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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
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
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