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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 Role Dreams Play in Lives of Of Mice and Men Characters

    George does not know if it will happen soon or if it will even happen at all. George and Lennie's dream is motivated by the fact that they have no stability in their lives. Because they are hoboes, they have a very unsettled lifestyle and do not know how long they will have a job. After they are laid off, it may take them awhile for them to find another job. The farm represents the possibility of freedom, self-reliance, and protection from the cruelties of the world. Other characters living on the ranch also have dreams. Candy, an old swamper, is afraid of being alone and dreams of living out the rest of his with other people.

    • Word count: 960
  2. Explore John Steinbeck's presentation in Of Mice and Men of the culture and experience of the itinerant workers in 1930's America.

    George and Lennie are the two main characters in 'Of Mice and men'. Steinbeck's detailed description of them allows the reader to easily relate to the characters' strong personalities and sympathises with their situation. George and Lennie get on very well; they look out for each other. One of the main things that hold them together is their dream; they are not like other ranch workers because they all travel alone, they are the 'loneliest guys in the world.' They travel together, they have 'got a future...somebody to talk to that gives a damn' about them.

    • Word count: 6139
  3. Of mice and men

    He contrasts this with the companionship of George and Lennie. They are the only men who actually travel together,and look out for each other, and this is proved by the way everyone is suspicious of their friendship. The three characters I have chosen to describe the theme of loneliness are very jealous of the two men's friendship. They are: Crooks, Candy and Curley's wife. Crooks is a black man that is isolated because of the racist society of the early Twentieth Century. The loneliness that Crooks feels is created by the discrimination of the white ranchers towards him.

    • Word count: 1463
  4. of mice and men typicallity comparison

    to portray prison bars, suggesting this time that it is impossible for her to escape her fate, that just like so many other times in this novel, death is inevitable. The way that Curley's wife has been portrayed throughout this novel, as a flirt and trouble maker, is explored here in a very interesting way, with Steinbeck taking advantage of what had taken place to her to offer an element of alternate interpretation on her character; allowing her, through death, to tell her own story; a very different one to the one woven by the ranch hands.

    • Word count: 1285
  5. Mice of Men

    He came in while I was rubbing ointment on my back. At first I felt angry and that my rights were being invaded. I told him that he wasn't allowed in but me being a black man and him being white it was like he had power over me so I let him in. A big guy like him and a crooked man like me I could have never stopped him. The only people that have entered my room are the boss and slim and when they have entered I have been powerless to stop them.

    • Word count: 1659
  6. Alex Essay ,Dreams, Mice and Men

    'An' live off the fatta the lan' "We'll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit-hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the Winter we'll just say the hell with goin' to work, and we'll build up the fire in the stove and set around it an' listen to the rain comin' down on the roof." This quote illustrates the dream they have about owning their own land and living independently on it. When Candy hears about this dream, he wants to become part of it by a submission of his saved money to fund the purchase of the piece of land and being able to work adnd live on the land with George and Lennie.

    • Word count: 1532
  7. What does Steinbeck's portrayal of the theme of dreams in Of Mice and Men reveal about the context in which he wrote the novel?

    Many migrant workers were forced to move from farm to farm in order to get work. Therefore the workers did not have the opportunity to make relationships or friendships and life was often lonely. In order for the men to have some optimism and hope they dreamed. The dreams were often of an enhanced life. The typical American dream for migrant workers is mainly shown in 'Of Mice and Men' by George and Lennie. From the 17th Century, when the first settlers arrived, immigrants dreamed of a better life in America. People went there to escape from poverty and discrimination, and to make a better life for themselves.

    • Word count: 1600
  8. Mice and Men

    The historical context of the novel is that its all about the depression years in the 1930's. It was illegal to be unemployed. People living in the 30's didn't have a choice but to go to work. The main characters in this story are George and Lennie. They travel around together, share their minds together, and what ever trouble Lennie gets into, George had to get him out of it. George didn't like Lennie that much because of all the trouble that he gets into. He didn't want to stay with Lennie, but his mother told George to look after him. Lennie was always trying to find a good opportunity to go off alone in the hills.

    • Word count: 1831
  9. Of mice and men coursework

    He uses almost two pages of the book in order to do this, describing the atmosphere about the place: " The water is warm to, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight," This creates a very sleepy and relaxing picture for the reader. The fact that the "water is warm" and it "slipped twinkling" are important in this sentence. They are peaceful words and help create the most beautiful picture that can be created in the readers mind.

    • Word count: 2130
  10. of mice and men-Write an original writing piece of what u think happened in Weed causing George and Lennie to leave the town

    George stuck by Lennie throughout his life as he was the only form of family he had. Lennie's lacks of knowledge lead to him being George's responsibility and so George stuck by him throughout everything. However both men left the cabin and set of for the fields. The sun was blazing down, droplets of sweat poured down their faces as they arrived to the fields. Both men had arrived late for the third time this week; they got straight to work as the boss walked by inspecting how everyone was getting on'You late again georgy boy, carry on this way

    • Word count: 1344
  11. Of Mice and Men

    This myth involved either going to America, or living there already and somehow is able to strike it rich by doing something. For others the American dream is an opportunity for lots of different things that they may want, for instance freedom. This is something that Crooks and Curley's wife dream of. Starting with Lennie and George you can obviously see how their dreams are constantly being shattered. You can see this because throughout their lives they have wanted to get enough money to live by themselves in the nice house but something always jeopardizes it.

    • Word count: 961
  12. Written Commentary - The Pearl

    The author uses visual, aural and kinetic imagery when he writes that 'rage swelled in him (Kino), and the pounding music of the enemy beat in his ears, and his lips drew tight against his teeth', illustrating Kino's hatred and fear of the doctor and drawing emphasis to it as a focal point of the passage. The sentence 'The procession crowded close the better to see and hear' shows us that the due to the constant and strong discrimination of the Kino's race, Kino's (or one of his race)

    • Word count: 1294
  13. Free essay

    of mice and men

    The second scene in the book is when they arrive at the ranch and go into the bunk house "against the walls, were eight beds, five of them made up with blankets and the other three showing their burlap ticking". There is also a lot descriptive detail of the characters. Curley's wife in particular has an in depth character description which I believe will make up for her having no name. There are no chapter numbers in the novel but the novel is structured like acts in a play with each act having scenes of rising and falling tension at the beginning and end to entice the reader to read on.

    • Word count: 1869
  14. Lennie is just a big child. how far do you agree?

    Lennie's deficiencies enable him to be accepted by other defective characters like Candy, Crooks and Curley's wife. He poses no threat, and seems to listen patiently (because he has learned the need to pay close attention, as he remembers so little of what he hears). As a child is comforted by a bedtime story, George has come to comfort Lennie with a tale of a golden future. To the reader, especially today, this imagined future is very modest, yet to these men it is a dream almost impossible of fulfilment.

    • Word count: 754
  15. Curley's wife impression

    They all think the same thing, which is that she is a horny wife who is never satisfied with she has got. We can see this from the way in which the cleaner talks, it seems as if he is not the only one who has noticed. The cleaner will also say that he saw her giving a certain eye to Slim the jerk-line skinner as well as Carlson. Always by following what he said in page 50 it would look like the husband knows nothing about the whole story as the enormous amount of work that he has is almost completely making her wife blind at his eyes and she is contentedly profiting of the circumstances.

    • Word count: 727
  16. Of Mice and Men

    The workforce was largely male and stayed this way until after the war had ended. The "Great Depression" is what caused many people to want to begin to search for the "American Dream", thus causing many to migrate to California - the promised land of wealth. Steinbeck presented this in "Of Mice and Men" with two migrant workers - Lennie Small and George Milton. Lennie and George were two workers who travelled together working on farms and ranches. They both shared the same "American Dream"; there dream was to "get that little place an' live on the fatta the lan'", to have an easy life where they have their own farm and work only for themselves, where they would not be forced to move on or be exploited by bosses.

    • Word count: 1533
  17. does george want to leave lennie?

    You ain't got sense enough to find nothing to eat'. George first concern had been the one of how would have Lennie carried on if he were to leave him to go off to the hills. He knows quite well that Lennie would probably die of starvation and then the senses of remorse would just kill him, after all Lennie is his beloved brother and he cannot just send him to die. In my opinion George was not frank when he said that he would be better off without Lennie. In fact we can undoubtedly see this in page 31.

    • Word count: 996
  18. Of Mice And Men

    Back then, it was illegal to be unemployed. People living in the 30's didn't have a choice but to try to go to work. Even if they had no family, they still had to go to work. The characters George and Lennie are farm workers who both have a dream of owning their own ranch. They both find work in a ranch near Soledad. They had a talk with the boss explaining what strength Lennie has to work in the ranch. George is like a parent to Lennie.

    • Word count: 2275
  19. By referring to their words and actions in Section One of John's Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, describe George and Lennie's characters and the nature of their friendship.

    Through out most of the book Lennie is compared to an animal. Mostly due to his appearance but also due to his actions: "drank with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse". Nevertheless, as the book progresses we see that we can't truly say that Lennie is an animal. We learn that he is mentally slow and so acts very childlike at times. Acting mostly on instinct and impulse instead of reason. Due to his innocence and na�ve quality he cannot really be trusted with important things as he tends to forget and gets distracted easily.

    • Word count: 784
  20. Saving Private Ryan

    The leading actors of the film are:- * Tom Hanks (Captain Miller) * Tom Sizemore (Sergeant Horvath) * Edward Burns (Private Reiben) * Barry Pepper (Private Jackson) * Jeremy Davies (Private Upham) * Matt Damon (Private Ryan) The film is about a mother who has four children and three of them die. A troop of soldiers have to go and collect the 4th brother (James Francis Ryan) and bring him home so his mother doesn't have to receive another letter to inform her that yet another one of her sons have died.

    • Word count: 2450
  21. How Does Steinbeck Portray The Harsh Lives Of The Workers Of the Great Depresion

    Many workers spent their money fast during the weekends by drinking, gambling or in the "Cat House". In the novel men view the women as a thing you buy like drink so women didn't have proper rights. Similarly Crooks the black cripple, has little or no rights. In Steinbeck's book Curley's wife is not given a real name she is simply referred to as "slut," "whore," or simply "Curley's wife." This can implies that she is a position of her husband it implies a harsh and limited existence and how badly the poor women of 1930's America were treated in society.

    • Word count: 903
  22. Of Mice and Men Essay on Crooks

    The story now moves on to when Lennie comes through the door 'Noiselessly Lennie appeared in the open doorway and stood there looking in, his big shoulders nearly filling the opening' as we know Crooks likes his privacy and doesn't like being disturbed this is supported by 'you got no right to come in my room this here's my room'.' Nobody got any right in here but me'. He also feels he is not wanted by the other members on the ranch.

    • Word count: 1440
  23. The Relationship of Employers and Workers in the Grapes of Wrath

    When the family arrives, however, it is evident that the handbills that offer jobs were misleading. This is evident to the reader as a California resident tells Pa and Tom, "It don't make no sense. This fella wants eight hundred men. So he prints up five thousand of them things an' maybe twenty thousan' people sees 'em. An' maybe two-three thousan' folks get movin' account a this here han'bill. Folks that's crazy with worry" (244). When the workers come by the hundreds of thousands for these jobs for a few, the owners of the plantations play god with these family's lives.

    • Word count: 1284
  24. Mice and Men

    I want Lennie's dream to come true because he died imagining the dream. It was a Sunday afternoon. We were just having a game of horseshoes. Lennie hadn't been with me since we startedplaying horseshoes. He was in the barn with that stupid pup, I think, I did leave him in the bunkhouse, but he ended up there. Anyway, we were all playing and I had no thought about Lennie or what he was doing. In the middle of the game, suddenly Candy was calling me over to the barn. For a second, I felt she was just resting.

    • Word count: 1705
  25. Why do you think that Slim is held in such high esteem by the other characters?

    This exemplifies the respect he receives on the ranch. Steinbeck also uses the word 'godlike' to describe Slim, and grabs the attention of the reader. Steinbeck says, 'His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.' His qualities were greatly regarded and he has the position of 'jerkline skinner,' which means he controls a team of horses. This is a very skilful job. This is another reason for why he is respected by the ranchers.

    • Word count: 995

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