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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
  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

    Conflict is often shown throughout the novella of 'Of Mice and Men'. Usually, it is a result of the strain that the Great Depression placed on the people who lived through it.

    5 star(s)

    'Mad' also means that Curley is simply angry towards taller men because he envies them. This description of Curley makes the reader think of Curley as an insecure person as, the description shows that he feels inferior because of his diminutive stature. Resentment is also shown in scenes of conflict. George shows resentment towards Lennie as a consequence of Lennie losing him his job; that is so significant to achieving his desires. George says, 'I got you! You can't keep a job and you lose me ever' job I get.'

    • Word count: 1265
  3. 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
  4. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the way in which Steinbeck presents the relationships between between Curleys Wife and other characters in Of Mice and Men

    4 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
  5. Marked by a teacher

    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
  6. Marked by a teacher

    How does Steinbeck reveal the State of the US in the 1930s in Of Mice and Men?

    4 star(s)

    shooting the dog is also later scene in the ranch when Slim "drowned four" puppies "right off" because the dog "couldn't feed that many," showing a casual attitude towards life and death, and a very unsentimental one. George and Lennie's relationship and their idea to live off the "fatta land" reflects the way so many migrants in America in the 1930s hoped to own a farm, and this attitude was called the American Dream: the idea that anyone could achieve anything.

    • Word count: 592
  7. Marked by a teacher

    Relationship between George and Lennie in Of Mice of Men

    4 star(s)

    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
  8. Marked by a teacher

    The Outsider (Of Mice and Men)

    4 star(s)

    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
  9. Marked by a teacher

    how does steinbeck present george and lennie in chapter 1

    4 star(s)

    carry bindles which carry all of their belongings on their backs; Steinbeck goes on to tell us more of the two mysterious characters... "The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features. Every part of him was defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose. Behind him walked his opposite, 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: 954
  10. Marked by a teacher

    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
  11. Marked by a teacher

    How does Steinbeck use animals to show the themes in "Of Mice and Men

    4 star(s)

    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
  12. Marked by a teacher

    Impressions of Curely's Wife

    4 star(s)

    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
  13. Marked by a teacher

    Of Mice and Men - Life in America in the 1930's…

    4 star(s)

    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
  14. Marked by a teacher

    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
  15. Marked by a teacher

    Of Mice and Men - Crooks Monologue

    4 star(s)

    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
  16. Marked by a teacher

    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
  17. Peer reviewed

    How does John Steinbeck use animals to structure the novel 'Of Mice and Men'?

    5 star(s)

    The first mouse encountered in the story is a dead one. Lennie has kept it in his pocket 'to pet', and soon kills it as he does not know his own strength. Steinbeck is already using animals to foreshadow the rest of the novel, as Lennie is comfortable with death but he is so kinaesthetic that he continues to pet the dead mouse. Mice are obviously a source of comfort for Lennie, and he holds connotations of mice with Aunt Clara.

    • Word count: 524
  18. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice And Men

    5 star(s)

    Steinbeck repeats this technique: 'the water is warm too.' As with the's' sound, the soft 'w' is calming. In this setting of absolute calm and serenity, Lennie and George are introduced. Steinbeck uses extensive animal imagery to describe Lennie: 'dragging his feet in the way a bear drags his paws.' This gives the impression that Lennie is large and cumbersome. However, the main reason that Steinbeck uses this form of imagery in describing Lennie is to portray him as amoral and therefore almost child-like. This means that later on in the novel, the reader will acknowledge that Lennie is blameless and also innocent.

    • Word count: 917
  19. Peer reviewed

    Themes Surrounding The Title Of "Of Mice And Men"

    5 star(s)

    On Page 7, George makes the discovery that Lennie is carrying a dead mouse in his pocket. Lennie wanted to keep the mouse because he loves to pet small, soft things. Sadly, such is his brute strength, this often tends to kill them. George found that Lennie had the mouse in his pocket and demanded to know what it was. Lennie acted reluctantly as he wanted to keep it anyway ("I ain't got nothin', George. Honest.") But George insisted and once it found his possession he threw it across a pool of water nearby.

    • Word count: 997
  20. Peer reviewed

    OF MICE AND MEN

    4 star(s)

    Time seems to pass very slowly; every sound scares everyone, until we can finally hear a shot from outside. The poor old dog was killed, we knew he should die, but didn't want it to happen. After this death, everything came back to normality in the ranch, or the men were at least talking to each other again. In these pages, Steinbeck uses different techniques to achieve tension and time passing slowly. Time passing slowly can be shown when he starts sentences with a conjunction. "And slim ..." (p74). "And the silence ... " (p75). This creates a long pause between one sentence and the other, giving a sense of conclusion.

    • Word count: 859
  21. Peer reviewed

    Is Curleys wife a tragic figure?

    4 star(s)

    '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
  22. Peer reviewed

    Crooks' Importance In Of Mice And Men

    4 star(s)

    Although that he is seen as less of a person, he looks after his room which shows he is "a proud, aloof man." Although he is separated from the other men, he still has many personal possessions. Like the other men on the ranch his possessions say a lot about him. In his room he has "rubber boots", "a big alarm clock", and "a shot gun" which shows that although he is a cripple he is very active and practical.

    • Word count: 861
  23. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice And Men

    4 star(s)

    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

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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