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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.
The Dream in the book is likened to the idea of heaven. The idyllic setting, the peace and the quiet are all huge contrasts to life at that time. The Dream from the very beginning is almost set out to be unattainable. Crooks, in chapter 4 states that ?nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land? which is important in showing the way that for men on the ranch, for people whose lives are tainted by monotony, the idea of The Dream seems like a really far fetched notion.
- Word count: 1095
They felt as if they had sound. She sighed, and the whole room could finally breathe again, as it was comforted by the sound of her breath. Curley?s wife slowly rose from the chair, and shuffled up to the window. She stuck out her hand so it could be bathed in warmth. She followed the ray down to the counter, where it split into a rainbow. She counted each one. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet... ?I coulda shined...? she muttered. There was no answer. She had forgotten that loneliness was not a person. It was a disease. A bastard disease, she thought. No good for nothing.
- Word count: 863
Explore how Steinbeck makes you feel towards Curleys wife in the lead up to her death, and just afterwards.
What you think you?re sellin? me? Curley started som?pin he didn? finish. Caught in a machine ? baloney?. I think she has worked out an arrangement to make sure that she and Lenny will be alone without interruption as she may have feelings for him but Lenny is relatively aware of George?s instructions to avoid conversation with her as well as the consequences of not being able to ?tend the rabbits.? But she is desperate to talk to him ?you?re a nice guy, why can?t I talk to you?? and when she is alone with Lennie she pours out her desire for more communication, although Lenny barely listens.
- Word count: 955
This very much shows that she herself is not delusional to the fact that she is being treated as though she is a second class citizen. Before Curley?s wife makes her first appearance, her identity and her personality is emphasised by Candy, who gives the reader a prejudice description of her. Candy mentions how Curley?s wife has ?got the eye? and also how he thinks that she?s a ?tart?. Due to the fact that Curley?s wife has not actually been introduced to the reader at this point, we cannot help but to believe the description that Candy gives of her to George and Lennie.
- Word count: 1877
Aside from that this Essay will focus on the main relationship between George Milton and lennie (the main characters) small and what kind of bond they have therefore what makes them special. Lennie Small is first introduced on page four as well as George Milton this is Lennie?s opening description.? 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? now this may not seem much to you but if we look between the lines we can see there is a very detailed description.
- Word count: 644
Lennie is compared to various animals in the story, for example he shuffles his feet when he walks ?the way a bear drags his paws? and he drinks water ?with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse?. Furthermore, his large hands are often described as ?paws? and he is praised by George as being ?strong as a bull?. Despite being physically over-developed he is mentally under-developed. ?I was only fooling, George I don?t want no ketchup?I would leave it all for you...? This shows that he has the brain and personality of a child.
- Word count: 1399
Of Mice and Men. In the book there is some clear parallels between old Candy and his old dog, and George and his companion Lennie.
Even though they both are getting tired of their companions, they're there for them when they need them. They are also defending them, for example when the other guys are telling Candy that they have to kill the dog, because it stinks, it's old and sick, Candy tries his best so the dog still can be alive, even though he knows that the best would be if the dog would be shot in the neck. The same thing is about George and Lennie, George is telling the guys that Lennie ain't smart at all, but that he's a hell of a good worker, and strong as a bull.
- Word count: 517
a single one will ever get it, so when he hears Lennie and Candy?s dream he just assumes that they are just like the other workers. Crooks reveals to us the hopes and dreams that surrounded men and women in the 1930?s, Crooks has seen ?hundreds? of men come and go with this dream of having their own piece of land, but he knows that not one of them will ever get it. This tells us about the optimism of that time and how everyone thought and hoped they would achieve their dreams but also the pessimism of those who knew the truth of how they would never get their dreams and so gave up dreaming.
- Word count: 1537
Her physical appearance of, "full, rouged lips? help further build on the reader?s preconceptions about her. The choice of words here, give the reader a strapping impression that the character is flirtatious. ?Heavily made- up? gives the reader the impression that she takes satisfaction and time in perfecting her appearance. Steinbeck links Curley?s wife in with the American Dream, upon numerous occasions. A vivid example of this is ?Coulda been in the movies, an? had nice clothes? in (Section 5, Page 125).
- Word count: 1500
Quotations Mean? George is ?small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features?. This suggests intelligence, a strong personality but also some unhappiness (?restless?) ?What the hell kind of bed you giving us, anyways? We don?t want no pants rabbits.? George is clean-living and healthy ?I aint nothing to scream about, but [Lennie] there can put up more grain alone than most pairs can? George is modest ?You keep away from Curley, Lennie? George is a good judge of character, and can sense danger. Get ?im Lennie He has a sense of justice, and will not allow Lennie be beaten up. Candy How is Candy described and what does it mean? Quotations Mean?
- Word count: 881
She is described as a ?tart? by the other ranch men because of her sexual mannerisms around the ranch, aiming to grab the attention of the other men. She is also described by George as ?jail-bait? when he warns Lennie to stay away from her. It is established very early that Curley?s wife is deprived of companionship. Loneliness is like an illness for her and she sets out to cure it by presenting herself sexually around other men. Although she is conveyed as an evil figure because of her ability to land others into trouble, she most certainly is not evil.
- Word count: 780
Both characters centres their dream upon the concept of the American dream; fantasy in which consists of independence and self-reliance nevertheless as the story of the novel prevails consequences soon arise causing loneliness to reach its peak. Steinbeck uses his personal experience as a ranch worker to describe how the working men at the ranch felt in the novel. George says that "ranch workers are the loneliest people in the world and don't belong nowhere". Steinbeck raises questions in the mind of the reader, that the novel would be based on loneliness.
- Word count: 1879
Maybe her name isn?t needed and she is just a key plot device? The apostrophe in ?Curley?s? suggests that she ?belongs? to Curley as if she is just an object. Also, when we find out that Curley?s glove is ?fulla vaseline?, it implies that he likes ?petting? his wife, just like Lennie like petting dogs, mice and rabbits. This suggests that Curley thinks of his wife like an animal. It also gives the implication that he needs to please her but there is no love in their relationship. Curley is proud of his wife, especially when she makes others envious of him.
- Word count: 2422
She first appears in the novel shortly after the arrival of George and Lennie at the ranch. We are told that she is heavily made up and is wearing ?a cotton house dress and red mules? with ? ostrich feathers? and her nails painted red. She is depicted as inappropriately dressed for such an environment and seems to want to overtly emphasise her femininity in this male environment. She is ? dressed to kill?, which makes her appear tarty and flirtatious.
- Word count: 604
This quote also applies to the other ranch workers that are mentioned throughout the novel including Candy and Slim. Candy is an old, disabled worker on the ranch whose only ally is a dog he has owned since it was a puppy. Later on in the novel this dog is declared 'past it' and shot for being old. Candy is then left on his own and compares himself to his now deceased dog saying that when he's declared too old to work no-one will shoot him, he'll just get given a final payment which won't last very long and then get 'canned'.
- Word count: 553
Eventually, there were too many goods being made and not enough people to buy them. Farmers had produced too much food in the 1920s, so prices for their produce became steadily lower. 3. There were too many small banks - these banks did not have enough funds to cope with the sudden rush to take out savings, which happened in the autumn of 1929. 4. Too much speculation on the stock market - the middle class had a lot to lose and they had spent a lot on what amounted to pieces of paper.
- Word count: 650
Yet the first thing he says is ?It?s brighter?n a bitch outside?; although it says he says this ?gently?, therefore not in a crude manner, it shows how he is not afraid to be more outgoing, it shows how he is a man of confidence and this is what makes the other ranch workers not only respect him, but see him as a leader and as an authority figure. In conclusion, Steinbeck presents Slim as not only friendly and welcoming, but as a strong leader who is willing to guide the ranch workers through their life.
- Word count: 1345
However, noticing this, Slim could be portrayed as weak because he didn?t speak up to defend Crooks when it came to the name calling, if he did, he probably would have been casted as a ?Sell out? by the other characters. There is another incident in the novel that shows how inferior and weak Crooks is portrayed. After Curley?s wife enters the room to talk to him, Lennie and Candy, Crook?s ends up getting frustrated with Curley?s wife and starts telling her off.
- Word count: 1746