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AS and A Level: John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck's biography

  1. 1 John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902. His family owned land in the area so he spent a lot of time outdoors and had a strong appreciation for the natural world.
  2. 2 Most of his early work is set in Southern California and describes the life of people working on the land. Many of his novels, including Of Mice and Men, are set in this area and portray the lives of working men and women. The natural world he describes is beautiful, but it is also wild and can be cruel and savage.
  3. 3 In his early novels Steinbeck portrays a world of men, and violence is a common occurrence. His female characters have little status, reflecting the role of women at the time.
  4. 4 During the war years Steinbeck worked for the American government and in 1943 he went to Europe as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. He lived the latter part of his life in New York where he died in 1968.
  5. 5 The title of Of Mice and Men is taken from Robert Burns’ famous poem To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough (1785). The last line of the poem refers to things often going wrong and Steinbeck links this to the poor men whose plans were often wrecked by an unkind fate.

Five facts about 'Of Mice and Men'

  1. 1 It was first published in America in 1937. In the same year it was adapted as a stage play and later as a film. The novel is short and has only a few characters. There are no chapters but the action is broken up into six distinct parts which made it easy to adapt for the stage.
  2. 2 The novel is set in the 1930s which was a period of economic depression. During this time of failed businesses, harsh poverty and long-term unemployment, hoards of migrant workers went to California in search of work. Men travelled alone, moving from ranch to ranch on short-term, poorly paid contracts.
  3. 3 By setting the novel on the ranch, Steinbeck shows the reader a microcosm of 1930s American society and portrays the life of the migrant workers in California at the time of the depression. Workers, like George and Lennie, were hoping to earn enough money to settle down on their own piece of land.
  4. 4 Steinbeck has a distinctive style and structure; the novel starts and finishes with the same description and setting, and each section opens with a specific description of a scene which establishes the setting of place and mood.
  5. 5 As each character enters we get a brief physical description of him/her. Aspects of the characters are conveyed through their actions, their dialogue and how they respond to each other.

Writing about 'Of Mice and Men'

  1. 1 When studying the novel it is important to know the social, cultural and historical background of the text. Having this knowledge will help you better understand why Steinbeck has included his characters and how they relate to the themes.
  2. 2 Characters in the text are revealed through a variety of stylistic features: description, narrative style and how they communicate with each other. All of these features are so that the reader can empathise with the characters.
  3. 3 There are several themes running throughout the novel: loneliness, friendship, isolation, prejudice, and dreams; and you must understand how the themes are woven through the text and how they link directly to the characters and the society portrayed in the novel. For example, Curley’s wife links to the theme of loneliness because she is the only woman on the ranch and has no-one with whom to talk.
  4. 4 You must be able to analyse how Steinbeck has used language to create effects – some of his description and storytelling reads almost like stage directions through which he creates a strong sense of atmosphere and mood. This analysis of language is needed to achieve a high grade.
  5. 5 You must develop your own critical sense and personal response to the novel, showing that you have thought about it, and that you have ideas and reactions of your own, not just those of your teacher. You must never write to a formula or try to recreate an essay you have previously done; you must approach every essay with a fresh, open mind.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 1
  • Peer Reviewed essays 5
  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Peer reviewed

    Curley's Wife

    4 star(s)

    She walks round the ranch dressed inappropriately and seductively. She admits to Lennie that she doesn't like her husband and regrets marrying him. She seems to be of limited intelligence, as she was taken in by other men's promises of film parts. She is frequently associated with the colour red, a colour symbolizing an impure woman, as well as one calculated to enrage a "bull" such as Lennie. It is partly her desire to be petted and admired and allow Lennie to stroke her hair, which in turn leads to her death at Lennie's hands.

    • Word count: 756
  2. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice and Men essay on Crooks character.

    3 star(s)

    Among his possessions, in his room he has some books, including "a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905" This tells him his rights as a black man, so he obviously does not want to get on the wrong side of the law, so he keeps to his limits. Him having books suggests to us that he may have been well educated as a child. When he was young boy he lived on a smallholding with his father, so he was probably treated with a bit of respect, however, now he is just a

    • Word count: 801
  3. Peer reviewed

    How does John Steinback convey the tension of the situation in the card-playing passage in chapter 3?

    3 star(s)

    about Lennie's dog, though it didn't seem to lift the mood any or make the time pass quicker. "I bet Lennie's out there with his pup..............The silence fell on the room again" The time is shown to be going slowly by commenting on every minute that passes. "A minute passed and another minute." This shows how stuck for words everyone is and that no one quite knows what to do or how to act. Throughout the passage, the writer continuously refers to the silence in the room.

    • Word count: 688
  4. Peer reviewed

    'Of Mice and Men' - The killing of candy's old dog foreshadowed Lennie's death. Describe the two killings, pointing out any similarities and differences between the two.

    3 star(s)

    Carlson proceeds to describe to candy how he will kill the dog, "shoot him right in the back of the head" this shows the brutality in how he wants to kill the dog, Carlson does not realise how much what he is saying was hurting candy. Carlson can not understand the love the candy has for his dog. Candy does not put up much of a fight and the dog is lead away by Carlson. Tension is created in the bunk house before the dog is shot.

    • Word count: 684
  5. Piece inspired by 'Of Mice and Men'.

    He laughed so loud that in the end he did stand out. Curly stormed over to him, he had a menacing look on his face. Lennie stopped laughing immediately and began to hide his face. "What the hell you laughing at?" Curly asks as he looks down on Lennie. "Nu..Nu..Nothing" Stuttered Lennie. Everyone fell silent as Curly started to crack his knuckles in a fighting fashion.

    • Word count: 480
  6. Chapter 7 As the dull evening sun started to fade the two men, Slim and George, started their way back along the dusty track, followed shortly by the slow footsteps of Curley and Carlson

    He hated violence. He only did that thing to Curley 'cause I told him to, he didn't want to. He didn't deserve it." "It's o.k. now, its over." answered Slim. As they approached the bunk house, Candy came to meet them. Candy said, "What happened? They didn't get him first, did they?" "No, I found him first. He died painlessly," replied George. "Must've been difficult," reasoned Candy. "T'was," said George. "I nearly couldn't, but I had to, for him. Sorry - I don't want to talk anymore." "Yeah, o.k." said Candy. "Night," said George.

    • Word count: 562
  7. Wealth Changes People

    As the novel progressed the events only became more serious. He did not only hurt the people around him that love him, but himself. "In Kino's ears the Song of the Family was as fierce as a cry. He was immune and terrible and his song had become a battle cry." Kino turned down pearl buyers, hit his wife, murdered a man, ran away from home and shot his baby. Kino became avaricious. When the pearl buyers had not offered Kino the amount of money he expected, "Kino's face grew dark and dangerous." Maybe he thought they were trying to cheat him. Perhaps, Kino was just being a 'pigheaded fool.'

    • Word count: 657
  8. Of Mice and Men Alternative ending

    Curley froze in horror when he saw her chilled body showing no signs of movement. He rushed over to her still form, pushed George aside, and checked for any signs of life. When he realized that there was no life left in her, he bowed his head and began to cry. "Who did this" said Curley in a calm voice. "I'm not sure, I came in and..." George was interrupted by Curley. "It was your friend...Lennie?

    • Word count: 490
  9. Of Mice and Men Chapter 7 - original writting.

    Slim and George both took off their jackets and placed them on the wall. George sat down at a table whilst Slim went behind the bar to make them both a drink. He settled down gradually next to George and calmly passed him his drink. "Thanks..." George murmured. Slim went to speak, "So, are..." All of a sudden, before Slim could finish his sentence, there were loud crashing noises outside. They both sharply got up and as they moved closer, the sound of gun shots could be heard. Both George and Slim, quickly moved to the door but Slim ushered George inside whilst he checked out what was happening outside...

    • Word count: 899
  10. A Book Of Grotesques: The Figures Of Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson - review.

    Though many of the book's sketches are placed outdoors, its atmosphere is as stifling as a tomb. And the reiteration of the term "grotesque" is appropriate in a way Anderson could hardly have been aware of; for it was first used by Renaissance artists to describe arabesques painted in the underground ruins, grotte, of Nero's "Golden House." The conception of the grotesque, as actually developed in the stories, is not merely that it is an unwilled affliction but also that it is a mark of a once sentient striving.

    • Word count: 886
  11. Loneliness in "Of Mice and Men."

    "Ain't nobody goin to suppose no hurt to George." We see the extremes George goes to in order to protect Lennie from danger and ensure he stays with him rather than leaving him to fend for himself. Curley is another character who desperately fears loneliness, he doesn't want to risk loosing his wife and therefore forces her to remain in the house and not talk to others. However, it appears he cares more for his reputation and status than his wife, he considers himself above the workers and if his wife begins to talk with them, she is "lowering to their level."

    • Word count: 842
  12. How does Steinbeck create a sense of insecurity in the novel?

    He also seems insecure because George is looking after him the whole way through this novel, like a parent. He can't survive on his own, he needs George, although he is never lonely, he is insecure. Curley's wife is a very insecure character as she is lonely and does not know where she is going, or where her life is leading her. She gets very angry sometimes and lashes out at people, "Standin' here talkin' to a bunch of bindle stiffs - a nigga an' a dum-dum and a lousy ol' sheep-..." This lashing out makes her insecure. Also when she talks to Lennie in the barn, "I get awful lonely."

    • Word count: 951
  13. The Pearl - a brief review.

    Her personality is very mellow but she can see the evil of the pearl. Unlike Kino, who is blind to see the bad about the pearl, Juana can see and is always looking for ways to get rid of the pearl. Unfortunately Kino does not see things the way Juana does so when Juana tries to get rid of the pearl she gets hit. Coyotito is a main character. He is Kino and Juana's first-born son who is stung by the scorpion and started the whole madness of the pearl. He is a baby and is not much of an inconvenience.

    • Word count: 782
  14. The Pearl - a chapter review.

    When Kino dove he found a large, ancient, oyster, he picked it up and brought it to the canoe. They opened the shell and found a pearl as big as a sea-gulls egg. Chapter 3: The third chapter talks about how the whole town is talking about "the pearl of the world" which is the nickname for the pearl Kino found. With this pearl Kino has decided to do many things. He plans to get married, have his son go to school and learn to read.

    • Word count: 840
  15. Of mice and man - In what ways does Steinbeck make this a significant and moving moment -p.74?

    The fact that Carlson shoots the dog is significant because it may be an ominous hint towards Candy's future. 'I ... somebody'd shoot me... get old an' a cripple'. If this wasn't said by Slim, I would have believed this to be a hint towards Candy to suggest that he is just a waste of space and should be put down as if he were an animal, like his dog. It is ironic that Candy's dog is shot 'right back of head', as Lennie is later on in the book, with exactly the same gun. This is why it has been said that the death of Candy's dog foreshadows the death of Lennie.

    • Word count: 719
  16. Story summary of "The Pearl".

    In the afternoon, the whole neighborhood gathers at Kino's brush house to celebrate his find. Kino names many things that he will secure for his family wealth. These things include a church wedding, his child to go to school, new clothes, and a rifle. Toward evening, the local priest visits Kino to bless him in his good fortune, but he really wanted remind Kino to donate to the church. Shortly after, the doctor arrives, explaining that he was out in the morning but has come now to cure Coyotito. He gave Coyotito powder from a capsule and promises to return in an hour, saying that Coyotito's condition will get worse.

    • Word count: 952
  17. Of mice and men - What does the scene set in crooks's room tell us about the life on the ranch?

    Maybe every'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other." " At the beginning of the scene we get a detailed description about Crooks's room and his way of life. From the very beginning of the scene we know Crooks is a Black slave working on the ranch. " Crooks, the Negro stable buck..." (Page 66) We also know that Crooks has been on the ranch for quite some time and will be there for many years to come. "...he was more permanent then the other men, and he had accumulated more possessions than he could carry on his back."(Page 66)

    • Word count: 835
  18. Creative writing about George and Lennie.

    "Get your head down!" George shouted but lennie didn't do a thing, George annoyed, shoved him under the murky water, they could hear the shouts getting closer and the dogs growling. A man said "Where the hell did they get to?" another close to him said "The dog's ave lost the scent they musta went thru that ditch and off into the woods, no way we could get them now" "Damn...... ok everyone back to the town for a head count then we can all go home, its getting late" With these words saw George give a sigh of relief

    • Word count: 666
  19. Analysing the opening scenes Of Mice and Men.

    His eyes are moving from side to side, scouting the area for anybody that poses a threat. It suddenly switches to a flashback. We open in the middle of a field , for miles all you can see is red poppies, swaying in the gentle breeze, the camera slowly starts to rotate to show that the field is empty. As it gets back to where it started from a young pretty girl appears, she has a dreamy expression on her face as if she is thinking of something, we are left guessing at what it is.

    • Word count: 632
  20. Candy's Dog being shot dead

    Carlson also describes how Candy could kill the dog in a quick, humane way. He says, "shoot him right in the back of the head - he'd never know what hit him." This is particularly important because George kills Lennie in this exact way. It is where he got the idea that 'mercy killing' was even an option. Slim is then asked to give his opinion and he agrees with Carlson saying, "That dog aint no good to himself." As Slim is the only person on the ranch to have natural authority, and his "opinions were law."

    • Word count: 660
  21. To Curley. Curley, I'm writing this letter cause for a long time I've been wanting to tell ya somethin'.

    I cn't see any litt' difference between you and them, an' there's no difference. Every week ya go to a bar an' come back God damn drunk at late night. How do you think I feel then bout you? But ever'thing has a limit. You know, if not my ol' lady I'd have gone to Hollywood an' prolly I coulda find that man who promised me to take me in movie. Yes he sa' that I'm natural, and if not my ol' lady then I'd never be livin' with ya in this God damn place, I coulda been in the movies, an' had nice clothes - all of them nice clothes like they wear.

    • Word count: 662
  22. Film review for Of Mice and Men - Main Actors: - Lennie played by John Malkovich and George played by Gary Sinise.

    The close nature of their friendship might have been played out more and this would have made the death of Lennie, at the end a little more realistically sad. George is a hard and defensive character. He is Lennie's carer and his only family. During the film, he seems to soften a little over time. He makes friends well and takes a particular liking to Slim and Candy.

    • Word count: 573
  23. Who in you opinion is the greatest victim Of mice and men?

    George is amking a big effort to protect, advise and save Lennie from the dangers of life. George and Lennie had to escape from Weed due to Lennie�s ununtentionally aggressive behaviour towars a woman. George warns Lennie about everything. Foe example, when he told Lennie ��hide till I come for you. Don�t let nobody see you.�� This type of advice is of the sort George tells him constantly so he doesn�t forget the simple issue of what or where to go in case of getting involved in a problem. Another characteristic sign of George�s father figure behaviour is when George is tired of having to listen to Lennie�s complaints about everything.

    • Word count: 931
  24. Of Mice and Men - The differences between the book and the film.

    The film shows a threshing machine on the ranch, which is showing that the men on the ranch are forced to work at un-human rate; they are working at the pace of the machine. In the book the macrocosm and microcosm reflect on each other. In the film pools of light are used to insolate people for example: whilst George is seeing to Lennie's wounds and whilst Crooks is alone in his room. The idea of Crooks joining the dream has been omitted from the film.

    • Word count: 777
  25. Of Mice and Men - Curly’s Version of the Fight

    It was a warm summers night and Carlson, Fredrick, Slim, George and Curly were at a tavern in Soledad. The tavern was lit brightly and it was swarming with men. "You're pretty lucky, that's what you are," replied the girl, " most guys, I know, get their entire han' cut off. In fact, I ain't never met a guy, who's han' was spared from a machine before." Curly was suddenly uneasy. He wasn't sure whether Rose knew it was all a lie or whether she was just curious. Thinking hard, yet quickly, it struck him, he could use the story of the fight to his advantage and impress this girl.

    • Word count: 797

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