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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 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. Marked by a teacher

    'Of Mice and Men' Broken Dreams Essay.

    3 star(s)

    This shows that they never want to have to go and work for another person or in harsh conditions. Once they achieve this, they will be working for themselves and in a way they will be free men. They will have a few acres and on this have an alphalpha and various animals. Lennie, having a simpler and childish mind, just wants to be able to tend the rabbits whereas George looks at it as freedom. This dream is never realised as Lennie dies at the end of the novel. George could still go on and make enough money to get this small ranch but it would depend on if he would still want to do it without Lennie and if it held any value to him anymore.

    • Word count: 732
  8. Marked by a teacher

    How is Curley's Wife presented in 'Of Mice and Men'? Do you find her portrayal a sympathetic one?

    3 star(s)

    Candy calls her a "tart" and warns George against her, causing George, Lennie and the reader to see Curley's wife through Candy's eyes on their first encounter. When she finally appears for the first time, she certainly seems to live up to the image the reader expects from Candy's gossip. "She had full, rouged lips and wide spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red.... She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of ostrich feathers."

    • Word count: 916
  9. Marked by a teacher

    Anger and Violence Portrayed in Of Mice and Men.

    3 star(s)

    "I could get my 50 bucks at the end of the month and go sit in a cat house and enjoy myself, but no, I'm stuck with you". George is almost saying the Lennie is a burdon to him, that because of Lennie he can't do what HE wants , yet he is always expected to get Lennie what he wants instead. Like a parent would do with its child, or a owner with its pet. This is the reason for the anger George portrays at Lennie, the frustration of not getting what he would like for a change.

    • Word count: 742
  10. Marked by a teacher

    Compare Chapters 1 and 6 of 'Of Mice and Men'.

    3 star(s)

    The sycamore leaves turned up their silver sides, the brown, dry leaves on the ground scudded a few feet'. By these descriptions we have an image of a delightful place which is calm and peaceful almost like heaven. Steinbeck then writes about the animals that live there and presents them as belonging in this pastoral scene, the rabbits 'sit on the sand' and the deer come to drink at the pool. The animals feel safe and secure as we see form the rabbits 'sat as quietly as little grey sculptured stones', they also feel unthreatened by people because they are used to a lot of people walking past in the valley towards the Gabilian Mountains, a lot of them are itinerant workers that move from around the country quite often.

    • Word count: 869
  11. Marked by a teacher

    Comparing Crooks and Candy in the novel 'Of Mice and Men'

    3 star(s)

    Steinbeck cleverly conveys Crooks feelings towards his discrimination, by the statement 'glittering with intensity' when describing his eyes. This clearly conveys to the reader the anger he feels due the unjust prejudice he is a victim of. Whereas, Although Candy lives with the other workers he is still subtly discriminated against. This becomes apparent when the workers shoot Candy's dog because it is no longer useful. Steinbeck uses this to as a metaphor, and to also echo the fact that soon Candy will be no longer useful, due to his age and will not be wanted by the ranch. Moreover, since Steinbeck does not refer to both characters by name he indicates as to how they may be portrayed.

    • Word count: 598
  12. Marked by a teacher

    Hopes and Dreams in "Of Mice and Men"

    3 star(s)

    During this time, also known as the Great Depression, barn workers like George and Lennie would go around looking for work at a ranch. Very few Americans owned land, and only rarely did they have any freedom. George and Lennie want to buy a piece of land. To George this symbolizes his freedom, he will then be able to control his destiny, yet to Lennie, it means he will be able to tend the rabbits, and therefore pet them as much as he likes.

    • Word count: 632
  13. Marked by a teacher

    Of Mice and Men. Explore the ways Steinbeck makes the ending of the novel so moving.

    When George arrives, Lennie wants reassurance from him that he isn't angry. Lennie is described as looking "eagerly" at George when he asks if George is "gonna give him no more h**l." The word "eagerly" shows that Lennie already knows the answer to this question, but he just wants reassurance from George. George then replies by saying that he is not angry. This shows us that, although the dream has been crushed for George, he is still not too angry with Lennie. Back in the 1930s, following the Great Depression in America, many men wanted to achieve the American dream.

    • Word count: 621
  14. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice And Men

    5 star(s)

    Steinbeck repeats this technique: 'the water is warm too.' As with the's' sound, the soft 'w' is calming. In this setting of absolute calm and serenity, Lennie and George are introduced. Steinbeck uses extensive animal imagery to describe Lennie: 'dragging his feet in the way a bear drags his paws.' This gives the impression that Lennie is large and cumbersome. However, the main reason that Steinbeck uses this form of imagery in describing Lennie is to portray him as amoral and therefore almost child-like. This means that later on in the novel, the reader will acknowledge that Lennie is blameless and also innocent.

    • Word count: 917
  15. Peer reviewed

    Themes Surrounding The Title Of "Of Mice And Men"

    5 star(s)

    On Page 7, George makes the discovery that Lennie is carrying a dead mouse in his pocket. Lennie wanted to keep the mouse because he loves to pet small, soft things. Sadly, such is his brute strength, this often tends to kill them. George found that Lennie had the mouse in his pocket and demanded to know what it was. Lennie acted reluctantly as he wanted to keep it anyway ("I ain't got nothin', George. Honest.") But George insisted and once it found his possession he threw it across a pool of water nearby.

    • Word count: 997
  16. Peer reviewed


    4 star(s)

    Time seems to pass very slowly; every sound scares everyone, until we can finally hear a shot from outside. The poor old dog was killed, we knew he should die, but didn't want it to happen. After this death, everything came back to normality in the ranch, or the men were at least talking to each other again. In these pages, Steinbeck uses different techniques to achieve tension and time passing slowly. Time passing slowly can be shown when he starts sentences with a conjunction. "And slim ..." (p74). "And the silence ... " (p75). This creates a long pause between one sentence and the other, giving a sense of conclusion.

    • Word count: 859
  17. Peer reviewed

    Crooks' Importance In Of Mice And Men

    4 star(s)

    Although that he is seen as less of a person, he looks after his room which shows he is "a proud, aloof man." Although he is separated from the other men, he still has many personal possessions. Like the other men on the ranch his possessions say a lot about him. In his room he has "rubber boots", "a big alarm clock", and "a shot gun" which shows that although he is a cripple he is very active and practical.

    • Word count: 861
  18. Peer reviewed

    Curleys Wife: Miss Dynamite or lonely victim?

    3 star(s)

    She isn't liked by the farm-workers, and they treat her very badly. At the start of the book George refers to her as 'Jesus, what a tramp' and '...no piece of jail bait worse than her,' these comments show how she comes across to the new characters and how little respect she has on the farm. The hierarchy on the farm is one of the main problems through the book. It causes jealously, rivalry and trouble. Curley's wife status on the farm is right at the bottom. I feel that throughout the book she's always thriving to reach some sort of status or level within the community on the farm.

    • Word count: 714
  19. Peer reviewed

    Loneliness is a big theme in Of Mice and Men, George and Lennie are set apart from Slim, Crooks and Candy. They have something unique a special bond with each other.

    3 star(s)

    Although the story takes place over a three-day span, all the characters make a relationship with one another. One relationship is between George, Candy and Lennie. Candy a lonely man, is pressured into having his dog shot he confides in George about his regret. In return, George tells them of their dream. Now they have a bond, and share a goal that is within grasp. Candy is a true friend he helps during a crisis in a minute you come out and tell the guys about her, and I'll come along and make like I never seen her.

    • Word count: 642
  20. Peer reviewed

    Foreshadowing is the essential part of Steinbecks style in Of Mice and Men

    3 star(s)

    The idea of Curley's wife knowing the history of Lennie with pets and his blindness about the strength he possesses and still allowing him to stroke her hair was particularly considered peculiar by me. The only way I managed to justify this was that perhaps she was unaware of the dangers at that particular time as she was too caught up in the moment of perhaps she wanted to be rid of her depressive and oppressive life. Perhaps she was just fed up of her failure of her dreams and living a life of such misery that she thought of

    • Word count: 845
  21. Peer reviewed

    Crooks' isolation in "Of Mice and Men".

    3 star(s)

    Furthermore, the white workers on the ranch also played a major role of influencing Crooks to be isolated. They discriminated him, thought Crooks " stink" and didn't allow Crooks to play cards together with them. This would enhance Crooks' feeling of isolation. Therefore, both of Crooks' dad and the white people on the ranch influenced Crooks to feel isolated and lived alone in a shed.

    • Word count: 545
  22. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice and Men coursework

    3 star(s)

    At first, George didn't manage the pressure to kill him, as this quote shows us, "George raised the gun and his hand shook, and he dropped his hand to the ground again". The tension and pressure start increasing as soon as the men start to arrive to the place where Lennie and George were, the sound of footsteps coming closer, "There were crashing footsteps in the brush now!", the voices becoming louder, "The voices came close now. George raised the gun and listened to the voices.", and Lennie begging that he wants to get the place, all this build up the tension and pressure on George so that he'll kill Lennie.

    • Word count: 649
  23. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice and Men

    3 star(s)

    It is not immediately apparent that women are not vital to the novel. However, the three women help the reader understand how life was for them. Curley's wife confuses and plays with Lennie's immature and insane mind with her flirtatious comments, and seductive body language. 'She moved closer to him' suggests their actions became out of control. Curley's wife could have lived her dream as an actress but instead she stood by Curley, 'I coulda went with the shows' Her actions demonstrate her love for Curley at the time and how she gave up her dream for him.

    • Word count: 563
  24. Peer reviewed

    Communication in Of Mice And Men

    3 star(s)

    George tells Lennie off lots of times and tells him that he would be living a better life without him, but in fact he actually likes Lennie a lot but doesn't tell him. To keep Lennie happy he tells stories about rabbits, which shows that he actually loves Lennie, so matter how much he scolds him. Curley's wife doesn't tell the other men in the ranch that she is lonely, but flirts with them.

    • Word count: 490
  25. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice and Men - character study of Curly's wife.

    3 star(s)

    We first meet Curley's wife in chapter two. She is described as heavily made up and wears tarty red shoes. She poses her figure outlined in the doorway of the bunkhouse and is always aware that men are looking at her. This makes me think that she is just looking for attention from the men. George shows the reader that he does not like Curleys wife because George tells Lennie that she is jailbait and for Lennie to stay away from her. Lennie see's her as an attractive young lady but she is really just a threat to the men on the ranch.

    • Word count: 640

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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