinbeck has to create a believable and sympathetic character at this time, so we will care about and sympathise with his point of view.

    • Word count: 2270
  4. Marked by a teacher

    How does Steinbeck present Crooks in the extract? What is the importance of crooks in the novel as a whole? Of Mice and Men is a powerful and moving portrayal of two men striving

    3 star(s)

    On one side of the little room there was a square four paned window, and on the other, a narrow plank door leading into the barn. Crooks' bunk was a long box filled with straw, on which his blankets were flung." From this extract, we are told many things about crooks. Firstly, in the opening sentence of the extract, we are told that crooks is a "negro stable buck". We know straight away that he is different because of the fact that his colour was mentioned; none of the other characters in the book were described by the colour of their skin, showing that crooks has been separated from them based upon his colour.

    • Word count: 2422
  5. Discuss the importance of loneliness and isolation in Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men"

    This unwillingness to accept his height and resentment towards taller people prevents him from making friends, which fuels his loneliness. His wife's refusal to touch him is, to him, a betrayal, and only exacerbates his distrust towards others. Her insistence that her husband keep his hand gloved in Vaseline is her attempt at exerting control over him. She does this to highlight her own feelings of revulsion towards him. Curley's anger at his wife's rejection is deepened by her flirtatious attitude to the workers, ("Well.

    • Word count: 2514
  6. How does Steinbeck present and develop Lennie in Of Mice and Men

    Through the use of the word 'snorting', we are made to believe that Lennie doesn't have many social graces, which would be representative of ranch workers of that time, but it could also reinforce the idea that Lennie is mentally impaired, since mentally impaired people may not have many social graces. As well as this, a horse is an animal which only attacks people when it is afraid also, this reiterates the idea of Lennie being a character that defends himself and only attacks others when he is scared.

    • Word count: 2074
  7. Of Mice and Men. This novel is all about The American Dream youve noticed that no one in the book is truly happy. Everyones missing something.

    George is a bright and healthy looking guy who isn't suffering from any diseases like Lennie is. George is like a guardian to Lennie by always look down to him making sure he is well and happy. George is small, wiry, quick-witted man, however a loving and caring person, he struggles at times as Lennie has ruined everything but he still stays with him. It's not normal for two people to work together travelling ranch to ranch as they do; this shows how strong their relationship really is.

    • Word count: 2435
  8. Slim looked through George and beyond him - analysisng selected quotations from "Of Mice and Men".

    Crooks said sharply, "You got no right to come in my room. This here's my room. Nobody got any right in here but me." (4.7-8) Crooks is so accustomed to his isolation that any attempt to break it is a threat. Interestingly, Crooks is described as "proud and aloof." Thinking about Crooks's isolation then, we might wonder whether it's a self-imposed state; rather than being kept away from the white folks, he chooses not to be near them. This is a cross-section between isolation and prejudice, and there comes a point where we aren't sure whether barriers are there to keep some people out, or to hold some people in.

    • Word count: 2326
  9. Of Mice And Men. Most characters in the novella have revealed their dreams to the reader, which is important as dreams increasingly turn into a theme for the story.

    Due to this, the infamous bank robbers, Bonnie and Clyde, and other bank robbers were famed by the public since banks and bankers were shunned from society. Some compare the current economic recession to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 because it was so shocking that it had happened and so many people's lives and ambitions were changed. Steinbeck was also inspired by Rabbie Burns, a poet that was famous for writing in Scottish Dialect. The title, Of Mice and Men, comes from Burns' poem, To A Mouse, where he says: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft aglee".

    • Word count: 2178
  10. Crooks essay

    The story shows the harsh and cruel circumstances of the many that were so poor but balances the desperation with the hope and desire for triumph. Discrimination can take many forms, from racial to physical to gender, Crooks is set apart because he is the only black man on the ranch moreover, he has a physical disability. In this novel Crooks possesses the majority of loneliness and injustice. Steinbeck's perception of Crooks in the novel is very accurate during this period, he uses Crook's to symbolise the marginalisation of the black community occurring at the time in which the novel is set additionally Crooks brings into perspective the loneliness experienced by all the characters.

    • Word count: 2821
  11. Of Mice and Men Qu.

    They are both old, physically impaired and get described generally as a liability. Steinbeck chooses to describe the dog as "ancient" which produces strong imagery of a dog being similar to an old antique. Although it may possess positive connotations, it is obvious due to Carlson's reaction that the dog is old, dirty and has no purpose anymore. Soon after as Carlson enforces the idea, Candy desperately tries to dismiss it. It states how he looked "helplessly" which shows how reluctant he is but knows there is no other possible outcome.

    • Word count: 2000
  12. Many Of The Characters In Of Mice And Men Have Dreams. What Are Their Dreams And How Near Are Any Of Them To Achieving What They Want?

    They had slight difficulties maintaining a job as Lennie has a mental and almost physical disability. His child-like mind didn't allow him to correspond well with his beastly physicality. This means he is unaware of how brutal and uncivilized his actions may be. It's what always got him in trouble and George was the one always defending him. All they had was each other. As Itinerant workers they travelled far in search of work as did many others who were desperate to earn enough money to survive or perhaps support their family. They pretty much had no choice if they wanted to live.

    • Word count: 2225
  13. Of Mice And Men (English)

    The book is set in America in the 1930's. George and Lennie are the two main characters they are completely different types of people. Lennie acts like a child and thinks like one too. He doesn't judge people well, and would trust anyone who is kind and friendly to him. But George is smarter and does not trust anyone until he fully knows them; he's a very serious man. There is also a difference when it comes to looks. George is "small, quick and dark of face" slender, strong and defined whilst graceful.

    • Word count: 2127
  14. Of Mice and Men

    The book is called "Of Mice and Men" but is that what it has always been called? The actual title was "Something that happened". This suggests something that you as the reader were not involved in. Steinbeck also wrote this book as a detached narrator, so he as well was not involved in the action. He began writing it in early 1936 and it was published in 1937. The book was immediately successful. Even now this book shows so much meaning of how The American Dream was so important to the people in the 1930's. This was because dreams were the only thing American people had to depend on.

    • Word count: 2632
  15. How Does Steinbeck Use The Character Of Crooks To Highlight Certain Issues Which Were Prominent At The Time The Novel Of Mice And Men Was Written?

    Blacks were gradually fired from most jobs and had to use different transport, bathrooms ect. To white people, whites started to rule America. 'Crooks' Is a character Steinbeck created to highlight how unfairly this time was and with no real importance to the story crooks has a major importance in the book as he was put there to show us how wrong segregation really was and how lonely and miss treated these people were. We first get an idea of crooks in chapter two where he is first bought up, not being on the scene yet we get a little picture of what he's like and what his role is.

    • Word count: 2838
  16. In Of Mice and Men(TM) Stienbeck explores loneliness and the ways in which characters try to escape the isolation which their situation, at that time and in that culture, places them.(TM) Discuss this view in relation to the

    During the great depression (1929 - 1939) the Negroes, although 'free', were looked upon as lesser people and, especially in the southern states, were almost treated like slaves or at best dirt. 'I ain't a southern negro...' As Crooks isn't a southern Negro he was born free and not into any kind of slavery, the other workers; Curley, George, Carlson, Whit and also Curleys' wife treat him like dirt, not because of where he comes from, not because if he was born free or not, not because of his personality, just because of the colour of his skin.

    • Word count: 2158
  17. In what ways does Stevenson present the duality of human nature in chapters 1, 4 & 9 of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and how does this duality reflect the concerns of the time?

    People had begun to question the notion that God created the world, and this was exacerbated by Frankenstein's experiments. In a clearly divided London, there was conflict between the East and West end, much like there was conflict between the upper and lower classes. Over time, a momentously bitter split was formed between those who were born into wealth, and those unfortunate enough to be thrown into a struggling, lower class background. The upper class feared that the lower class would 'pollute' their 'flawless' society. Habits such as infraction and homosexuality were thought to be associated with the lower class and the upper class feared this.

    • Word count: 2480
  18. of mice and men

    It exposes underlying social concerns of racism, being intellectually disabled and the attitudes towards women. Characters chosen to evoke such themes are usually the outcasts within the novel- Lennie, Candy, Curley's wife and Crooks. Each character in the novel appears to exist alone and without a purpose. This was a time when people looked after themselves and themselves only as there was nobody else to do this for them. However, this is excluding Lennie and George who are the two main characters that Steinbeck focuses on.

    • Word count: 2478
  19. Of mice and men coursework

    He uses almost two pages of the book in order to do this, describing the atmosphere about the place: " The water is warm to, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight," This creates a very sleepy and relaxing picture for the reader. The fact that the "water is warm" and it "slipped twinkling" are important in this sentence. They are peaceful words and help create the most beautiful picture that can be created in the readers mind.

    • Word count: 2130
  20. Of Mice And Men

    Back then, it was illegal to be unemployed. People living in the 30's didn't have a choice but to try to go to work. Even if they had no family, they still had to go to work. The characters George and Lennie are farm workers who both have a dream of owning their own ranch. They both find work in a ranch near Soledad. They had a talk with the boss explaining what strength Lennie has to work in the ranch. George is like a parent to Lennie.

    • Word count: 2275
  21. Saving Private Ryan

    The leading actors of the film are:- * Tom Hanks (Captain Miller) * Tom Sizemore (Sergeant Horvath) * Edward Burns (Private Reiben) * Barry Pepper (Private Jackson) * Jeremy Davies (Private Upham) * Matt Damon (Private Ryan) The film is about a mother who has four children and three of them die. A troop of soldiers have to go and collect the 4th brother (James Francis Ryan) and bring him home so his mother doesn't have to receive another letter to inform her that yet another one of her sons have died.

    • Word count: 2450
  22. GCSE ENGLISH COURSEWORK - OF MICE AND MEN

    The importance of this is to show it is a fresh start for George and Lennie. When imagining the setting the reader pictures a beautiful, peaceful place full of wildlife. Steinbeck does this to show how the river can be seen as Lennie's utopia- a place where he is free and is at peace and happy. Although the river is described as a place full of life, Steinbeck does hint towards the idea of death: "In front of the low horizontal limb of a giant sycamore there is an ash pile made by many fires;" This quote shows that the river also represents death because the pile shows the end of a once bright and burning fire.

    • Word count: 2178
  23. OF Mice & Men - Dreams

    This is shown by this quote, "...and we can live off the fatta the lan'" said by George. This is only one of the many dreams that feature in 'Of Mice and Men', however not one of the dreams featured in this novel are achieved. This reflected the harsh reality of the 'Great Depression' and the racial prejudice in society at the time. Steinbeck set 'Of Mice and Men' during the 'Great Depression', in the late 1920's and the 1930's.

    • Word count: 2474
  24. Of mice and men

    Another one is "hopes and dreams", Lennie and George always survive by speaking about their dreams of one day owning a piece of land as Lennie always says when he is down," tell us George, tell us about the farm". Paragraph 2 The Wall street crash, the Great Depression and new machinery all led to poverty and unemployment and increased the number of migrant workers by thousands. These migrant workers had a very bad lifestyle, they wouldn't stay in one place or settle down and are always moving about.

    • Word count: 2768
  25. What issues was John Steinbeck trying to make us think about in "Of Mice and Men"? Do these issues have any relevance today, almost seventy years after the book was first published?

    "The best-laid schemes o mice an men, Gang aft agley" (Eng: "Often go awry"). Theoretically, the mouse is Lennie who is lost in the big world in which he has to find a way to survive. The man refers to George who takes the mouse in and shows it the way. The scheme referring to the dream ranch that so many workers have in their mind, and just like the passage explains, this dream of Lennie, George and Candy fails. John Steinbeck does not, in the novella, refer to the two's past in detail and only the incident in Soledad (Lennie accused of rape), that Lennie was raised by his "aunt Clara" and that George "promised" "aunt Clara" he'd take care of Lennie are the only details given.

    • Word count: 2674

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Compare and contrast the characters Curley's Wife from 'Of Mice and Men' and Mally from 'Malachi's Cove'

    "In conclusion I think that Curley's Wife and Mally are to completely different characters with totally different personality but as the novel progresses you get to know the characters and you get to know the real Curley's Wife and the real Mally e.g. when Curley's wife died "the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was very, pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young" whilst Mally ended up marrying Barty "how beautiful he was in Mally's eyes with that pale face". I think that Steinbeck and Trollope have made the characters this way because it makes the reader think and then feel all sorry for them at the end. So in conclusion my opinion of Curley's Wife and Mally both change as the story progresses because both Steinbeck and Trollope keep the reader in suspense and makes both characters come to life."

  • From a close study of the opening of the novel; and with reference to other stages throughout, discuss the relationship of George and Lennie, commenting on how it relates to the theme of loneliness

    "In my opinion, the novel was very good, the shock ending was very surprising and unexpected, but a closer look throughout the novel foreshows us what happens, such signs as what happened in Weed, the mice that Lennie kills, the need to pet soft things, all of this gives the reader clues to what happens at the end. In my opinion, the relationship between George and Lennie is less than a relationship between two equal adults, and more like father-son, as one of the pair continually leads the other, while the other always follows"

  • Discuss how three or more important symbols add to your understanding of Of Mice and Men.

    "During the novella, the recurrence of loneliness, and speculating at a lonesome finale, is ever present, especially in the form of playing cards. The bunkhouse is often the scene of the games, with George the dealer. This is significant, as George frequently exclaims his desire to be alone, "If I was alone I could live so easy." However, solitude is George's enemy, and he is fearful at the prospect of living alone. This is projected through his card playing, "Slim sat down...across from George...He studied the solitaire hand that was upside-down to him." Inadvertently, George has dealt a game of solitaire- a single player game, an insinuation at the conclusion of the story, when George ultimately kills his companion. A similar event arises when Candy's dog is led by Carlson to be shot. "'Anybody like to play a little euchre?'" asks George. The key theme of loneliness is being forced away by George, who refuses to be alone, opting to ask the group to play cards. The constant reminding of impending solitude, and its effects, enable the reader to understand and fully interpret the inevitability of what is to come. Hands play a vital role in the symbolism of Of Mice and Men. There are various"

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