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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.

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  1. Loneliness in Of Mice and Men

    They each dedicate a sum of their wages towards the dream. The characters in this novel are all envious to some extent of the special friendship shared by George and Lennie because they do not have that in their life. All the characters are extremely lonely and unhappy with their lives (except Slim, who is the only character that seems to be confident and happy with his life), and none of them can escape this unhappiness. Economic and social forces control them, and free will seems non-existent.

    • Word count: 2284
  2. This essay will focus on the theme of loneliness in the novel 'Of Mice and men' by John Steinbeck. I will look at the different characters in the story and how they cope with ups and downs of life on the ranch

    Life on the ranch was difficult they had to work long hours, the living conditions were bad and the people were hostile. The bunkhouses which they must live in are undecorated and there are few comforts; the men have to sleep on rough burlap mattresses which might have lice the bunkhouse seems unloved and it might make the ranch hands homesick. George and Lennie share what seems to be the 'American dream' of owning their own piece of land and working for themselves.

    • Word count: 2979
  3. Prequel to Of Mice and Men

    jacket unbuttoned as always, he was a prominent character, a strong willed and confident man who took control of any situation and never got in trouble, although his size never reflected his social ability and prowess only being a short guy, he was a strong minded individual with a positive attitude to life but was stuck at square one in life working as a ranch worker. Lennie is the quite opposite of George , Lennie is a slow character who travelled with George and was his working buddy, he relied on George for almost everything, it takes a long time

    • Word count: 2341
  4. Discuss the ways in which Steinbeck explores how the concept of the 'American Dream'is central to the novel Of Mice and Men "We've got a future and we're gonna get a place" The American Dream

    The American Dream is the predominant theme throughout the entire novel, from the first few pages until the very end, when Lennie is killed. It is a dream that they both truly believe and the think that one day it will come true. It tells us that George and Lennie, like many other characters in the book, want to achieve something better with their lives and get out of the rut of working on ranch after ranch. The other characters each have dreams of their own, ideas of how their life could be and what they could accomplish.

    • Word count: 2104
  5. What does the novel 'Of mice and men' tell you about the way of life and social attitudes at this time in America?

    Discrimination is another topic that is common in the story for old age, disabled and women as they are only seen as raising children or being used for sex. The characters show that it is set during the depression because some of them have dreams, this is called 'the American dream', which took place during the depression. The American dream was used to give people hope. They also show that it is the time of depression because they are all usually unhappy and sad, and there are a lot of arguments and fights.

    • Word count: 2579
  6. Of Mice and Men Essay

    As a child he did have white friends but since he has grown he is being lonely since then. When he said, "books ain't no good" to company him as he is really wanting to have a friend whom he can talk to not to read as he does not have anyone close to him in the ranch. His loneliness increases when Curley's wife told him that "listen nigger, I could get you strung up on a tree" this made crooks feel like he is not even good enough if he is compared to an animal.

    • Word count: 2756
  7. "Which of the character in of mice and men is the loneliest and why?"

    George is first introduced as being "small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features." where as Lennie is described as being Georges opposite "his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide sloping shoulders:" Lennie is very distinctive for his animal like qualities. During the play Of Mice and Men George and Lennie go round together unlike most others people in there time. Lennie has a mental disability where he forgets large amounts of the information he is given. This causes him to have to rely on his instincts.

    • Word count: 2130
  8. Of Mice and Men' is a novel about people. Are there 'too many cripples, misfits and unusual characters' in the novel to consider Steinbeck's portrayal as true to life? Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'

    The character Candy is the cleaner or 'swamper' on the ranch. From the description of him in the novel the reader deduces he is old. Suggesting this Steinbeck says, 'The door opened and a tall, stooped-shouldered old man came in' and '...he rubbed his bristly white whiskers with his knuckles'. We also learn that Candy is physically handicapped in that he only has one hand; the author writes 'He pointed with his right arm and out of the sleeve came a round stick wrist, but no hand'.

    • Word count: 2825
  9. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"Fun and Games" - What are the games, and how much fun do people have

    Its called Chicago.". This is, of course, incorrect, and so Martha is victorious in this "game", as she has forced George to guess at the film title, even though he did not want to. One of the key features of the "games" that George and Martha play is that, if one of the characters asserts their dominance over the other in a particular game, then the other always tries to retain a kind of equilibrium by conjuring up another "game".

    • Word count: 2506

    George is a victim in various ways; he is a victim of a social situation. He is trapped with looking after Lennie, who is, according to Curley's wife, 'jus' like a big baby'. George made a promise to Lennie's Aunt Clara to stick with him and look after him. Lennie is a liability in that he makes various mistakes which result in both of them losing jobs and having to leave the area. However, having Lennie for a companion has a benefit for George as they are company for each other. In those times many people were victims of isolation and loneliness.

    • Word count: 2689
  11. Explore the similarities and differences between the three examples of speech, including a consideration of the different contexts in which the texts were produced and how the speakers convey attitudes and values.

    Lloyd George refers to imagery taken from the Bible "Great food of luxury". He uses this metaphor to explain something complicated. By evoking this biblical imagery of 'good' and 'bad' he is making use of intertextuality to reach the audience on a higher emotional level that his expression alone could never master. David Lloyd George continues to raise hopes and ideas of the future by using the inclusive modal verb "we can see"; this is clearly an indication of him trying to heighten hope in the situation with talk of new possibilities. Again he uses a modal verb "May", this politeness marker allows him to gain encouragement through civility.

    • Word count: 2447
  12. How does the theme of loneliness affect the friendship and relationships in "Of Mice and Men?"

    Carlson and Crooks do so, in order to protect themselves from the harshness of life. George and Lennie are two men who travel together trying to save money so that one day they can have their little place where Lennie could pet the rabbits and chickens and they can "live 'off the fatta the lan". To an extent George and Lennie understand each other emotionally but are physically different. George is described as having "strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose". Whereas Lennie is the opposite, he is, "a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws".

    • Word count: 2427
  13. In the novel "of Mice and Men" show how Steinbeck represents the theme of loneliness

    Some of the other important characters are Slim, Curly, Curly's wife and Candy. This novel has many themes in it which include loneliness, the dreams of the workers and also apartheid and sexism. Some of the characters who are lonely are Curly's wife and Crooks. These two are lonely because first of all Crooks is as Black person and at the time Black people did not have the same rights as White people. This meant that Crooks had no one to talk to and usually had to spend time by himself. After a while of spending time completely on his own Crooks thinks that he could be going crazy and he really wants some company.

    • Word count: 2617
  14. "Guys like us are the loneliest guys in the world, They got no family, they don't belong no place". Discuss the theme of loneliness portrayed in "of Mice and Men"

    So the ranch hands often blew all the money they'd just earned on whisky and prostitutes to drown their sorrows and forget their problems and as the men usually travelled away from their home they "don't belong no place." Because Steinbeck had experienced this way of life he really captures the atmosphere and loneliness of the ranch with details that make you feel like you are there. Like in the bunkhouse, not only does he describe it like he's lived in it and knows just what it looks like, he includes details of the behaviour of its inhabitants to hint at the atmosphere of the place and bring it to life.

    • Word count: 2445
  15. Lloyd George

    Trevor Wilson has argued that it was his part in the decline of the Liberal party, which contributed to his downfall. He argues that Asquith can't play any real part in the failure of the Liberals as he stuck with them during the war and blames it all on Lloyd George. From his attempts to overthrow Asquith during the war, by working with the Conservatives and his Coupon Election, people are always going to remember this. As he said, "It was Lloyd George's Coupon which fractured the Liberal party and greatly diminished its political influence".

    • Word count: 2102
  16. Most if not all the characters in 'Of Mice and Men' can be seen as victims in one way or another." Discuss

    Arguably, George is less of a victim because he has a goal in life, "Some day we're gonna get the jack together an' we're gonna have a little house an a couple acres..." this dream makes the work bearable and keeps Lennie happy. George had a happy childhood and wants to recreate it by getting his own ranch. His happy memories would have ended when "The Great Depression" started. However, by the end of the book the dream has turned to dust, "Slim twitched George's elbow, 'come on, George, me an' you'll go in an' get a drink.'"

    • Word count: 2871
  17. 'Of mice and Men' by John Steinbeck

    This analysis creates a pungent picture of this strange character. In the novel 'Of Mice and Men' we see how he is almost isolated from the novel and so is presented as a misfit. At the beginning of the novel Lennie is described as an animal, "dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws," this phrase very much embodies his character. Lennie is mentally disabled and it is this disability which disables both himself and his guardian and friend George. The two are complete opposites in physical appearance and mentality.

    • Word count: 2242
  18. of mice and men help

    Men workers, how they moved around and their possessions Many men like George Milton and Lennie Small moved around the country looking for jobs in ranches even though the pay was small it was sufficient to keep them alive. They moved around because they had no real home or family and mainly looking for jobs and money but in George and Lennie's case it was because Lennie had a mental problem and he acts like a small child, he does things that get them both into trouble such as when he tries to stroke a woman's dress for the reason

    • Word count: 2150
  19. "Of Mice and Men" By John Steinbeck - review

    The two main characters are called George ands Lennie. There is very little information about them in the book. They work for their keep on the ranches. Lennie is slightly brain damaged and has a very limited memory. He is an enormous man and Steinbeck often compares his actions with those of a large, clumsy animal using similes and metaphors: "Dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws." These are intended to subtly give the reader the impression that Lennie is big and clumsy, like an animal that does not know its own strength; "Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water."

    • Word count: 2613
  20. "Of Mice and Men" - outlining some of the themes that relate to the companionship, loneliness and dreams in the story, which are used by Steinbeck.

    Lennie needed George, because he taught him certain lessons on how to keep himself out of trouble, for example, George told Lennie: "if you jus' happen to get in trouble like you always done before, I want you to come right here an' hide in the brush." As a form of discipline, George coerced Lennie not to get into trouble, by threatening him that he wouldn't be able to tend the rabbits when they would be living on their own private ranch (via the dream).

    • Word count: 2247
  21. Loneliness in Of Mice and Men

    He was very miserable after the death of his dog and he said, "I ought to have shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to have let no stranger shoot my dog." His dog was the only precious possession he had at the ranch and it was taken away from him. He overheard George and Lennie talking about their dream and later approached them and told them his generous offer. He had more than half of the deposit money and George was very grateful of that and let him in on their once ''unattainable'' dream Steinbeck was of German and Irish ancestry.

    • Word count: 2061
  22. Discuss The Theme of Loneliness and isolation In Of Mice And Men.

    He has a disease called autism. Lennie is also different in his strength quote, 'why do you got to get killed? You aint so little as mice. I didn't bounce you hard', he is stronger than the average man quote, 'strong as a bull,' but Lennie does not realise this throughout the whole novel, and because of this a puppy and Curley's wife all have a tragic worthless death. No matter their differences lennie and George's friendship is very close as lennie says 'ain't nobody goin' to talk no hurt to George' Despite lennie being slow and easily confused, he

    • Word count: 2734
  23. Curley's wife is a tart. Discuss.

    She is a vulnerable and a miserable, immature woman who is desperate for love and companionship. The reason why she is so miserable is that she did not have enough confidence to trust her mother. She was brought up in the atmosphere of violence and this is what has made her personality, which is an extrovert who shows herself up too much, who seeks attention from others, but truly inside from the heart is a quite pleasant woman who's personality was not discovered by the men on the ranch until she was dead. Many characters observe Curley's wife a 'tart'.

    • Word count: 2803
  24. Compare the American dream with the reality of a migrant worker (Steinbecks - Of Mice and Men)

    Without dreams no one would have a reason to keep going. Steinbeck's main task is to show the reality of a migrant workers life, to achieve this he must make the story seem as real-life as possible. Steinbeck does various things in the story to create an atmosphere of reality. One thing is he uses a geographical setting- the places are real and the storyline is in a chronological order; chapter 1 is Thursday night, chapter 2 is Friday morning, chapter 3 is Friday evening and so on.

    • Word count: 2324
  25. A comparison of Nancy from 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens and Curley's Wife from 'Of Mice and Men' by John Steinbeck.

    In the same way Dickens creates Nancy as the type of character that the reader feels sorry for but at the same time accuse her for the mistakes she has made, such as running away from Bill Sikes but returning to him because she loves him and cannot bring herself to leave. As the book progresses the reader begins to gain more respect for Nancy but I believe that there is a reason for Nancy's death, which is brought about by Oliver and this, is that doing the right thing does not always mean that it is not dangerous to yourself.

    • Word count: 2095

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