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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. The world Of Mice and Men is one of hostility and suspicion. Explore the second chapter of Of Mice and Men in the light of this statement and decide whether you agree.

    When it then goes on to talk about people possetions it shows us that in that time is was normally to only have about 5 things on you (sometimes even less). The Character Candy Candy is the swamper (cleaner of floors by pouring water on it and using a mop to clean of the dirt) on the ranch, when George and Lennie Arrive on the Ranch he is the first person to greet them. He is meant to be an old man, handless and without a Dog.

    • Word count: 874
  2. How does the author John Steinbeck portray loneliness and isolation in the novel "Of Mice And Men"?

    In the novel the author has produced two lonely characters that both depend on each other to achieve the dreams which they have dreamt would happen, so they can get away from the miserable life they live whilst on the ranch. George and Lennie follow a father and son like relationship, "Lennie, for God' sakes don't drink so much", this shows us that George is leading the father role and looking out for Lennie. George leads a lonely life, as he isn't able to lead the life he wants to, both him and Lennie go from one ranch to another trying to find work to save money for their dreams.

    • Word count: 1470
  3. The Great Depression

    The RFC's initial goal was to provide government-secured loans to financial institutions, railroads and farmers. Quarter by quarter the economy went downhill, as prices, profits and employment fell, leading to the political realignment in 1932 that brought to power Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Shortly after President Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933, drought and erosion combined to cause the Dust Bowl, shifting hundreds of thousands of displaced persons off their farms in the Midwest. From his inauguration onward, Roosevelt argued that restructuring of the economy would be needed to prevent another depression or avoid prolonging the current one.

    • Word count: 1357
  4. Explore the importance of Slim in Of Mice and Men

    The language that Steinbeck uses, 'majesty, royalty, master' indicates that Steinbeck wants the reader to admire this character and to think highly of him. This implies that the other ranch workers on the ranch look up to him giving him a sense of authority and respect. This admiration and almost perfect like nature of Slim makes the audience question whether he is a true reflection of ranch workers at the time and also what he is doing on a ranch, but this character of Slim symbolises that people with such nobility and humbleness can be found in all sections of

    • Word count: 882
  5. The character Crooks in the book, Of mice and men by John Steinbeck is differentiated from other characters working on the ranch.

    His father also owned a chicken ranch which gave him more experience with the work on ranches. "I was a little kid on my old man's chicken ranch." This shows that he had worked in a ranch before so he knows all the work that needs to be done. Even though he was black, he got the most important job in the ranch because of his education. Steinbeck also wanted people to realise that Crooks worked in the ranch because of his colour. He shows us that Crooks is capable of jobs that are higher in status than a stable buck.

    • Word count: 1469
  6. Explore the theme of the American dream in "of mice and men".

    Candy is an old character, 'the old man put the yellow can in his pocket...' and this is illustrated by Steinbeck as one of the flaws of the American Dream which stops them achieve the A.D. and because everyone shall someday become old Steinbeck is implying that sometimes the American Dream is never achievable. Candy owns a dog which he has known for most of his life, 'That's a hell of an old dog; Yeah I had 'im since he was a pup...'

    • Word count: 812
  7. There are a number of characters in Of Mice and Men who have dreams of a better life.

    Clearly, the material aspect of owning his own land means very little to Lennie. At the start of the novel we learn that Lennie likes to pet soft things, like mice and rabbits. It is this trait that eventually leads to Lennie's downfall when he tries to smooth Curley's wife's soft hair. However, for George the dream of the farm has other benefits. Firstly, George can see the practical, economic advantage of owning their own place. 'If I was bright, if I was even a little bit smart, I'd have my own little place, an' I'd be bringin' in my own crops, 'stead of doin' all the work and not getting what comes up outta the ground.'

    • Word count: 1011
  8. Discuss the importance of loneliness and isolation in Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men"

    This unwillingness to accept his height and resentment towards taller people prevents him from making friends, which fuels his loneliness. His wife's refusal to touch him is, to him, a betrayal, and only exacerbates his distrust towards others. Her insistence that her husband keep his hand gloved in Vaseline is her attempt at exerting control over him. She does this to highlight her own feelings of revulsion towards him. Curley's anger at his wife's rejection is deepened by her flirtatious attitude to the workers, ("Well.

    • Word count: 2514
  9. Of Mice and Men has been described as a novel about the harshness of the time. What justifications can you find for this?

    It shows no dignity towards the workers, and what's more they don't complain about its lack of appeal. This gives the impression that ranch workers live with no inspiration, seemingly being forced to live a life purely to survive it rather than enjoy it. The "door with a wooden latch" and general unloved atmosphere gives a prison-like sense to the bunkhouse, conveying a sense of loneliness and isolation. This lack of communication and friendship could be interpreted as an extremely harsh thing to deal with.

    • Word count: 844
  10. Of Mice and Men Section Two Essay. This chapter is about when George and Lennie are shown the bunk house

    Also in the description of the bunk house it says "... nailed an apple box ... for all the personal belongings..." this shows that there is not much comfort if there is only an apple box nailed to the wall. The bedding is only burlap sacking filled with straw which shows the discomfort for all the workers. The description of the paint work is showing there has been no work put in to making the bunk house look good. "The walls were white washed and the floor unpainted". Candy is seen as the friendliest character in the second chapter as he tries to make George calm down when he is trying

    • Word count: 1060
  11. In the book Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses hopes and dreams to thicken the plot and make the reader take a large interest into the characters lives.

    Even today, people still believe America to be the Land of Opportunity and thousands of people each year try to become an American citizen in the hope that their life would improve. However, it was, and still is not, the perfect life it lived up to be. In the book "Of Mice and Men", Steinbeck uses hopes and dreams to thicken the plot and make the reader take a large interest into the character's lives. Loneliness plays a large part in the book, which leads the people to develop dreams as a way to escape from their loneliness and depression, it also gives them hope for the future.

    • Word count: 1181
  12. How does Steinbeck present and develop Lennie in Of Mice and Men

    Through the use of the word 'snorting', we are made to believe that Lennie doesn't have many social graces, which would be representative of ranch workers of that time, but it could also reinforce the idea that Lennie is mentally impaired, since mentally impaired people may not have many social graces. As well as this, a horse is an animal which only attacks people when it is afraid also, this reiterates the idea of Lennie being a character that defends himself and only attacks others when he is scared.

    • Word count: 2074
  13. Of Mice and Men. This novel is all about The American Dream youve noticed that no one in the book is truly happy. Everyones missing something.

    George is a bright and healthy looking guy who isn't suffering from any diseases like Lennie is. George is like a guardian to Lennie by always look down to him making sure he is well and happy. George is small, wiry, quick-witted man, however a loving and caring person, he struggles at times as Lennie has ruined everything but he still stays with him. It's not normal for two people to work together travelling ranch to ranch as they do; this shows how strong their relationship really is.

    • Word count: 2435
  14. Slim looked through George and beyond him - analysisng selected quotations from "Of Mice and Men".

    Crooks said sharply, "You got no right to come in my room. This here's my room. Nobody got any right in here but me." (4.7-8) Crooks is so accustomed to his isolation that any attempt to break it is a threat. Interestingly, Crooks is described as "proud and aloof." Thinking about Crooks's isolation then, we might wonder whether it's a self-imposed state; rather than being kept away from the white folks, he chooses not to be near them. This is a cross-section between isolation and prejudice, and there comes a point where we aren't sure whether barriers are there to keep some people out, or to hold some people in.

    • Word count: 2326
  15. Of Mice and Men. One of the most important aspects that is attached with most of the characters of the novel is loneliness.

    Everyone on the ranch is lonely; this is because all the men in the bunkhouse are single. An example of this is when George says "They got no family". This means that they are like orphans because they do not have a family and no one to care for them. The men that live in the bunkhouse also have nothing to look forward to, except work for the rest of their lives. Even though George has Lennie with him, he is still feels lonely and an example of this is that in the story they show Lennie play the game solitaire, which is only played by one person and is not a team game which means that there is no social interaction.

    • Word count: 1250
  16. In Of Mice and Men write about two characters who are weak, and how they are presented.

    Possibly due to having little experience with other men, Curley's wife married very badly, and doesn't get on with Curley 'Sure I gotta husban...swell guy, ain't he? She says sarcastically, and added to Curley's paranoia that she will cheat on him (shown on page 62-Slim said 'well you been asking me too often. I'm getting God damn sick of it') and in addition, due to the fact that she is the only girl on the ranch she is isolated and very lonely.

    • Word count: 1166
  17. How does Of Mice and Men treat the theme of loneliness?

    Loneliness is a very contradictory topic throughout the whole story, as the story is about friendship between the main protagonists which is in conflict to all of the characters being extremely lonely. At first the characters aren't presented in a way to make them look lonely but after closer examination loneliness is an obvious element in the story. In the beginning both Lennie and George seem to be lucky to have each other yet they arent content with that and dream about settling down on their own farm, George wishing he had a wife and Lennie wanting pets that he could take care of.

    • Word count: 674
  18. Of Mice and Men. Explain how Steinbeck uses repetition in the novels opening to add tension to the end

    In addition, Lennie in the ending of the story is more alert to his surroundings than he was previously, as the writer describes how George attracts his attention in chapter one, "The small man...shook him...Lennie...then sat up." Weighted against how he reacts afterwards in the novel, "...a little bird skittered...behind him, his head jerked up...and drank again." With Lennie's anxiety and fear of what his "friends" will do to him or even worse, George may leave him alone, his reactions and senses become more sensitive, making us see Lennie as someone with lots of concerns and panic.

    • Word count: 884
  19. How does the novella Of Mice and Men explore the causes and consequences of violence?

    He has no family, as his aunt has died, and so he travels with George. He seeks company in small animals that he can pet, and dreams of having rabbits of his own to take care of: "I wish't we'd get the rabbits pretty soon, George. They ain't so little." (p. 11). George's loneliness is due to his loyalty to Lennie, his line of work, and independent nature. George often tells Lennie how his life would be different if he did not have him as burden: "I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn't have you on my tail. I could live so easy and maybe have a girl." (p. 8).

    • Word count: 788
  20. Of Mice And Men. Most characters in the novella have revealed their dreams to the reader, which is important as dreams increasingly turn into a theme for the story.

    Due to this, the infamous bank robbers, Bonnie and Clyde, and other bank robbers were famed by the public since banks and bankers were shunned from society. Some compare the current economic recession to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 because it was so shocking that it had happened and so many people's lives and ambitions were changed. Steinbeck was also inspired by Rabbie Burns, a poet that was famous for writing in Scottish Dialect. The title, Of Mice and Men, comes from Burns' poem, To A Mouse, where he says: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft aglee".

    • Word count: 2178
  21. Explore the Significance of Curley's Wife in 'Of Mice and Men'. How is Curley's Wife presented in 'Of Mice and Men'?

    Curley's Wife is excluded for being female, she is often found in search for companionship on the ranch as her newly found marriage does not give her the affection she desires, as she states to Lennie "I don't like Curley he aint a nice fella." Because of this she often tries to interact with the other men although she is never allowed as they think a "ranch aint no place for a girl." Carlson also states of how a "women should be at home where she belongs."

    • Word count: 632
  22. Look closely at how Lennie and George speak and behave here. What does it reveal about their relationship?

    George at the end of the extract however, shows his authority and is very firm when there has been enough, Steinbeck makes it obvious that the two have known each other for a long time as Lennie speaks 'craftily' and 'pleaded' in order to get his own way from George. Lennie has learnt during their time together how to make George give in. This is like a father son relationship because the child often knows how to treat their parents in order to get their own way, whether with a flutter of the eyelashes or a really nice hug, children know how to get their own way, and this is the case with Lennie.

    • Word count: 1549
  23. Lennie is the most tragic character in " Of Mice and Men" To what extent do you agree with this statement?

    We see through Crooks, and how he is ostracised from the rest of the workers, an example of the racial discrimination of the times. Crooks can be regarded as tragic based on modern interpretations of tragedy due to the segregation. Based on Greek and Shakespearean interpretations of tragedy, Lennie and Curley's wife can be considered as tragic, as throughout the novella they produce feelings of pity, fear and excitement in the audience, and both have their tragic flaws, this being an important Aristotle feature, which lead to their downfalls.

    • Word count: 3138
  24. Of Mice And Men

    George fearing the Boss will talk to Lennie and Lennie will say the wrong thing insists that George himself will do all the talking. George lies to the boss saying that he and Lennie are cousins travelling together. He says Lennie was kicked in the head by a horse ever since he was child. With luck, they get hired. During the first couple o f days of work, they meet many people with different personalities and attitudes: The Boss: The Boss is a well dressed, stout man.

    • Word count: 1782
  25. Of Mice and Men English language

    People nicknamed these shanty towns as Hoovervilles, because it was nicknamed after the American president at that time, Herbert Hoover. So how would this recession affect people? Some people couldn't cope with it so they committed suicide. Marriages broke down due to the financial pressure. People became itinery/migrant workers. This means travelling round the country looking for work, if they did find work, it would be short term, unskilled, insecure and labouring. Most jobs were in California (farming area), 1000s of families lost their homes due to failing to pay mortgages, so people had to live in shanty towns.

    • Word count: 6838

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