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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. 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
  2. Marked by a teacher

    How does Steinbeck present Crooks in the extract? What is the importance of crooks in the novel as a whole? Of Mice and Men is a powerful and moving portrayal of two men striving

    3 star(s)

    On one side of the little room there was a square four paned window, and on the other, a narrow plank door leading into the barn. Crooks' bunk was a long box filled with straw, on which his blankets were flung." From this extract, we are told many things about crooks. Firstly, in the opening sentence of the extract, we are told that crooks is a "n***o stable buck". We know straight away that he is different because of the fact that his colour was mentioned; none of the other characters in the book were described by the colour of their skin, showing that crooks has been separated from them based upon his colour.

    • Word count: 2422
  3. Marked by a teacher


    3 star(s)

    Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you." They are all helpless in their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they. Crooks shows this cruel and nasty tendency when he criticizes Lennie's dependence on George and their dream of the homestead, their farm where they can work or not work just as they please, be their own boss. Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities-he is a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship-Crooks homes in on Lennie's own weaknesses, I think this mainly was to make him feel better and less of a failure somehow.

    • Word count: 4671
  4. 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
  5. Marked by a teacher

    Who is the loneliest character in 'Of Mice and Men'?

    3 star(s)

    a frosty reception, 'you ain't got no right coming into my room, this here is my room, nobody got any right in here but me, this shows that the room is his only right of possession and defends this indefinitely. He says 'I ain't wanted in the bunk-house' which shows again he is left out of social happenings and left all by himself on a regular basis. He says to people who come in his room; 'you ain't wanted in this room' this is because he has no social skills and because he thinks why should anyone come in his room when vice-versa in unacceptable?

    • Word count: 1047
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Marked by a teacher

    How is the theme of insecurity developed in the novel 'Of Mice and Men' through the use of characters, language and setting?

    3 star(s)

    Because of his race he is discriminated against, no-one ever goes into his room or talks to him 'I'm black, they say I stink'. Crooks is cruel to Lennie 'You got no right to come in my room' this shows a sense of insecurity and bitterness, he is trying to shut people out, as this is the only way he knows to live. Crooks lives in a barn, he is treated like an animal, he sleeps in a straw bed 'Crooks bunk was a long box filled with straw', this shows nobody has any respect for him, he is considered worthless, this will add to his insecurity.

    • Word count: 1268
  9. Marked by a teacher

    Comparison of "of mice & men" film to the novel.

    3 star(s)

    These give us a clear vivid picture of the natural world surrounding the characters. This technique is used in the first and last scenes in the forest near the river. This scene is remembered the most clearly as its placed at the two crucial points where readers will be reading every word in detail to gain a good understanding of the book. The film adaptation of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" opens with scenes of a woman in a red dress, running through fields in desperate escape from some undefined terror. Her flight frames the movie, as though she is running, headlong, into the nameless dread of the future.

    • Word count: 1072
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. Peer reviewed

    How does John Steinbeck use animals to structure the novel 'Of Mice and Men'?

    5 star(s)

    The first mouse encountered in the story is a dead one. Lennie has kept it in his pocket 'to pet', and soon kills it as he does not know his own strength. Steinbeck is already using animals to foreshadow the rest of the novel, as Lennie is comfortable with death but he is so kinaesthetic that he continues to pet the dead mouse. Mice are obviously a source of comfort for Lennie, and he holds connotations of mice with Aunt Clara.

    • Word count: 524
  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

    Is Curleys wife a tragic figure?

    4 star(s)

    'Curley's wife can sure move quiet. I guess she's had a lot of practice, though'. The reason they do not want to be seen with her is because she is married to Curley, a 'pugnacious' little man, who is very possessive. '"Have you seen a girl around here?" he demanded angrily'. The fact that Steinbeck never gave Curley's wife a name other than 'Curley's wife' is to show that she belongs to Curley. It shows her as his possession rather than a separate person. To get attention, she dresses up and hangs around the workers when Curley is not there.

    • Word count: 1044
  18. 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
  19. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice And Men

    4 star(s)

    During this era there was lots of prejudice and discrimination against black people, women, the elderly and the disabled. This affected them the worst as any time when life was getting tough they were hit much worse and were the first to experience suffering. This tough lifestyle encouraged people to dream as many people believed in the American Dream which was that everyone deserved a piece of prosperity if they worked hard enough. So a dream helped people to get by as it encouraged people to work hard and remain optimistic that they can succeed and it also helped people by temporarily escaping from reality.

    • Word count: 1760
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice And Men Curley's wife

    3 star(s)

    You'll see plenty. She ain't concealin nothing. I never seen nobody like her. She got the eye goin' all the time on everybody. I bet she gives the stable buck the eye. I don't know what the h**l she wants". The writer has made use of language in several occasions to draw meaning and give more sense to the piece of work and the most notable and obvious is the kind of language used which is so casual and local portraying the setting where the characters are acting in as well as their status in the society.

    • Word count: 1322
  24. 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
  25. 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

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