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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
Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you." They are all helpless in their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they. Crooks shows this cruel and nasty tendency when he criticizes Lennie's dependence on George and their dream of the homestead, their farm where they can work or not work just as they please, be their own boss. Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities-he is a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship-Crooks homes in on Lennie's own weaknesses, I think this mainly was to make him feel better and less of a failure somehow.
- Word count: 4671