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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. Peer reviewed

    Communication in Of Mice And Men

    3 star(s)

    George tells Lennie off lots of times and tells him that he would be living a better life without him, but in fact he actually likes Lennie a lot but doesn't tell him. To keep Lennie happy he tells stories about rabbits, which shows that he actually loves Lennie, so matter how much he scolds him. Curley's wife doesn't tell the other men in the ranch that she is lonely, but flirts with them.

    • Word count: 490
  2. Peer reviewed

    Consider the theme of loneliness in the novel, Of Mice and Men. How dose it affect the friendships and relationships in the novel?

    3 star(s)

    George and Lennie are total opposites. George is decribed as "small and quick, dark of face with restless eyes and sharp, strong fetures." Lennie on the other hand is " a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes with wide, sloping sholders". Stienbeck decribes Georges personality as careful and protective while Lennie seems to be rather stupid with a child's mind. He's very forgetful and likes to pet nice things with his finger's "sof' things". George likes to be in charge of himself, and this is why he appreciates the time out under the stars where he can relax with his friend Lennie.

    • Word count: 1493
  3. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice and Men - character study of Curly's wife.

    3 star(s)

    We first meet Curley's wife in chapter two. She is described as heavily made up and wears tarty red shoes. She poses her figure outlined in the doorway of the bunkhouse and is always aware that men are looking at her. This makes me think that she is just looking for attention from the men. George shows the reader that he does not like Curleys wife because George tells Lennie that she is jailbait and for Lennie to stay away from her. Lennie see's her as an attractive young lady but she is really just a threat to the men on the ranch.

    • Word count: 640
  4. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice And Men Character Study – George

    3 star(s)

    This is shown clearly when he is in Crook's room and he says, "but it ain't no lie. Ever' word's the truth, an' you can ast George." It is also clear at the end when Lennie has run into the bush and all that he is worried about is what George will think. As the story goes on we find that Candy also starts to rely on George. When he finds that Curley's wife has been killed he goes straight to George for assistance and when he starts to realise that the dream might not come true he says, "You an' me can get that little place, can't we, George?

    • Word count: 974

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