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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.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 43
  • Peer Reviewed essays 19
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    How does Steinbeck present the character of Crooks in the novel 'Of Mice and Men'?

    5 star(s)

    The title 'Of Mice and Men' was taken from a famous poem written by Robert Burns. The meaning behind the title is that 'the best laid plans often go awry'; this is a pessimistic phrase that associates with Crooks. This analysis of Crooks will show how Steinbeck presents Crooks as a lonesome and a lack of social interaction with the other white characters in the novel. The name 'Crooks' arose from the character having a crooked back; however he is often referred to as 'n****r'. This reflects the casual r****m which was present in America during 1930's. The first reference the reader gets of Crooks is in chapter 2 during a conversation between two other characters.

    • Word count: 2739
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Conflict is often shown throughout the novella of 'Of Mice and Men'. Usually, it is a result of the strain that the Great Depression placed on the people who lived through it.

    5 star(s)

    'Mad' also means that Curley is simply angry towards taller men because he envies them. This description of Curley makes the reader think of Curley as an insecure person as, the description shows that he feels inferior because of his diminutive stature. Resentment is also shown in scenes of conflict. George shows resentment towards Lennie as a consequence of Lennie losing him his job; that is so significant to achieving his desires. George says, 'I got you! You can't keep a job and you lose me ever' job I get.'

    • Word count: 1265
  3. Marked by a teacher

    The Slave's dream

    5 star(s)

    The rhyme scheme is regular and the lengths of lines have a repetitive pattern. The poet has conformed to such a rigid way of writing poetry, as a slave in America would have to conform to their master's commands. The poet may also have chosen to write in this regular way because it is similar to the slave's life, which is monotonous. A slave does the same thing everyday like the stanzas all follow the same pattern. In stanza one, there is also the internal rhyme of the words "bare" and "hair". This emphasises how uninteresting the slave's life is.

    • Word count: 2442
  4. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the way in which Steinbeck presents the relationships between between Curleys Wife and other characters in Of Mice and Men

    4 star(s)

    In chapter 2 Candy begins to describe Curley?s relationship with his wife. ?Married two weeks and got the eye? Maybe that?s why Curley?s pants is full of ants.? Steinbeck tells us here that the couple do not have a strong relationship at all and suggests that Curley?s Wife has become bored with her new husband and she has turned to the ranch hands, perhaps to make Curley jealous. The reader expects a close affectionate relationship between Curley and his wife but Steinbeck presents it completely differently and this makes the reader feel slightly hostile towards Curley?s Wife. In chapter 4 this hostility is intensified during the scene between Curley?s Wife and the ?Weak one? Lennie, Candy and Crooks.

    • Word count: 1293
  5. Marked by a teacher

    Of Mice and Men: In a letter .John Steinbeck Wrote of Curleys wife: Shes a nice girl and not a f****y. Discuss and explain your own impression of Curleys wife.

    4 star(s)

    She leans against the door frame teasing the men, she knows she will get lots of attention because she is a young pretty girl and the men are always in the ranch and she is the only girl there. She also talks very flirtatiously with the men as she says things ?playfully? showing she has no interest of finding her husband as she intended to do in the first place. When she is about to leave she says ?Nobody can?t blame a person for lookin?? which has a double meaning.

    • Word count: 1165
  6. Marked by a teacher

    How does Steinbeck reveal the State of the US in the 1930s in Of Mice and Men?

    4 star(s)

    shooting the dog is also later scene in the ranch when Slim "drowned four" puppies "right off" because the dog "couldn't feed that many," showing a casual attitude towards life and death, and a very unsentimental one. George and Lennie's relationship and their idea to live off the "fatta land" reflects the way so many migrants in America in the 1930s hoped to own a farm, and this attitude was called the American Dream: the idea that anyone could achieve anything.

    • Word count: 592
  7. Marked by a teacher

    Relationship between George and Lennie in Of Mice of Men

    4 star(s)

    His only family, his aunt, has passed away, and he has the mind of a very young child. He would not be able to survive on his own: it is because of George that he is able to find work, and it is George who ultimately cares for him. George stays with Lennie, I believe, out of a sense of duty and an overwhelming loneliness. George promised Lennie's aunt that he would look after Lennie, and now he has become so used to being with Lennie that he does not know any other way. Lennie, despite the frustration George feels in taking care of him, is George's only friend.

    • Word count: 1307
  8. Marked by a teacher

    The Outsider (Of Mice and Men)

    4 star(s)

    The characters all live a very disheartening life, with the lack of happiness, love and affection in their lives. This can be seen also when George mentions that 'ranch workers are the loneliest people in the world and don't belong nowhere". Of the many characters in the novel, Curley's wife might be one of the most pathetic and reviled of the outsiders. Steinbeck introduces her to us as an outcast, where she is isolated from the community. Being a minor character in the novel, Steinbeck manages to illustrate her as a character that deeply influences the lives of the main characters George and Lennie.

    • Word count: 1757
  9. Marked by a teacher

    how does steinbeck present george and lennie in chapter 1

    4 star(s)

    carry bindles which carry all of their belongings on their backs; Steinbeck goes on to tell us more of the two mysterious characters... "The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features. Every part of him was defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose. Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders: and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws.

    • Word count: 954
  10. Marked by a teacher

    How does Stainbeck use the characters Curley's wife and crooks to explore at least 2 of the themes in "Of mice and men"?

    4 star(s)

    - the actor had flirted with her instead of being honest with her but being the teenage-believe-in-anything-kind-of-girl, she fell for it. He was only taking advantage of her looks and her naivety. The first time that Curley's wife was introduced to us in the book, Steinbeck focused on her appearance. She dressed and looked like she wanted to be a movie star, she had 'full rouged lips', ' heavily made up eyes', 'her fingernails were red', 'cotton house dress and red mules'.

    • Word count: 1607
  11. Marked by a teacher

    How does Steinbeck use animals to show the themes in "Of Mice and Men

    4 star(s)

    This is the same technique people use to catch animals and that is exactly what Curley is trying to achieve with Lennie. An important style of how Steinbeck represents people and themes is through rabbits and example of this is, at the beginning of the story Lennie and George are fleeing from their home town. This is shown by the rabbits as they are fleeing themselves, "The rabbits hurried noiselessly for cover". Steinbeck compares the animals to people very early on in the story, which gives you an idea that Steinbeck will compare the characters and themes through animals throughout the story.

    • Word count: 1403
  12. Marked by a teacher

    Impressions of Curely's Wife

    4 star(s)

    She is 'heavily made up', with red fingernails and wore a 'cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers'. This clearly shows that Curley's wife was wearing quite a lot of red. Wearing might just be the color that Curley's wife enjoys wear, however wearing red might indicate danger towards Lennie and George and especially Lennie because when referring back to the incident back in weed the girl that Lennie harm was also wearing a red dress.

    • Word count: 1598
  13. Marked by a teacher

    Of Mice and Men - Life in America in the 1930's…

    4 star(s)

    this quote emphasises how private the menn keep their lives. Slim is an exception to this as he is always willing to talk if others wish to. However many of the others, despite their urge to talk, seem to be less inviting or trustworthy. George and Lennie seem to be an exception to this general life. They "...got somebody to talk to that gives a d**n..." Slim describes what living on a ranch does to a man and really how lonely it is that "...they get mean... they get so they don't want to talk to anybody...".

    • Word count: 1901
  14. Marked by a teacher

    How does Steinbeck present the characters of George and Lennie, and their relationship, in Section 1 of the novel?

    4 star(s)

    This shows that he's quite fit and athletic, perhaps used to this sort of traveling as a migrant worker. His "restless eyes" tell the reader that, although he has been traveling for probably a long time, he is still eager to get to his destination. Following George's description, there is a considerable amount of contrast when it comes to describing Lennie, "a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders." He is metaphorically compared to a bear, dragging his feet and his arms hanging loosely. Being compared to animal shows that he obviously has animal features, possibly mentally as well as physically, so he may not be as psychologically advanced as the average man of his time.

    • Word count: 1337
  15. Marked by a teacher

    Of Mice and Men - Crooks Monologue

    4 star(s)

    Everyone had this dream work a month or to get the money and buy land but that's all it was a dream. George had got this idea into Lennies head and that's all he would talk about until you started to talk about George. This is when I realised that George was really special to Lennie even more special than them d**n rabbits. I sat there trying to torment this vulnerable fellow just for my self enjoyment really and I hit a nerve when I said "what if George don't come back" constantly and the white, strong, tall disheartened lost and confused male stood up and shook the dear life out of me.

    • Word count: 1076
  16. Marked by a teacher

    Of Mice and Men – How does Steinbeck use symbolism to reflect the characters relationships with each other and the society in which they live?

    4 star(s)

    The 'dream farm' represents the ambition and possibility to escape from the itinerant workers' loneliness and poverty. George's dream is destroyed by Lennie, as Lennie is always getting himself into trouble, and George has taken on responsibility for Lennie and therefore deals with Lennie's troubles, and his own life and career are destroyed because of it. Curley's wife has a dream of a better, more fulfilling life, but these are based on glossy film magazines. Her dreams are destroyed by Curley's selfishness of making her live on the ranch. The title itself also relates back to Lennie.

    • Word count: 1851
  17. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the ways Steinbeck presents relationship between the characters in "Of mice and men".

    3 star(s)

    However George needs Lennie for companionship. As he admits to Slim when discussing their unique relationship. ?It?s a lot nicer to go around with a guy you know.? George doesn?t mind coming across as being h********l, if that?s what people think. This can be shown when Curley demands Lennie to speak but the conversation is interrupted by George who states clearly to Curley that ?we travel together? the reply from Curley is dumbfounded ?oh so it?s that way? his tone resembles and is associated with s****l connotation. This shows the symbiotic mutualism relationship they share. Both have the same American dream they want to peruse, both have something to offer each other.

    • Word count: 1440
  18. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the Character Candy in "Of Mice and Men".

    3 star(s)

    that gloves fulla Vaseline... keepin that hand soft for his wife.' This pathetic characteristic candy possess is perhaps used as a vehicle to portray how ranch workers in the time of the great depression were also quite pathetic due to the greater forces at work such as the wall street crash. This is similarly illustrated in the poem, 'to a mouse' which inspired Steinbeck, it stats, 'the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley' which shows how no-one is in control of the inevitable forces at work.

    • Word count: 844
  19. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss the presentation of Curleys Wife in John Steinbecks novel Of Mice And Men and the suggestion that she is solely to blame for the tragedies of the novel.

    3 star(s)

    We are first introduced to this in chapter one where George and Lennie talk about the woman in Weed. Then when Curley's wife appears she too wears a red cotton house dress which then appears again in chapter five which is the climax of tragedy. Red is a colour that resembles a s****l and provocative nature as well as being used to display a sign of warning or danger. All these things become more apparently associated with Curley's wife as the plot develops. Curley's Wife is given no identity; she is never referred to by a name other than Curley's wife.

    • Word count: 1144
  20. Marked by a teacher

    In the novel, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck explores many cultural and social issues during the era of the great depression.

    3 star(s)

    Candy was also involved in the dream to buy land as was Crooks. At first Crooks disregarded it but then he became allured by this dream. All these characters could now see their dream getting closer until Lennie, accidently kills Curley's wife. A question brought up by Candy shows his uncertainty of achieving their dream, "You an' me can get that little place, can't we, George? Can't we?" Even though these characters put in effort to save up money, to be able to buy land, they were unable to achieve their dream because of the lack of opportunities available for the marginalised in society.

    • Word count: 562
  21. Marked by a teacher

    How Does Steinbeck present the character of Lennie in Of Mice and Men?

    3 star(s)

    Steinbeck refers to Lennie as "a bear." A bear is an animal which has a lot of strength. This characteristic of a bear is one of the characteristics that Lennie has: strength. However, most bears are unsure of when to use that strength. This shows us that Lennie, in addition to having a lot of strength, is unintelligent. This makes the reader feel slightly uneasy as it hints that Lennie may use his strength unwisely later in the novel. Steinbeck also presents Lennie as being childlike. Lennie looks "timidly" at George when George is in a bad mood, and Lennie asks a lot of questions.

    • Word count: 557
  22. Marked by a teacher

    Curley's wife essay. Steinbeck uses many different techniques to present Curleys wife such as colour imagery, appearance, metaphors and similes in the early stages of the novel.

    3 star(s)

    Primarily, she isn't even given a name; she is just referred to as "Curley's wife" and this shows that Steinbeck doesn't really think that women are important, so they don't deserve a name. Her dreams were shattered by marriage and her relatively young life cut short by her desire for human contact. Steinbeck has created a character for us to feel sympathetic towards. The first mention of Curley's wife was when Candy describes her to George in the bunk house. Candy gives us a strong impression that Curley's wife is flirtatious and even promiscuous female before we even meet her.

    • Word count: 936
  23. Marked by a teacher

    Of Mice & Men : Crooks analysis

    3 star(s)

    It tells us how he is different from many other ranch workers. His room is flocculated with boxes with various amounts of tools from his countless amounts of previous jobs. Steinbeck tries to portray to us that Crooks has been a ranch worker for a very long time and over the time he has gathered a load of possessions. Crooks is not treated as a normal human being, he is seen as almost an animal, and therefore he always tries to takes pride in himself. The 'fairly neat' room shows this. Crooks is told that he is not allowed in the bunk house, due to him being black and as any human

    • Word count: 815
  24. Marked by a teacher

    How is the theme of r****m and loneliness shown through the character of Crooks in OF MICE AND MEN?

    3 star(s)

    This all shows that black people was still treated in an appalling manner and the other white ranch worker still have a disuse for 'n*****s and make him an out cast and disempowered because he is an afro-American which I find absolutely appalling. Through the character of Crooks in chapter 4, John Steinbeck shows the loneliness and desperation of the character. Steinbeck describes him in great detail because chapter 4 is the only time we are really introduced to him, Steinbeck has to create a believable and sympathetic character at this time, so we will care about and sympathise with his point of view.

    • Word count: 2270
  25. Marked by a teacher

    The importance of dreams in of mice and men

    3 star(s)

    Other characters have dreams as well, Curley's Wife dreams of becoming an actress, he has this dream to distract her from the hardships of being the only woman on the farm and the reality of the man she has married. George and Lennie's dream is a version of the American Dream, A dream of being successful and being your own boss, it was an escape from the unfulfilling life that they lead this was a dream that many migrant farm workers had, This novel was set at the time of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

    • Word count: 810

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Compare and contrast the characters Curley's Wife from 'Of Mice and Men' and Mally from 'Malachi's Cove'

    "In conclusion I think that Curley's Wife and Mally are to completely different characters with totally different personality but as the novel progresses you get to know the characters and you get to know the real Curley's Wife and the real Mally e.g. when Curley's wife died "the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was very, pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young" whilst Mally ended up marrying Barty "how beautiful he was in Mally's eyes with that pale face". I think that Steinbeck and Trollope have made the characters this way because it makes the reader think and then feel all sorry for them at the end. So in conclusion my opinion of Curley's Wife and Mally both change as the story progresses because both Steinbeck and Trollope keep the reader in suspense and makes both characters come to life."

  • From a close study of the opening of the novel; and with reference to other stages throughout, discuss the relationship of George and Lennie, commenting on how it relates to the theme of loneliness

    "In my opinion, the novel was very good, the shock ending was very surprising and unexpected, but a closer look throughout the novel foreshows us what happens, such signs as what happened in Weed, the mice that Lennie kills, the need to pet soft things, all of this gives the reader clues to what happens at the end. In my opinion, the relationship between George and Lennie is less than a relationship between two equal adults, and more like father-son, as one of the pair continually leads the other, while the other always follows"

  • Discuss how three or more important symbols add to your understanding of Of Mice and Men.

    "During the novella, the recurrence of loneliness, and speculating at a lonesome finale, is ever present, especially in the form of playing cards. The bunkhouse is often the scene of the games, with George the dealer. This is significant, as George frequently exclaims his desire to be alone, "If I was alone I could live so easy." However, solitude is George's enemy, and he is fearful at the prospect of living alone. This is projected through his card playing, "Slim sat down...across from George...He studied the solitaire hand that was upside-down to him." Inadvertently, George has dealt a game of solitaire- a single player game, an insinuation at the conclusion of the story, when George ultimately kills his companion. A similar event arises when Candy's dog is led by Carlson to be shot. "'Anybody like to play a little euchre?'" asks George. The key theme of loneliness is being forced away by George, who refuses to be alone, opting to ask the group to play cards. The constant reminding of impending solitude, and its effects, enable the reader to understand and fully interpret the inevitability of what is to come. Hands play a vital role in the symbolism of Of Mice and Men. There are various"

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