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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. Crooks essay

    The story shows the harsh and cruel circumstances of the many that were so poor but balances the desperation with the hope and desire for triumph. Discrimination can take many forms, from racial to physical to gender, Crooks is set apart because he is the only black man on the ranch moreover, he has a physical disability. In this novel Crooks possesses the majority of loneliness and injustice. Steinbeck's perception of Crooks in the novel is very accurate during this period, he uses Crook's to symbolise the marginalisation of the black community occurring at the time in which the novel is set additionally Crooks brings into perspective the loneliness experienced by all the characters.

    • Word count: 2821
  2. Crooks monologue . Ever since I came to this ranch to work here, on this rigid structured horse shoe shaped land I always dreamed, hoped and desired for one thing and one thing only!

    I've always wanted to be equal to the others in the ranch. But I would never mix because of my colour it is almost like mixing the wrongs colours to the others in the ranch when painting a picture for your wall.Not letting me play activities with them, feeling lonely at all times can you imagine how annoying and pain staking that would be. Only activity they would let me play is the horse shoe game, bet you would get bored playing it for five minutes.

    • Word count: 767
  3. Of Mice and Men. The section between George followed to the door and shut the door until George shuffled the cards noisily and dealt them is a particularly tensed scene because the reader and the characters are waiting for a specific event

    "Candy looked a long time at Slim to try to find some reversal. And Slim gave him none." We can see that even Slim, who isn't selfish, doesn't try to stop Carlson. The scene starts with George closing the door and setting "the latch gently in its place". The word "gently" suggests that he doesn't want to draw any attention on him, so he tries not to make any noise. The fact that he shuts the door suggests that he doesn't want Candy to hear the shot.

    • Word count: 1129
  4. Of Mice and Men. The scene between The door opened (p. 62) and I didnt wanta hurt him (p. 64) is an unexpected scene, because it starts suddenly and it has nothing to do with the previous scene. Before this scene, we have viewed various det

    The scene starts with a short sentence: "The door opened" and this creates curiosity. We can see Slim "scowling" which creates the mood and the reader can see that something's wrong. A conversation starts, and Curley seems to be apologizing to Slim, "Well, I didn't mean nothing, Slim. I just ast you." This suggests that he is afraid, because it's not in his character to apologize to someone. Slim is angry, which surprises the reader. He says "I'm gettin' God damn sick of it".

    • Word count: 1092
  5. Of Mice And Men

    Lennie is in trouble again and more seriously than ever before - he has killed Curley's wife. The dream he and George shared is already dead. There is a disturbance to the scene, 'a far rush of wind' and a scattering of leaves, the only sounds breaking the silence. The river's surface is briefly disturbed, but 'as quickly as it had come, the wind died and the clearing was quiet again.' By this Steinbeck reminds us of the smallness and insignificance of the events of the novel.

    • Word count: 721
  6. Of Mice and Men. In this essay I am going to clarify how Steinbeck presents the theme of discrimination in chapter 3.

    Crooks, is terribly discriminated against because of his natural skin colour, which he has no choice to change it. "S'pose you couldn't go into the bunk house and play rummy 'cause you was black" this illustrates that the migrants on the ranch discriminate against him by having him left out of the gang. Furthermore he lives in a little shack on his own. They don't treat him equally; in fact it almost feels like as if they don't see him as human being.

    • Word count: 1090
  7. What does Steinbecks Of Mice and Men tell us about life in the 1930s

    The fact that anyone would keep a mouse stone dead in their pocket is chilling enough as it is. What also brings even more unease is that Lennie had not even intended to kill the small mouse, thus showing what would be possible in the future, but with much greater consequences. 'Lennie sat in the hay and looked at a little dead puppy that lay in front of him.' In the middle of the book, Lennie had just been petting a puppy he had acquired from Slim, but out of over enthused efforts he accidentally killed it.

    • Word count: 1441
  8. Of Mice And Men

    * Lennie makes George feel important as George is responsible for Lennie's safety. * George likes Lennie as he keeps him company, and enjoys having the responsibility and control of him. Explain the idea of "The Dream Farm" and what it means to them both * George longs for such a farm, so he can choose when he wants to work and how long for, and he can tell people to get off his land when he wants them to. Also if a friend comes they can stay in the extra bunk. This is "The American Dream" * Lennie will have the rabbits to pet and to keep him happy in the farm.

    • Word count: 1461
  9. Of Mice and Men

    Her husband curly is full of himself, and is always looking for a fight. So in order to speak to Curley's wife, is just asking for trouble. This doesn't help her, because at first people just think she's a slapper whose trying to get the guys at the ranch in trouble. but she really cant help feeling lonely and wanting a conversation with a human being now and then. Feisty Curly is very strict over her and almost has her imprisoned.

    • Word count: 1204
  10. What does section one tell us about the characters of George and Lennie and their relationship

    exactly," Lennie sees George as a role model and mentor for life and is careful to please him, constantly apologising for his behaviour when he sees George is upset. Although George regularly says "if I was alone I could live so easy," he does not really mean it as his feelings towards Lennie are too strong. George enjoys the companionship and sense of responsibility, he also feels superior, "you do bad things and I got to get you out". George sees the rewards of Lennie's companionship are greater than the normal rancher life, "Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world".

    • Word count: 925
  11. Of Mice and Men. Plot and character outlines. The theme of dreams.

    They are fleeing from their previous employment in Weed where they were run out of town after Lennie's love of stroking soft things resulted in an accusation of attempted rape when he touched a young woman's dress. At the ranch the boss has reservations about George as he believes that he is trying to manipulate Lennie he asks what stake he has in Lennie. George and Lennie's dream moves closer to reality when the aged, one handed ranch-hand offers to pitch in with George and Lennie so they can buy a farm at the end of the month.

    • Word count: 1985
  12. Of Mice and Men Qu.

    They are both old, physically impaired and get described generally as a liability. Steinbeck chooses to describe the dog as "ancient" which produces strong imagery of a dog being similar to an old antique. Although it may possess positive connotations, it is obvious due to Carlson's reaction that the dog is old, dirty and has no purpose anymore. Soon after as Carlson enforces the idea, Candy desperately tries to dismiss it. It states how he looked "helplessly" which shows how reluctant he is but knows there is no other possible outcome.

    • Word count: 2000
  13. Of Mice and Men Qu.

    Lennie was unable to understand the situation when Curley made a misunderstanding about Slim and his wife and Lennie continued "smiling with delight" on a completely different topic. This produces a juxtaposition image in the reader's mind where at one side: Curley is steaming hot with anger as he "whirled" upon Carlson (the word "whirled" also suggests how he only gave Slim respect opposed to Carlson who he flipped into his old aggressive self again) and on the other, Lennie is grinning to himself like an idiot.

    • Word count: 1437
  14. Of Mice and Men. This essay is going to focus on the importance of loneliness in this novel of John Steinbeck and show how it affected some characters.

    This entire situation made a great depression to be installed on the American society. To relieve this low emotional status a dream was shared within most of the American society, particularly migrant farmers. They had the dream to become independent of others, to have their own way of substance. Of Mice and Man is a reflection of many of the effects of the Great Depression faced in America. It shows how the black community, women, and old people were discriminated, how frustrated men could be because of the direction their lives were taken, and how loneliness affected all of them.

    • Word count: 1313
  15. What is the significance of loneliness in this novel?

    Each of these characters represents a different level of hierarchy that is created by the microcosm of society on the ranch. The reduction of human beings into mere 'tools' like this extends to Curley's wife as well, who is known and treated only as an object, even by her husband. Life in a male-dominated world has left Curley's wife alone and desperate for recognition and appreciation, which she would otherwise get from a companion like a friend or her husband as she says "I never get to talk to nobody.

    • Word count: 1575
  16. How far do you agree that the death of Lennie is inevitable?

    This quote suggests that Lennie holds a childish behaviour, which also contributes towards his immaturity. This also leads him to be substantially dependent on George. In fact George particularly appears to be an essential requirement for Lennie as a caretaker who can look after him and keep him out of trouble. This is evident in the text as George says, "You ain't gonna get in no trouble now, Lennie. But if you do, hide in the brush till I come for you." This quote highlights George's responsibility towards Lennie as his best friend and his attitude of caring and preventing him from trouble.

    • Word count: 1445
  17. Of Mice and Men: Question and answers

    He likes to keep mice which he loves to pet with his thumb. 3. He tends to mishandle them and often kills them carelessly. 4. His best friend, George is always troubled by his actions 5. They even lost their job due to Lennie's obsession to feel a dress of a girl. 6. The play relates the relationship of the two characters and how one friend deals with the possessiveness of the other character. Q. What is the dream and why is it important in the play?

    • Word count: 1041
  18. Write an analysis of the opening chapter of Of Mice and Men. How effective is it at introducing the characters, themes and events of the novel?

    Lennie's movements are compared to as being very animal like, "he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely". This could again, tell us how big and strong he is, by comparing him to a bear. At the water's edge, Lennie gets down and starts drinking from the surface of the pool drinking "with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse". This simile is another comparison of him to an animal as are his actions and his physical size and strength.

    • Word count: 1348
  19. Discuss the role of dreams in Of Mice and Men and their impact upon some of the novels main characters.

    They want to become the boss of their own ranch also their own boss and have a dream house. In the novel, George and Lennie's dream was the closest to 'The American Dream' than anyone else in Of Mice and Men. It was very important to both of them. Lennie normally remembers nothing through his life except for this, this meant that it was very important to him-his and Lennie's 'American Dream'. "Lennie broke in. 'But not us! An' why?

    • Word count: 1300
  20. The two characters that are important in the novel "of Mice of Men" are Curleys wife and Crooks.

    Crooks is the only black man in the novel and it is through attitudes towards his character that we gain insights into the positions of blacks in America at the time. Crooks do not live with the other hands in the bunkhouse; instead, he is isolated in his own room in the barn. He is openly referred to as 'nigger' which exemplifies the casual racism directed towards him by the others they do not set out to insult him deliberately, but the use of the term 'nigger' signals to us that black men like crooks were constantly degraded both verbally and physically by whites.

    • Word count: 818
  21. What does Of Mice and Men show us about the loneliness of migrant workers at the time of depression in America?

    the nick-name the swamper.In chapter three Candy's loneliness is expressed as Carlson shoots his dog and described it as 'old' and 'crippled' as he is fed up with the smell of it despite Candy's objections as he has had his dog since it was a puppy he is vulnerable to Carlson as no-one supports him. After the killing of Candy's dog he decides to help George and Lenny in for filling their dream by giving his savings to them to boost their fianc�s for the land they want to get.

    • Word count: 622
  22. Of Mice And Men

    The novel is told from the point of view of a third-person, who can access the point of view of any character as required by the narrative. Chapter one begins by unfolding the setting near Salinas River, the place in which the novella takes place. As a reader, you are introduced to the beautiful atmosphere that is exemplified by the writer. Mr. Steinbeck immediately describes the scenery and the animals in their natural surroundings. He uses illustrious description for the audience to imagine that they are present in this peaceful area.

    • Word count: 1062
  23. Of Mice and Men

    he says "stop" the first time its like running into a brick wall as if its just like boom dead end no way out to late and no more American dreamland then followed by the second as if that was the rest of the wall boxing him in as to seal his fate as lennie says "i didn't want to hurt you but george'll be mad if you go yelling " and then as it dawns on him of what his actions done "I done a bad thing I done another bad thing " this leaving the reader feeling sorry

    • Word count: 793
  24. The novella Of Mice and Men fits in with the America dream because George and Lennie dreamt of their 'little house and a couple of acres'.

    The novella Of Mice and Men fits in with the America dream because George and Lennie dreamt of their 'little house and a couple of acres'. The growing popularity of cinema was the last American Dream for many, Curley's wife was one: 'Coulda been in the movies, an' had nice clothes. The American dream is still around today, everyone wants to work for themselves and own their own business and make money. Dreams are one of the ways in which the characters combat the loneliness and hopelessness of their existence.

    • Word count: 762

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