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Dreams Loneliness The working man Prejudice and protest

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1 Dreams Loneliness The working man Prejudice and protest
The exam questions in the English Literature paper often deal with themes in Of Mice and Men : Dreams Loneliness The working man Prejudice and protest Fate and destiny

2 Lennie and George’s farm – independence, no bullying or slave labour
Dreams – why do characters have their dreams, will they come true, how do they carry the story? Lennie and George’s farm – independence, no bullying or slave labour Curley’s boxing His wife’s acting Pulp magazines Candy’s “retirement” The American Dream

3 Loneliness “Lonely” and loneliness are often mentioned and there are different reasons why people are lonely. Think of Lennie/George/Candy/Crooks/Curley’s wife “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world,”… Lennie broke in. “But not us! And’ why? Because… because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.”

4 The Working Man The boss comes from a higher social order
Curley, the boss’s son George – quick-witted Lennie – slow Slim – dignified Crooks – cynical Whit – superficial Carlson – brutal Candy – fatalistic

5 Prejudice and protest Crooks is black and disfigured
Candy is old and disabled Lennie has learning difficulties Curley’s wife is a woman George and Lennie are viewed with suspicion as it is unusual for two men to travel together. (George is thought to be taking a cut of Lennie’s money.)

6 Fate and destiny The title of the novel appears to be taken from a poem by Robert Burns ( ) called “To a Mouse”: The best laid schemes o’ mice and men Gang aft agley And leave us nought but grief and pain For promised joy! “Gang aft agley” means “often go wrong”. Thus, George and Lennie’s best laid plans often go wrong, leaving nothing but grief instead of joy. The irony of this is that we all need dreams in order to get through the hard times but Steinbeck doesn’t seem to suggest that we should give up our dreams even if we are unlikely to achieve them.

7 The title The mice and men of the title might also refer to the relative size of George and Lennie, however, it might also be a reference to the metaphorical idea of something small and vulnerably (humanity?) being pitted against something large and powerful (destiny?). Lennie’s mice occur like a motif showing his vulnerability throughout the novel.

8 THE CHARACTERS Steinbeck gives a brief description, then lets characters speak for themselves. George, Candy, Crooks and Curley’s wife have long speeches in which they confess their deepest feelings. Curley is characterised by his action, and by what others say of him.

9 George George is: “a smart little guy”, “small and quick”, “restless”, “sharp, strong features”, “small, strong hands, slender arms”, “a thin and bony nose”. He is kind, soft-hearted, has a strong sense of duty and responsibility, needs Lennie to prevent loneliness although occasionally dreams how easy it would be to be on his own (“God a’mighty, if I was along I could live so easy…”), good, kind (“We kinda look after each other”), loyal, good judge of others, clean-living, peaceful and full of compassion. He’s also honest (“Made me seem God damn smart alongside of him.”)

10 Lennie Lennie is: “a huge man, shapeless of face with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders. He walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws.” He’s also a “nice fella” with a child’s mind (“jes’ like a kid”), immense body, innocent, animal-like (he drinks “scummy” water), dependent, incapable and “he ain’t mean” and has learning difficulties.

11 Slim Slim “moves with a majesty only achieved by royalty”, and was “the prince of the ranch”. He seems to understand how George feels at the end of the story: “You hadda, George. I swear you hadda,” and shows “understanding byond thought”.

12 Candy Candy is “a tall, stoop-shouldered old man” who clings to his dog, like Lennie clings to George. He “ain’t much good with on’y one hand.” He is “grinning with delight” when planning the ranch with George and Lennie. About his old dog, he says, “I’m so used to ‘im”, which echoes the way George is used to Lennie.

13 Crooks Crooks is “a proud, aloof man”, also physically disabled and a negro (therefore doubly vulnerable), cynical (“nobody gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land”) and intelligent. He realises his limitations as a black man when Curley’s wife says, “You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?”

14 Curley Curley is a “thin young man” who is pugnacious, awkward, spoilt, restless (Whit says that his “pants is just crawlin’ with ants”), grudging and obsessive about his wife and is “alla time picking scraps with big guys”.

15 Curley’s wife Curley’s wife is “heavily made up”, “a tart”, “jail bait” and “her voice had a nasal, brittle quality”. She’s pathetic, looks innocent and simple when dead. Had dreams to be an actress but gave them up when she married Curley. She is very lonely and doesn’t seem to have any female companionship on the ranch. Seems innocent and naive. (She thought her mum was hiding the letters and believed that the man would get her in the movies.)

16 The Boss The Boss is a reasonable man who buys whiskey for the hands at Christmas but probably spoils Curley. His wife is never mentioned – maybe she is dead.

17 Carlson Carlson is a brutal, “powerful, big-stomached man” who objects to the smell of Candy’s dog. George uses his Luger to shoot Lennie.

18 STRUCTURE “Of Mice and Men” is a short novel or novella. There are no chapter divisions but it is divided into six identifiable sections – the first and last sections are set by the pond on the Salinas River valley, California. These two scenes “book-end” the story. All the other sections are set in the bunk house or barn. The sections are more like scenes in a play than chapters in a book: each of these “scenes” is a clearly identified setting, which is simple and often very visual, like the characters; the plot is chronological (there are no flashbacks, unlike the film – simplicity is key to the style of the novel) and Steinbeck uses dialogue and speech to further the action.

19 Hints about how the story might end…
Steinbeck seems to drop plenty of hints about how the book will end: Lennie’s killing of mice What happened between Lennie and the girl in Weed The killing of Candy’s dog The fight with Curley The killing of the puppy The emphasis on Lennie’s vast, seemingly uncontrollable strength Curley’s wife’s interest in Lennie George’s oft-repeated assertions that the girl will bring nothing but trouble Lennie’s bad feelings about the ranch: “I don’t like this place, George. This ain’t no good place. I wanna get outa here.”

20 LANGUAGE AND STYLE Steinbeck is associated with two aspects of style: description, which is almost poetic in intensity, or down-to-earth and colloquial language. Steinbeck uses minute observations of nature and life. He paints pictures with metaphors and similes, such as the head of the water snake, “like a periscope”. This image works because it’s startling, it creates a strong image because we’ve all seen pictures of submarine periscopes emerging, dangerously from the depths. On the other hand, his down-to-earth description of the water that Lennie drinks by the pond as “scummy” not only gives the reader a clear sense of how it looks but also conveys his disgust for it and shows Lennie’s ignorance at the same time.

Steinbeck does not over-do the description but uses the senses economically. Look at the use of light in the opening scene (“the shade climbed up the hills towards the top”, and “as the blaze dropped from the fire the sphere of the light grew smaller”), the barn where Curley’s wife dies (“the sun threw a bright dust-laden bar through one of the side windows, and in and out of the beam flies shot like rushing stars”), the closing scene (Lennie died looking “across the pool and up the darkening slopes of the Gabilans”). This gives the scenes a play- or film-like quality again. Continuing this film-like theme, Steinbeck uses sound in his descriptions. Remember “the thuds and occasional clangs of a horseshoe game” and, in the closing scene, “…the leaves rustled… And the shouts of men sounded again, this time much closer than before.”

22 Places Each section/chapter of the novel, take part in a specific place: Chapter 1 – the Salinas River valley Chapter 2 – the bunk room Chapter 3 – the bunk room Chapter 4 – Crooks’ room Chapter 5 – the barn Chapter 6 – the Salinas River valley Each place is described in detail – how are they described, what happens in them and why are they important?

23 Dialogue Steinbeck uses a realistic, vernacular, slangy and colloquial language you would expect of ranch hands. Thus, he uses taboo words (“It’s brighter’n bitch outside”) and non-Standard grammatical forms, e.g. “Ain’t got no relatives nor nothing.” Steinbeck tries to recreate the voice of ‘ordinary’ people: “an’ I’d get a job an’ make up the res’, an’ you could sell eggs an’ stuff like that.” Dialogue reveals much about the characters, their optimism, pessimism, hope, cynicism and fears.

24 The Essay One question will be based on a short printed extract from the story. You will usually be asked to answer this question based mainly on this extract concerning an important character, a relationship between two or more characters, an effective use of setting or atmosphere or some aspect of plot or theme. Whilst your answer should focus mainly on the extract itself, you might also be expected to show awareness of what happens before and after the events of the extract. Here are typical questions:  'With close reference to the extract, how does Candy react when he hears his pet dog will be shot?' 'How do you respond to this part of the story?' 'With close reference to the extract, how might the reader's attitude towards Crooks change at this point?’  The second question will expect you to relate to an aspect of the whole story, such as the use its writer has made of a key character or how the writer has developed a particular theme. This type of question is called a discursive question. Here are some typical questions:  'What impressions of ranch work are created in Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'?' 'At the end of the novel, George walks off with Slim. How do you feel about this ending to the story?' 'For which character in the novel do you feel the most sympathy?' 'Violence is a key theme of the story; how does the writer convey this to his reader? Remind yourself of the closing part of the novel. Do you think this is an effective way to end the story? The second question might also ask you to write as if you were a character - writing a diary entry or a letter, for example. This is called an empathetic response.   'Imagine you are George Milton. Write a diary entry for the day you leave the ranch.'

25 Essay Structure Underline the keywords in the question
What does the question ask of you? Think… Make a brief plan: Introduction – refer to the question Argument in several paragraphs, discussing one point (P), supporting it with evidence (E) from the book and explaining (E) how it relates to the question. One PEE per paragraph. Conclusion – refer back to the question to reinforce your argument 5. Now start writing your essay…

26 Use key words from the question to structure your introduction, e.g.:
Animals are important in “Of Mice and Men”. Why is this and how does Steinbeck show their importance? In the story “Of Mice and Men”, Steinbeck chooses to include a number of animals, which appear to be symbolic of aspects of the story. Steinbeck clearly wanted us to view the mice as a symbol of the vulnerability of the weak against the strong, the dog shows the vulnerability of the old against the young and the rabbits represent George and Lennie’s American Dream, easy to see, yet impossible to catch.

27 Use key words from the question to structure your introduction, e.g.:
How does Steinbeck present the relationship between George and Lennie in the novel? Write about how George feels about Lennie, how Lennie feels about George, why you think George stays with Lennie and the methods Steinbeck uses to present their relationship. The relationship between George and Lennie is crucial to the development of “Of Mice and Men”. Lennie’s dependence upon George and George’s responsibility towards Lennie puts them both in a difficult situation and as the plot develops, the reader discovers how both characters deal with their relationship.

28 How would you introduce these two essays:
How does Steinbeck present loneliness and isolation in the novel? Write about characters who are lonely and isolated, why they are lonely and isolated, how Steinbeck’s settings reflect characters’ loneliness and isolation. How does Steinbeck prepare you for the idea that Curley’s wife’s death is inevitable?

29 The Argument If the essay title/question has bullet points, then make sure you answer each of the bullet points fully, e.g: How far do you think Steinbeck presents dreams as futile in “Of Mice and Men”? Write about: the dreams the characters have the effects of the dreams on the characters the extent to which Steinbeck presents the dreams as futile.

30 Plan your argument Jot down four ideas in response to each bullet point. Match up either direct quotations from the text or references to specific parts of the text to support your ideas. Now get writing…

31 Writing the Argument Don’t forget to use the PEE system. Be systematic: Make a point in response to the question/title - P Support your point with a quotation/example from the book – E Explain how this relates back to the question – E Start a new paragraph for each major point you make.

32 Writing the Argument – an example
The American Dream means different things to different characters in the book. For example, Curley’s wife dreams that she could be a famous performer on stage. She says, “………………..” which shows that ……………………. However, Crooks’ also has a dream; although because of his isolation, he rarely shares his thoughts with the white people on the ranch he says, “…………………..,” which suggests. Central to the novel, of course, is George and Lennie’s dream – but do they share the same dream? Lennie’s dream is “………………..,” whereas George admits that he would like to “………………………”. Thus, although they all share the idea of the American Dream, it manifest in different ways for different characters.

33 Writing the argument Be methodical – write your essay point by point, providing examples from the text to back up your points and making sure you’ve explained them fully. Keep an eye on the time – you have only 45 minutes in total. 5 minutes for planning, 35 for writing and 5 for checking at the end.

34 Conclusion – refer back to the question to reinforce your argument
Thus, it would appear that although the dreams Steinbeck’s characters have in “Of Mice and Men” seem to have been futile in the story, they are essential in order to give meaning to their hard lives, to make sense of their difficult existence and to keep alive the idea that, one day, their luck could change.

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