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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. 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
  2. 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
  3. Peer reviewed

    Consider the theme of loneliness in the novel, Of Mice and Men. How dose it affect the friendships and relationships in the novel?

    3 star(s)

    George and Lennie are total opposites. George is decribed as "small and quick, dark of face with restless eyes and sharp, strong fetures." Lennie on the other hand is " a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes with wide, sloping sholders". Stienbeck decribes Georges personality as careful and protective while Lennie seems to be rather stupid with a child's mind. He's very forgetful and likes to pet nice things with his finger's "sof' things". George likes to be in charge of himself, and this is why he appreciates the time out under the stars where he can relax with his friend Lennie.

    • Word count: 1493
  4. 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
  5. Peer reviewed

    Of Mice And Men Character Study – George

    3 star(s)

    This is shown clearly when he is in Crook's room and he says, "but it ain't no lie. Ever' word's the truth, an' you can ast George." It is also clear at the end when Lennie has run into the bush and all that he is worried about is what George will think. As the story goes on we find that Candy also starts to rely on George. When he finds that Curley's wife has been killed he goes straight to George for assistance and when he starts to realise that the dream might not come true he says, "You an' me can get that little place, can't we, George?

    • Word count: 974
  6. Of Mice and Men. The relationship of George and Lennie.

    They got nothing to look ahead to. The quotation gives the thought that loneliness is one of the ideas in the novel. And most of the people that George and Lennie met the next day are lonely. George and Lennie have a dream and this is to own their own ranch which is commonly known as the American Dream. They will have a house, a couple of acres; they will have rabbits, chickens, pigs and other livestock's; they will have a garden with a big vegetable patch and live off the fat on the land.

    • Word count: 801
  7. Of Mice and Men

    Their companionship contrasts the loneliness that surrounds them as they have each other. George is the dominant one in their relationship and Lennie is like a child that needs looking after. This is shown when 'Lennie!' he said sharply. 'Lennie, for God' sakes don't drink so much.' The word 'sharply' suggests that George tries to be in control and instruct Lennie. George may be impatient at times, but he never strays from his primary purpose of protecting Lennie. Lennie is also protective of George "Ain't nobody goin' to talk no hurt to George."

    • Word count: 763
  8. Explore Power in Of Mice and Men.

    what (he) done" he is like an animal, like a child! This contrasts greatly with adverb and verb choices used with George who acts "gently" and drank "with quick scoops". Moreover, the speech given to Lennie shows him to be more of a child as he is highly dependent on George: the use of the collective pronouns "us" and "we" serves to reinforce that Lennie is highly dependent on George and George is aware of that as he says that Lennie would "starve" if went to live on his own in a "cave".

    • Word count: 2687
  9. Throughout his novel, Of mice and Men John Steinbeck presents many ideas about the bias system that prevents working class people from amounting to anything, and how the fates of ranch hands and particularly the character of Lennie are inev

    The vocabulary that Steinbeck choices to describe the brush in both sections one and six of the novel mirror each other. Steinbeck has Lennie repeating the actions from section one to make us think back to the beginning of the novella, and consider the characters that he has created. Steinbeck's meticulous use of detail throughout the novel makes it more memorable to the reader and so when in section 6 Lennie "appear[s] out of the brush" they are instantly reminded of the opening, as though the novel has come full circle.

    • Word count: 575
  10. Both Slim and Curley have a strong influence on the lives of the other characters in Of Mice and Men, but in very different ways.

    Everybody on ranch get the feeling that they can trust him, this is shown by the sentence "godlike eyes fastened on him" he has the features of a god: godlike eyes and an ageless face. His character is very smooth and when he speaks he has a low/deep voice very calm and reassuring. On the other hand Curley is a midget who takes advantage of his father's position and does whatever he wants.

    • Word count: 454
  11. Is George right to kill Lennie?

    Personally I would had put him in a mental hospital, but Steinbeck chose what to do with him. I think that Steinbeck focuses deeply on the atmosphere of the last chapter. First of all he goes back to where he starts the novel, before any bad things happened to the two friends when they were happy and still with dreams of a better life.

    • Word count: 445
  12. How is Curley's wife presented in chapter 4 of "Of Mice And Men"?

    She then continues on to insult and abuse the three men because they are easy targets it would seem, the shouts at them and hurts them each individually because they are the underdogs, she insults Candy for being old and disabled, Lennie for being a 'Dum-Dum' and Crooks most of all she threatens with

    • Word count: 493
  13. Of Mice and Men. Explore the theme of the American dream and importance of it to the characters in the text.

    All the useable ranches where you could actually get some crops out of where in California. Many rich people had ranches in California so every one who's ranches where dried out and couldn't be used they would go to California, but not every one would have got a place because of the overcrowdings. In the story 'of mice and men' the two men are also migrant farmers and are in need of a job at a ranch, this is how the 'of mice and men' is linked to the great depression.

    • Word count: 3907
  14. How does Steinbeck present the character of Curley in Of Mice and Men?

    This makes the reader feel slightly uneasy as it hints that Curley may do something which will affect George and Lennie's dream later in the novel. Steinbeck also presents Curley as being an aggressive character. For example, Curley is quick to pick a fight with Lennie in Section Three of the novel. Steinbeck uses words like "slashed" to describe Curley's strength and aggressiveness. The reader feels anger towards Curley at this point as he attacks Lennie simply because he was being intimidated by the others.

    • Word count: 565
  15. Of Mice and Men Extract Question. At the beginning of the extract, Lennie is mourning the death of his puppy

    Curley's wife says ' you stop it now' and 'jerks her head sideways' and Lennie then panics and automatically his 'fingers close on her hair and hung on', this is because it is the only thing he can think to do, this emphasises his child-like mentality as his reaction is physical as opposed to psychological. 'Lennie was in a panic' and 'his face was contorted', these two short simple sentences portray the innocence and naivety of Lennie's actions as well as reflecting the way Lennie's mind works, short and simple.

    • Word count: 570
  16. The Presentation Of Crooks In Of Mice And Men. How do the details in this passage add to your understanding of Crooks?

    The fact that Crooks carries a dictionary one could argue shows his strong desire and determination for knowledge we can also infer that if he cannot be taught nor accepted for a proper education, he would teach himself which could mean he's passionate about learning. He also carries a "civil code", this could mean when he is mistreated, he could use this to justify the ill-treatment and show that it isn't allowed, this could mean that not only does he not do it in means of violence, but shows his sense of strong morality.

    • Word count: 801
  17. Lennie and George. A central feature of the novel is the unlikely relationship between these two friends and to some point brothers.

    Both Lennie and George "were dressed in denim trousers and in denim coats with brass buttons. Both wore black, shapeless hats and both carried tight blanket rolls slung over their shoulders." this showed that they travelled light and moving constantly with not a lot of money, and the denim clothes illustrate that they both work low payment jobs. George "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." However, Lennie is the complete opposite to George, Lennie is " 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: 678
  18. How does John Steinbeck create atmosphere in the barn in Chapter 5?

    This suggests that something may be beginning to happen because animals usually are able to sense when something wrong is happening. It begins to calm down again when Steinbeck describes the atmosphere in the barn using adjectives. "Stroked" and "softly" shows that Lennie can be caring towards people and things and although he killed the puppy he did it accidentally. He has a childlike nature but a strong man's structure. "Why do you got to get killed?" indicates that Lennie was almost like the victim and the puppy wasn't.

    • Word count: 695
  19. In Of Mice and Men Steinbeck presents his characters as being weak & strong. Using 2 characters write about them and how they are represented.

    Even though Lennie isn't smart he uses animal cunning to manipulate George and get away with it. Also Lennie guilt-trips George a lot to stop George being angry at him and makes Lennie himself feel better. Lennie is a "good worker" so can find jobs easily, during the Depression Lennie's strength was a plus to have someone who is strong in order to get jobs. Lennie is both animal-like and childlike, he hasn't matured like the people around him so isn't prejudice towards anyone. It shows that not everyone is prejudice it'd just as you grow up and learn you become prejudice towards others and that you don't have to be prejudice.

    • Word count: 1111
  20. Creative writing - Of Mice and Men Sequel

    "Yeah, go on Georgy- boy, I's been four months and frankly I'm getting' a bit worried 'bout ya. We all are." George stared at the ceiling with great interest. Finally he spoke, "He loved rabbits, jus' wanted to pet 'em tha's all, never did no-one no harm. He used to ask 'bout the ranch alla time, he was so excited." He heaved one last sigh, one last sigh and got up. The faint lines under his eyes echoed sadness, deep brown pools reflecting emptiness. He rubbed his hand over his mouth and took one last sigh. Heaving himself upwards, the numbness in his legs subsided and feeling returned to his arms.

    • Word count: 952
  21. Of Mice and Men. How Does Steinbeck Create A Sense Of Insecurity In The Novel?

    Curley is always asking for the whereabouts of his wife showing no trust in their relationship and his also viewed as a coward, by picking on Lennie - the easiest target. Steinbeck describes Curley as "little" showing his quite a small man compared to the rest of the ranch workers which makes him feel insecure. Curley also is very aggressive, this is supported by "He's alla time picking scraps with big guys" hence Curley fighting with "big guys" which brings us back to him feeling insecure about his size and the need to prove himself.

    • Word count: 1049

    George also recounts the dream 'rhythmically' which shows that he always has to reassure Lennie by repeating the dream over and over. It almost sounds like a lullaby, suggesting a paternal relationship between George and Lennie. Generally, Lennie reacts 'slowly and cautiously'. This suggests that he is careful not to upset George and realises that what he says can sometimes cause George to react negatively to him. Interestingly, at one point Lennie behaves 'craftily'. Steinbeck does not want us to see Lennie as someone without understanding; Lennie is capable of simple manipulation strategies.

    • Word count: 1902
  23. Of Mice and Men Chapter 4 - "They Left all the weak ones here"

    Crooks is not allowed in the bunk house because of this r****m. "[I'm not wanted] 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 of you stink to me." Crooks is not allowed in the bunk house solely because of his colour, which is why he lives in a house in the barn. Although he shows anger when speaking to Lennie, he doesn't stand up to anyone who is strong enough to have it backfire.

    • Word count: 828
  24. Imagine you are Slim looking back at the events in the novel, write down his thought and feelings.

    I went over to her and felt her wrist to make sure, then I checked her pulse in her neck which was hard to find because her neck was all twisted. It was so quiet until I stood up and all h**l broke loose and curely was cursing all over place. I was so shocked and confused what had happened and curleys anger was so clear and dint have a clue to what was happening.

    • Word count: 485
  25. How is Curleys wife presented and developed throughout the novel?

    He describes her using expressions such as "she got the eye" and "tart". Through Candy's words we develop an initial perception of Curley's wife as being flirtatious and even promiscuous. This perception is further emphasized by Curley's wife first appearance in the novel. Steinbeck appears to use light symbolically to show that she can be imposing when he writes "The rectangle of light was cut off". He describes her as having "full rouged lips and wide spaced eyes, heavily made up" as well as "Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages." This builds on our preconceptions of her being villainous and portrays a negative image of her.

    • Word count: 1251

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