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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. Marked by a teacher

    In this essay I will trace in detail soft things that Lennie pets in the novel, showing that the petting grows more serious as the novel goes on.

    3 star(s)

    Jus' a dead mouse, George. I didn't kill it. Honest I found it. I found it dead." The dead mouse is also an allusion to the novel's title, a reminder that dreams will go wrong, even petting a mouse. Lennie's touching of a girl's dress in Weed is what forced them to leave their last job (page8).What happened in Weed is first mentioned by George when he says to Lennie "An' you ain't gonna do no bad things like you done in Weed, neither. The woman was wearing a red dress, and Lennie tried to touch it.

    • Word count: 1218
  2. In many of Steinbeck's novels, women are described as dreary housewives or montrous tramps, but in East of Eden we see the evolution of a new kind of woman, one who is brought to goodness with guidance of a superior male.

    Her nagging of Samuel, makes Liza a hard character to like because she focuses on Samuel's minor flaws, instead of embracing him for all the good he supplies. With her strict housekeeping regime and the known fact "that Liza and the Lord God held similar convictions on nearly every subject" Liza Hamilton, much like Steinbeck's own mother Olive Hamilton, fits the perfect dreary housewife (Steinbeck 178). Steinbeck continuously uses the negative traits not only to vilify woman but also to glorify his male characters.

    • Word count: 1008
  3. Readers often feel sorry for many of the characters in of mice and men. Explain why this is so and which character you have the most sympathy for.

    The readers also feel sorry for Lennie Small because he is not very intelligent and very forgetful, even though he's a gentle giant, he wouldn't harm anyone not on purpose. Lennie also likes animals that are fluffy like rabbits, puppies, rats and he also likes soft materials like velvet. Lennie is very strong and he doesn't realise his strength for e.g. when Lennie crushed Curley's hand he didn't realise his strength. Lennie also thinks he's lost his things " George I can't find my work card" Lennie also wants George to tell the story of George and Lennie's dream of getting their own land with animals etc " come on George tell me please George.

    • Word count: 1346
  4. Discuss How Steinkbeck uses Two of his Characters to Explore the Role of Power in the Novel

    Being the son of the owner of the ranch, Curley has considerable power over the men. Curley chooses to abuse the power he has rather than try to befriend those beneath him. The men know this and dislike him for it. Curley knows this and desperately wants more authority on the ranch. Curley wears high-heeled boots to show that he isn't a working man. Curley also married an attractive woman and as none of the other men are married this makes him feel that he is better than the rest.

    • Word count: 1021
  5. From your characters point of view, what do you think of the events which happened and who do you feel to be responsible?

    Since Lennie first come to the ranch I had a hunch, and when he did what he did to my hand I knew that he was not only mean but he was dangerous. I never told about my hand before, I know what the other guys on the ranch would say, Me, the bosses son being beat up by some guy who couldn't put two and two together, I Wasn't gonna let em' know, I wasn't gonna let my wife know that her husband got beat up by that Bastard.

    • Word count: 1520
  6. How is George and Martha's relationship depicted dramatically up to page 48 of Act 1?

    Apparent simple requests from Martha become games for both her and Martha to play. Martha says, 'Why don't you want to kiss me?' whereupon George replies, 'Well, dear, if I kissed you I'd get all excited...' As one critic of the play wrote, 'They (George and Martha) club each other on the head with gleeful scorn and leave huge patches of scorched earth.' Emotions from both George and Martha become integrated into an ongoing power struggle, and Martha dwells in George's anger as she likes to see the stirred up effect she has on him.

    • Word count: 1080
  7. Analyse and comment on the differences and similarities of the ways in which the two movie versions of "of mice and men" portray the events and characters.

    In the old film the opening sequence is the same as the novel. But because the novel lacks action an extra scene is added to the old movie. This will engage the audience's attention and they will understand what the director is trying to do. Introducing the element of danger to Lennie, into the story right from the start results in a slow build up of tension all the way through the story because the viewer is always trying to anticipate when the trouble is going to happen.

    • Word count: 1593
  8. Of Mice and Men diary entry

    The rumbling got louder, I couldn't fathom out where it was coming from but it sounded even louder now. Then I turned round and saw a coach drawing towards me. I signalled it, but it carried on towards me, until it was close enough for me to see the driver, he looked quite old, probably in his sixties. I shouted to him "Stop! Stop! STOP!" He didn't even look at me never mind stop. He hurtled past me, dust engulfed me like a giant dustbowl.

    • Word count: 1719
  9. Tension in Of Mice and Men

    He hates big guys." Candy later says this is probably because he isn�t a "big guy" himself. He also says that Curley spends most of his time picking scraps with big guys. Yet again in chapter two George is warning Lennie to fight back if Curley starts anything, "You keep away from Curley...if the son-of-a-bitch socks you - let 'im have it." This shows that even George has realised that a confrontation is imminent, unfortunately Lennie is too dumb to understand what the danger is. This is a realistic reaction by George trying to protect Lennie considering they have grown up together.

    • Word count: 1155
  10. The Soledad Times Monday 26th July - Double murder at Soledad Ranch shocks local community!

    There has been very little life about the place, nobody has came out to meet their friends, go to the bar, or even for a walk, and although it is a cod, rainy day, I don't think it is the reason why so many are worried to show their faces. As the deaths of Lennie Small and Diane Parker were announced yesterday, the local community of Soledad went into a state of frenzy due to shock and disbelief. The news broke out last night about the sudden death of Diane Parker, wife of Curley Parker, and rumors spread that a Mr.

    • Word count: 1330
  11. How far do the values of Kino and Juana represent the culture of the Mexican fisher folk in John Steinbeck's novel "The Pearl"?

    The fisherfolk's lives were very simple as they lived in poverty and yet they enjoyed the fruits of nature. They lived in brush houses and ate simple food like 'hot corn-cake'. Their sense of unity in the family is shown as they hardly communicate through words because they know what and how one another thinks. (Page 10)- "They had spoken once, but there is not need for speech if it is only a habit anyway". Songs were important in their culture as they linked everything to music.

    • Word count: 1782
  12. A prequel to 'Of Mice and Men' - Drawn together.

    On the other side of the river there was another boy of about the same age. He was much smaller than Lennie but average for his age. He had dark features and was sprawled slovenly across a blue and red woollen rug with an aimed slingshot in his dirty hands; ready to shoot a small pebble at the other boy, Lennie. He slowly pulled back the elastic trigger and followed Lennie with one eye closed. He let the elastic go and watched as the pebble cut through the air like a real bullet.

    • Word count: 1040
  13. 'The Pearl' by John Steinbeck.

    This canoe was all that Kino owned. It had been passed from Kino's grandfather to Kino's father and so to Kino. Now because of the need for money to cure Coyotito, Kino and Juana both had a desire to find a pearl, "And because the need was great and the desire was great, the little secret melody of the pearl that might be was stronger this morning." This was the first time that Kino and Juana had ever desired anything. On that morning while out at sea, Kino found an oyster that contained a large and perfect pearl, "It was the greatest pearl in the world."

    • Word count: 1203
  14. It was a bitter winter's night and George was sitting in his big white house.

    The teacher that he had to speak to on this occasion was called Mrs. U. Benn. She was in charge of the committee against bullying, Necessitarians Against The Oppressors. Usually, U. Benn and NATO sorted out problems between different groups within the school but this time she said no because George could not prove that Sammy had stink-bombs of mass poignancy. George was furious; he couldn't believe that they had said no to him. He soon got over it though when he saw something shiny on the floor.

    • Word count: 1102
  15. The Assassin.

    They first came into contact at the after-show party, where they were introduced through some colleagues of Mr.Phelps. They found that the feelings they had for each other stretched far beyond admiration for their respective positions. From here started an instant love affair which would subsequently end lives, careers and years of marriage. Over the past few months, their relationship had become very complicated, for various reasons. One, was a man named Joe DiVarro. His name may not mean anything to you, but in Hollywood, you were always wary of Joe DiVarro and his henchman.

    • Word count: 1948
  16. Dance of the Demons.

    I was shocked by the state of my body as I had never been this bloody before. It looked like there would not be any kind of treatment for miles around and the whole place looked abandoned. I felt extremely scared, my heart pumped faster and the hairs stood up with fear on the back of my neck. I looked around and there was green moss and fungi spread like a carpet for miles around. There was deadly silence and an odour of dead bodies. My head was spinning, my eyes were sore, my hair was slowly falling out and my skin was peeling off, I could not bear the madness and insufferable condition that I was in.

    • Word count: 1411
  17. What contribution does Slim make to 'Of mice an men'.

    Slim first major contribution is when George confides in him about how him and Lennie travel round together. Slim is clever in the way he brings this topic up as he says 'funny how you an' him string along together.' But he says it calmly and invitingly to George, also the tone Slim uses offers confidence to George to talk. There is a line that say 'Slim neither encouraged nor discouraged him. He just sat back quiet and receptive' this shows that Slim is a good listener and does not push people to talk but people after starting a conversation

    • Word count: 1339
  18. Examine the idea of games and rituals in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

    Albee's customised Genre attempts to contradict the popular notion of faultless marriages and living happily ever after. A quote from Albee himself said he was trying to break away from the Broadway productions of the period, which were simply, "A reaffirmation of the audience's values, for those who wanted reminding of the status quo". It appears Albee uses the games as a metaphor of the trivial pursuits that people wade through having overlooked the more valuable things in life. The games are a test of endurance, and in general are based around winning a contest fairly based on rules.

    • Word count: 1532
  19. Was it right to shoot Candy’s dog?

    The conversation is dropped when they go to lunch and wasn't mentioned again until part of the way into chapter three. This is where there are arguments for and against killing the dog and the persuasion and peer pressure on Candy to let them kill his dog begins. It is again Carlson that begins the persuasion to kill the dog and again his first reason is that it smelt saying "God almighty that dog stinks." Candy doesn't think anything of it to begin with and just apologises saying he didn't notice it because he'd "been around him so long."

    • Word count: 1075
  20. Of Mice and Men - Discussing Chapter 7.

    Ya gave Lenny the best quality of life possible and it took a hell o' a lot guts to do what you did, you know that don't ya? George nodded, his eyes heavy with water, "thanks slim" George whispered. Tightening his grip on George's shoulder "ya saved him," Slim said Comfortingly. Slim sat with George until the sound of grunting engines acted as alarm clocks. "Now we gotta get you up for work or the boss 'll give ya hell."

    • Word count: 1328
  21. All the characters in 'of mice and men' are Lonely, loneliness is the theme of the novel.

    He said 'You got no rights comin' in a coloured mans room. You got no rights messing around in here at all. Now you jus' get out, an' get out quick. If you don't, I'm gonna ast the boss not to ever let you come in the barn no more'. Curley's wife replied with 'Listen nigger, you know what I can do to you if you open your trap. The book then reads 'Crooks seemed to grow small, and he pressed himself against the wall. 'Yes, ma'am.' What Curley's wife meant by saying what she could do to crooks is that all she has to say to Curley or anyone, is that Crooks has been coming on to her and harassing her.

    • Word count: 1174
  22. Curley's wife deserved her fate' - Do you agree?

    Just from this description she comes across as a 'tart'. As we read on in the story we notice that she likes to draw attention to herself from the opposite sex. 'She put her hands behind her bank and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward.' From my point of view, Curley's wife thinks that this is the only way to get attention, and because her husband will not allow her to speak to anyone else, she becomes isolated and begins to crave for someone to speak to.

    • Word count: 1217
  23. The Killing of Candy’s Old Dog For Foreshadowed Lennie’s death. Describe the two killings and point out any similarities.

    Carlson persuades Candy to let him shoot the dog with his lugar and says he will shoot him at the back of his head so he won't feel it at all. Whit and Slim tried to change the subject but Carlson wouldn't be put off and kept on persisting. Candy eventually gave up and disappointingly agreed. Carlson then put the dog out of his misery. Afterwards candy felt the guilt of not shooting the dog himself and told George " I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog."

    • Word count: 1347
  24. Do you think that the ending to 'Of Mice and Men' is satisfactory?

    This raises alarm and he and George are forced to hide in a pool of water before they could run away at night. Lennie is a very strange person, not only is he very simple minded but he is also very complicated. He can be very gentle and then flare up with emotion. For example, after George threw his mouse away Lennie started to cry "Lennie's lip quivered and tears started in his eyes." Although he may be simple minded he very much possesses a conscience.

    • Word count: 1100
  25. Steinbeck uses many techniques to present the characters of Lennie and George in Of Mice and Men.

    Although it seems as though Lennie is dependent on George, this is not the case. I believe that George, enjoys the company of Lennie; however a burden he may seem. Together they both hold the goal of accomplishing the ?American dream? This dream is what boosts both Lennie and George to go on. Lennie is set on ?tending rabbits? while George could have more freedom in general. Steinbeck places importance on these two and dream, while we believe they will be successful as the story develops.

    • Word count: 1948

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