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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. Of Mice and Men

    The evocative description begins by highlighting a theme that is present thought-out the novel. 'On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve to the strong and rock Gambian mountains' This quote identifies a contrast and the first half of the quote totally counteracts the second half. The first half allows the audience to envisage a desert like setting with a hot climate 'twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight'. Yet the second half allows the reader to envisage a forest like setting with a tropical climate, 'the water is lined with trees- willows fresh and green with every spring.'

    • Word count: 1454
  2. Why Did Lloyd Gearge Fall From Power

    Lloyd George responded to the needs of the people of Britain in a charming manor as he tried to do as much as he could for them. He demobilised troops by releasing holders of key civilian jobs first and ordinary rank officers last, this created some alarming protest. The Government then ingeniously changed its tactics by adopting a policy which was 'first in, first out'. This worked very well as families that had not seen their relatives for a long period of time would get to see them before a troop that had been dispatched later for war and by the autumn of 1919 more than four million troops were back in the country.

    • Word count: 1903
  3. Of mice and men Loneliness

    He does not know how to treat others because of the way others treat him; with disrespect. He does not know how to vent his frustration and as a result, lashes out at others because they are cruel to him. Crooks is not allowed to participate in daily events with white people. He is treated unfairly and acts the same way toward the white people. "Cause I'm black. They play cards in there, but I can't play because I'm Black. They say I stink. Well I tell you, you all stink to me!" (pg75) Nobody likes to be forced to live in a barn, let alone to work only with the horses.

    • Word count: 1443
  4. of mice and men

    .He uses colour green to describe the colour of Salinas river, The last Chapter returns to the river and mountains. This was the exact spot where the story started, giving a kind of symmetry to the structure of the story. Lennie is very forgetful. Lennie thinks he has lost his work card but George has it. The fact that he cannot even look after his own work card suggests that he is quite forgetful and simple minded. Also, Lennie does not learn from experience when he is "pettin mice" he pets them too hard and they always end up being dead.

    • Word count: 1284
  5. mice n men

    I have chosen them because they don't fit in with the other characters. In the 1930s Curleys Wife represents people who were ignored and suffered from loneliness. First of all John Steinbeck does not reveal the name of Curley's Wife as he thinks she is not important which makes me think that she has no other part to play other than being Curleys Wife. Curly's Wife is stuck on a farm when she thinks she should be in Hollywood. "He says hes gonna put me on the movies".

    • Word count: 1707

    The importance of this is to show it is a fresh start for George and Lennie. When imagining the setting the reader pictures a beautiful, peaceful place full of wildlife. Steinbeck does this to show how the river can be seen as Lennie's utopia- a place where he is free and is at peace and happy. Although the river is described as a place full of life, Steinbeck does hint towards the idea of death: "In front of the low horizontal limb of a giant sycamore there is an ash pile made by many fires;" This quote shows that the river also represents death because the pile shows the end of a once bright and burning fire.

    • Word count: 2178
  7. Mice and Men Coursework

    Ever since the first colonies were established in America, people wanted their own land. Throughout the 1800's families were travelling west, pushing their way right across the country. The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed a man to take on 160 acres of land, register it as a 'claim', farm it for five years then keep it as a heritable property. The act also made it possible for land to be bought cheaply, at $1.25 an acre. However, this act was flawed from the start as the workers found it difficult to make a living due to the amount of land they were given.

    • Word count: 3443
  8. Choose 3 characters, discuss in detail and consider why they are lonely. You need to pick the appropriate quotes to back up your points.

    This unusual relationship brings suspicions to the table amongst the other ranch hands, especially Curley, the boss's son. 'By Christ, he's gotta talk when he's spoke to'. Curley is an ex-boxer and a bully and almost immediately provokes a fight between himself and Lennie causing Lennie to crush Curley's hand with his uncontrollable strength. Curley has a new wife who is lonely and tries to get attention from the other ranch hands. Crooks is a black man that experience loneliness because the society which he lives in is r****t. "A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody.

    • Word count: 1272
  9. OF Mice & Men - Dreams

    This is shown by this quote, "...and we can live off the fatta the lan'" said by George. This is only one of the many dreams that feature in 'Of Mice and Men', however not one of the dreams featured in this novel are achieved. This reflected the harsh reality of the 'Great Depression' and the racial prejudice in society at the time. Steinbeck set 'Of Mice and Men' during the 'Great Depression', in the late 1920's and the 1930's.

    • Word count: 2474
  10. John Steinbeck

    They wanted an end to segregation in cafes, swimming pools and buses as it was demeaning. They also wanted the right to be protected and not be attacked by the police. Black People wanted equality; not something better but equality. The South was much worse for r****m and segregation than the North. Of Mice and Men tells the story of two simple men who try to escape homelessness, economic poverty, and emotional and psychological corruption. George Milton and Lennie Small, two ranch workers, dream of one day owning a small farm so they can harvest their own crops and not take orders from anyone.

    • Word count: 5492
  11. Of mice and men

    Another one is "hopes and dreams", Lennie and George always survive by speaking about their dreams of one day owning a piece of land as Lennie always says when he is down," tell us George, tell us about the farm". Paragraph 2 The Wall street crash, the Great Depression and new machinery all led to poverty and unemployment and increased the number of migrant workers by thousands. These migrant workers had a very bad lifestyle, they wouldn't stay in one place or settle down and are always moving about.

    • Word count: 2768
  12. What do you learn from this novel about the lives and treatment of migrant farm workers and woman? The novel 'Of Mice and Men' written by John Steinbeck,

    George and Lennie are different, because when together, it is more likely that their dream will come true. Both characters' dream is to one day own their own house, with a farm and some animals, where they would live under their own rules. George begins with, "Ok some day - we're gonna get the jack together and we're gonna have a little house..." He describes the land as "a couple of acres" and continues with "a cow and some pigs", which shows he wants to be self-sufficient.

    • Word count: 1867
  13. Of Mice And Men

    Candy has obvious differences to the other men. For instance his missing right hand is an obvious difference. Furthermore he claims himself that he "ain't got the p**p no more". This means that he can't do what the other men do, therefore isolating himself further. There are two other men also like this which are Lennie and Crooks. This is due to the fact that they are the weakest men on the ranch.

    • Word count: 1232
  14. What is your opinion of the end of the novel Of Mice and Men? Is it inevitable?

    because they had such high hopes and ambitions and they were living in their dream world as it is very hard for there dreams to be fulfilled in those times. Most of the characters knew that their dreams would not come true but however believed in them still because they kept somehow convincing themselves that they could achieve their dream but the more they believed in their dreams the harder they were to achieve.

    • Word count: 534
  15. How does life on the ranch reflect the social issues of 1930's America

    John Steinbeck who lived in 1930's America created a novel called "Of Mice and Men" based on two men who migrated in search of jobs and had their lives changed at a ranch, in California. By looking at this novel we can really concentrate on how hard it was for migrant workers, and can understand how the depression deeply affected ranches around America. These workers had to accept that they were in a time when the strongest and fittest of people prevailed upon the less powerful and weakest.

    • Word count: 1280
  16. Of Mice and Men

    I will now go on to explain my points in further detail. In this section I will explain how Curley's wife could be an innocent victim in her life and in the eyes of others. She is the victim of the 'American Dream', her desire to go to Hollywood and be an actress, which was a dream that she could not fulfil because of her mother denying her to leave at such a young age. On page 125 she proves that she really could have been an actress by the text stated 'She made a small grand gesture with her arm and hand to show that she could act.

    • Word count: 1303
  17. 'Of Mice And Men'

    Remember the Christmas party where the white Americans 'let' Crooks in to the party. 'Let' is a very patronising word it's basically saying that Crooks is only in the party because they said he could come in as a treat, but the real reason was that they wanted someone to have a fight with Crooks and beat him up. Why should Crooks be treated different? And why is he only allowed in the party because they said so? Steinbeck presents Crooks in a positive light. This suggests that it doesn't matter if Crooks is black; he is still just a normal human being.

    • Word count: 1103
  18. How does Steinbeck explore the theme of loneliness in 'Of Mice and Men' and why is this theme so important?

    Steinbeck has used George and Lennie in this novel to show the rarity of a pair of workers. George and Lennie travel together, which was very rare at that time because of the lack of work in the 1930's when no one trusted anyone. George is a 'small' and 'quick' man and Lennie is his 'huge companion' with a child like mind. Lennie is dependent on George and couldn't live without being looked after, and there was no one else to look after him. George often told Lennie that he was a lot of 'trouble' and how he could 'get along so easy' if he didn't have Lennie on his 'tail', even 'maybe have a girl'.

    • Word count: 489
  19. How does Steinbeck present three characters who are outsiders?

    When she talks to crooks she is saying "I could get you strung up on a tree so it easy it ain't even funny "in sentence we can see curley's wife is r****t to crooks because crooks is black that's right she hates him. She I s saying how easy it is to get crooks "strung up" We can see through crooks the r****m in America .Another example Steinbeck includes Curley 'wife to show the sexism in America in the 1930s.Where she grew up there was lots of fight because he husband curley is doubting man .For example: On day curley looking his wife because she is not in the house.

    • Word count: 1406
  20. When I was nine I had always wanted to be an athlete

    I spent five long years looking for it and I had found it. This achievement taught me one thing. I could do anything if it was my main goal in life. No matter how hard it was I could do it if I put my mind to it. The sport I had found was race driving. I, instead of looking for it, found it by accident, just a simple day out of go-carting, but from their came my passion. By the time I was seventeen I was training 7 hours a day. Now that I had found my dream I wouldn't let it go.

    • Word count: 692
  21. Of Mice & Men - Essay - Lonely Characters Discussion

    In the end his dog was shot. Candy's life was heading in the isolation direction even further. The quote on page 59 "S'pose I went in with you guys. That's three hundred and fifty bucks I'd put in.... How'd that be?" This was his effort to try and join in with George and Lennie's dream ranch. Crooks is a black n***o Stable Buck who wears glasses and has a busted back. He is an extremely lonely man and probably the loneliest in the novel due to his complexion. He is treated by the others in a rude manner and is left sitting in his little room helpless with an uncomfortable bed which makes his back worse.

    • Word count: 563
  22. Of Mice and Men

    The writer creates irony with Lennie's name, as he is not small but big and strong. The most important message Steinbeck wants to get across about George and Lennie is that they have each other's company, which was strange because most of the men of that time travelled alone: we know this because George says "we travel together." It is good that they have each other and they both appreciate that they're not like other men, however, George gets sick of Lennie because he keeps getting him into trouble and stops him living a normal life.

    • Word count: 1098
  23. Of Mice and Men

    As we are in chapter four, we learn many things about some of the main characters. At the very beginning, we learn about the relationship of some of the characters with each other. The scene is set in Crook's room, many of the men have gone to the cathouse which is basically a 'w***e house; most of the men have gone but Crooks, Lennie, Candy and Curleys wife have not gone. The most probable reason for this is due to the fact that Crooks, is a black stable buck and also an outsider, Lennie was told not to go by George, Candy is a very old man and Curley's wife is a woman.

    • Word count: 1890
  24. How does John Steinbeck make the ending of Of Mice and Men effective?

    John Steinbeck builds up tension and pathos very cleverly during the final chapter which shows the build-up to the shooting of Lennie and the other characters' reactions to it immediately afterwards. The scene for Lennie's death is again the pool by the Salinas River where we first met George and Lennie. Lennie has remembered to return to the brush because he has "done a bad thing" to wait for George. By setting the final episode of the book in the peaceful, natural environment where they were once happy and echoing parts of the first chapter (Hide in the brush an' wait for George)

    • Word count: 988
  25. Of Mice and Men

    all he is not even called by his proper name instead they use racial discrimination to point him out as he is called intimidating and awful words such as n****r and stable buck. He does not bunk with the others workers because the other workers are r****t towards him and all due to his colour Crooks has to live in a stable buck where all the other animals live as he is not treated as an equal, "had his bunk in the harness-room; a little shed that leaned off the wall of the barn" this tells us that Crooks is treated inappropriately as he has to live in appalling conditions.

    • Word count: 1332

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