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How does Steinbeck present George and Lennie in Chapter 1?

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1 How does Steinbeck present George and Lennie in Chapter 1?

2 The first man stopped short in the clearing, and the follower nearly ran over him. He took off his hat and wiped the sweat-band with his forefinger and snapped the moisture off. His huge companion dropped his blankets and flung himself down and drank from the surface of the green pool; drank with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse. The small man stepped nervously beside him.        "Lennie!" he said sharply. "Lennie, for God' sakes don't drink so much." Lennie continued to snort into the pool. The small man leaned over and shook him by the shoulder. "Lennie. You gonna be sick like you was last night."        Lennie dipped his whole head under, hat and all, and then he sat up on the bank and his hat dripped down on his blue coat and ran down his back. "That's good," he said. "You drink some, George. You take a good big drink." He smiled happily.

3 George unslung his bindle and dropped it gently on the bank
George unslung his bindle and dropped it gently on the bank. "I ain't sure it's good water," he said. "Looks kinda scummy." Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers so the water arose in little splashes; rings widened across the pool to the other side and came back again. Lennie watched them go. "Look, George. Look what I done." George knelt beside the pool and drank from his hand with quick scoops. "Tastes all right," he admitted. "Don't really seem to be running, though. You never oughta drink water when it ain't running, Lennie," he said hopelessly. "You'd drink out of a gutter if you was thirsty." He threw a scoop of water into his face and rubbed it about with his hand, under his chin and around the back of his neck. Then he replaced his hat, pushed himself back from the river, drew up his knees and embraced them. Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly. He pushed himself back, drew up his knees, embraced them, looked over to George to see whether he had it just right. He pulled his hat down a little more over his eyes, the way George's hat was.

4 Where? Why?

5 The adjective the “first” man – he is the leader The adverb drops his bindle “gently” careful man The warning “ain’t sure it’s good water” cautious, cares about L The exclamation “Lennie!” followed by the adverb “sharply” bossy, critical? but cos of L’s lack of understanding, G has to treat him like a child. “hopelessly” shows George’s despair

6 The noun “follower” shows he watches his friend closely The verb “imitated” shows he copies him The adverb “exactly” emphasises that he wants to see “he had it just right”. His urging “You drink some, George” shows he likes George, wants to help, His actions “nearly ran over him” show he’s clumsy and unobservant The verbs “dropped”, “flung” show he does not have G’s refined movements

7 The simile “like a horse” animal-like, simple, primitive His actions “dabbling” his “big paw” child-like pleasure, and the metaphor “paw” again shows his closeness to animals Calling George by name “Look, George. Look what I done.” shows that he is attention-seeking like a little child The warning “like you was last night” doesn’t listen or learn from experience,

8 point+ “evidence” + explain
This extract from the opening of the book introduces the two main characters, establishing their relationship. When we first meet George, the “first” man, the adjective is symbolic of his part in the relationship: he is the leader who takes responsibility for both men and whom Lennie follows in everything. We find out that he is a careful man who drops his bindle “gently” onto the ground, the adverb contrasting with the clumsy behaviour of his companion. He is also a cautious man who cares about his companion: his first words are an order, warning his companion not to drink the water because he “ain’t sure it’s good water.” The use of exclamation marks and the adverb “sharply” might suggest that he is bossy and critical, but as we get to know the two men, we realise that because of Lennie’s lack of understanding, George has to treat him like a child. Even then, Lennie doesn’t seem to listen, which makes George despair; we see this in the writer’s choice of adverb, “hopelessly” when he warns Lennie for the umpteenth time. point+ “evidence” + explain

9 Now try to write your own paragraph on:
How does Steinbeck present Lennie at the start of Of Mice and Men?

10 point+ “evidence” + explain
Lennie idolises George and copies him in every way: he looks up to him as a father figure. He is described as the “follower” who watches his friend closely and the verb “imitated” is qualified by the adverb “exactly” emphasising that he wants to check to see “whether he had it just right”. He obviously likes George and wants to help, urging him to drink the green water: “You drink some, George”. Unlike George, he is clumsy and unobservant as he “nearly ran over him”. He does not have the refined movements of George as we see from the verbs used to describe his movements: “dropped” and “flung”. He is described almost as if he is an animal. The simile “like a horse” suggests that there is something simple and almost primitive about him. He also takes great pleasure in simple activities, dabbling his “big paw” in the water, begging for attention like a little child and frequently calling George by name: “Look, George. Look what I done.” Again like a child, he doesn’t seem to listen, ignoring George’s pleas not to drink the water, nor does he seem to learn from experience, as George warns him that he will be ill “like you was last night.” point+ “evidence” + explain

11 Although these are two grown men, it is obvious from the first pages that the relationship is more like that of father and son, and that George feels a duty of care for Lennie who seems unable to cope on his own. He watches out for him throughout the story, telling him what to do and what not to do. Despite all the trouble Lennie causes, like a father, George does not abandon him, but stays with him to the bitter end.


13 At that moment a young man came into the bunk house; a thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair. He wore a work glove on his left hand, and, like the boss, he wore high-heeled boots. "Seen my old man?" he asked. The swamper said, "He was here jus' a minute ago, Curley. Went over to the cook house, I think." "I'll try to catch him," said Curley. His eyes passed over the new men and he stopped. He glanced coldly at George and then at Lennie. His arms gradually bent at the elbows and his hands closed into fists. He stiffened and went into a slight crouch. His glance was at once calculating and pugnacious. Lennie squirmed under the look and shifted his feet nervously. Curley stepped gingerly close to him. "You the new guys the old man was waitin' for?" "We just come in," said George. "Let the big guy talk." Lennie twisted with embarrassment.

14 George said, "S'pose he don't want to talk?"
Curley lashed his body around. "By Christ, he's gotta talk when he's spoke to. What the hell are you gettin' into it for?" "We travel together," said George coldly. "Oh, so it's that way." George was tense, and motionless. "Yeah, it's that way." Lennie was looking helplessly to George for instruction. "An' you won't let the big guy talk, is that it?" "He can talk if he wants to tell you anything." He nodded slightly to Lennie. "We jus' come in," said Lennie softly. Curley stared levelly at him. "Well, nex' time you answer when you're spoke to." He turned toward the door and walked out, and his elbows were still bent out a little. George watched him out, and then he turned back to the swamper. "Say, what the hell's he got on his shoulder? Lennie didn't do nothing to him."

15 The old man looked cautiously at the door to make sure no one was listening. "That's the boss's son," he said quietly. "Curley's pretty handy. He done quite a bit in the ring. He's a lightweight, and he's handy."

16 Where? Early on, the first meeting with Curley, the boss’s son and Lennie’s nemesis Why? tense, potential for violence lurking

17 The adjective “high-heeled” boots (like the boss) suggests an inferiority complex – wanted to appear important His body language arms “gradually bent at the elbows” hands “closed into fists” aggressive, fighting stance, suggests he wants to fight Lennie The adjectives “calculating and pugnacious” sums up his opponent – shrewd, cunning as well as belligerent The verb/metaphor C “lashed” his body violent reaction; unpredictable? The adverb “coldly” unfriendly, unwelcoming

18 “By Christ!” What the hell…”
unwarranted violent aggressive response speech G “tense and motionless” suggests G is apprehensive, senses trouble adjectives L “squirmed” shifted his feet “nervously” uncomfortable, senses hostile attitude verb, adverb L looking “helplessly” vulnerable despite his size, a victim adverb C’s “pretty handy” knows how to fight C “hates” big guys; all the time “picking scraps with big guys” warns that there could be trouble for L verb, verb phrase G: “that Curley punk is gonna get hurt…” reminds us of L’s strength warning

19 This extract comes from the early part of the novella, after George and Lennie have arrived at the ranch. It describes their first meeting with Curley, the boss’s son and Lennie’s nemesis. The mood and atmosphere had been quite relaxed, with Candy, the swamper, trying to make the men feel welcome and allay their fears. However, as soon as Curley walks into the bunkhouse the atmosphere becomes tense, with the potential for violence ever-present. Even Curley’s appearance gives us clues to his mood. The fact that he wore “high-heeled” boots (like his father, the boss) suggests an inferiority complex. This adjective tells us that he wanted to appear important. He also speaks in a commanding tone without any preliminary niceties: “Seen my old man?” is more like a command than a question. His attitude is intimidating, becoming more belligerent when he sees the newcomers. His body language, as his arms “gradually bent at the elbows” and hands “closed into fists”, suggests an aggressive, fighting stance, as if he is waiting, or looking for, trouble. This is underlined by the adjectives “calculating and pugnacious” which suggest he wants to fight Lennie; he sums up his opponent, showing that he is shrewd and cunning, as well as belligerent.

20 However, at the same time, he is cautious: the adverb “gingerly” suggests that he is in awe of Lennie’s size. From this point, the tension escalates. Curley’s reactions are full of aggression. When he turns, Steinbeck uses a metaphor: “lashed his body” suggests an unnecessarily violent reaction. His speech too is threatening: the exclamations “By Christ!” What the hell…” again show an unwarrantedly aggressive response, and he raps out orders: “Nex’ time you answer when you’re spoken to”, “staring” at Lennie as he warns him. Curley has clearly been incensed by Lennie’s silence and we sense an impending fight. Tension is also created through the reactions of the other characters. George is described as “tense and motionless”, these adjectives suggest he is apprehensive, sensing trouble, but standing his ground. On the other hand, Lennie’s discomfiture is plain to see through his body language: the verb “squirmed” tells us that he is uncomfortable, whilst he shifted his feet “nervously”, this adverb showing us that although not understanding, he senses Curley’s hostile attitude. Another adverb, “helplessly” reminds us that he is vulnerable despite his size.


22 Where? The first meeting with Curley’s wife, having been prepared already for a trouble-making flirt Why? Introduces us to her character in person – seems to confirm expectations – or does it?


24 “cuts off” the rectangle of sunlight in the doorway.
sunshine and light seem to represent harmony symbolic “heavily” made up, painted fingernails and ostrich feathers suggesting appearance is important to her, incongruous, inappropriate – attention-seeking? adverb, detail “red” – her lips, her fingernails and mules. suggests attention-seeking; flirtatious, provocative; danger, girl in Weed? repeated adjective

25 voice: “nasal, brittle”
suggest someone shallow and hints at her fragile nature adjectives speaks “playfully”; deliberately flirting with the men, adverb “looking” provocative attitude: could mean that she is looking for Curley, or that she wants the men to look at her. double entendre

26 This is the first time we meet Curley’s wife, but Steinbeck has already built up a picture of her as flirtatious, a “tart” and “trouble”, and our expectations seem to be realised here. As she arrives, she “cuts off” the rectangle of sunlight in the doorway. This is symbolic: sunshine and light seem to represent harmony in this book, as we have already seen at the pool, where Lennie and George are happy; so the reader is immediately made wary of her and given a sense of foreboding. Steinbeck gives the reader lots of details about her appearance, suggesting that it is important to her – no detail is neglected, from her carefully curled hair (in childlike ringlets) to the painted fingernails and ostrich feathers on her mules. Her appearance is incongruous, contrasting with the coarse denims and working boots of the hands – we do not expect someone living on a ranch to dress so inappropriately. The fact that she is “heavily” made up suggests that she is either inexperienced or that she is not very pretty, an idea also suggested by Steinbeck’s comparison of her ringlets with “sausages” – an unflattering image. It also suggests that she has time on her hands and is out to impress.

27 Another point to note is that she is wearing a lot of red – her lips, her fingernails and mules. Red suggests that she is attention-seeking; red suggests danger, too and reminds us of the girl in Weed. Steinbeck has made the reader aware of Lennie’s love of soft, pretty things and that the girl in Weed was wearing a red dress so he means for us to sense trouble here. When she speaks, she deliberately tries to draw them into the conversation. The hands have interpreted this as flirting, but we learn later - in the barn - that it is her way of relieving her lonely existence. Steinbeck’s describes her voice as “nasal, brittle”; these adjectives suggest someone shallow and hints at her fragile nature when Lennie later breaks her neck. She speaks “playfully”; this adverb indicates that she is deliberately flirting with the men, and her provocative attitude is shown towards the end of this section when she uses double entendre: “looking” could mean that she is looking for her husband, or that she wants the men to look at her.

28 This is supported by her actions
This is supported by her actions. She deliberately attracts the men’s attention by adopting provocative poses “she bridled a little” and “she smiled archly and twitched her body”. The hands - including George – interpret this as flirting, and it is not until the end of the book that we realise that she is desperately lonely and seeking companionship in the only way she knows. She doesn’t love Curley; he spends little time with her and when he does, he physically abuses her and breaks her only form of escapism, her records. George, however, doesn’t understand this and his reaction, like that of the other hands including Slim, is to try to ignore her. Her overtures are met with a brusque response and the audience, like the hands, for the moment see her as “trouble”. It is only later that Steinbeck will arouse our sympathy for her.

29 Crooks’ room – where? why?
Men gone to town, left the weakest characters on the ranch See another side to Curley’s wife: Loneliness > pity Abuse > disgust NB reader’s attitude > what she says and does

30 loneliness > pity “the girl” Pity: youth, innocence? noun “I ain’t giving you no trouble” defensive – misunderstood? negative sentence “Think I like to..?” bewildered – why will no one talk to her? questions “I like to talk to somebody once in a while” lonely adverb phrase “Sure I’ve got a husband…” Shows anger at her lot Series of short sentences “Swell guy, ain’t he?” feel sorry for her, married to an unpleasant character sarcasm…

31 “stay in that two-by-four house”
doesn’t think of it as home demonstrative adjective: that = contemptuous; noun: house ”embarrassed silence” “Awright, cover him up if ya wanta” pity: men won’t talk to her, side with thuggish Curley! noun phrase “Baloney!” more intelligent than the men give her credit for exclamation “could put me in pitchers” pity: dreams crushed verb phrase “breathless with indignation” “ever’body out doin’ sompin” pity: her loneliness, deserted by husband of two weeks adjective shows extreme feeling; pronoun emphasises rejection but

32 Abuse > disgust “flared up” quick-tempered verb “sullenness” sulky, resentful attitude noun “contemptuously” shows no respect towards fellow rejects adverb “bindle bums” “bindle stiffs” “ a nigger an’ a dum-dum and a lousy ol’ sheep” abusive epithets

33 Overview: different side to her personality – previously a “tart”, “jailbait”, “rat-trap”, provocative, a flirt, shallow, etc Here she seems almost innocent, misunderstood – pity her loneliness and her loveless marriage to Curley But also cruel and abusive

34 where? why? This scene takes place when nearly all the men have gone into Soledad on a Saturday evening, leaving behind the rejects: Crooks, Candy, Lennie and Curley’s wife. This is an important scene because we see a different side to Curley’s wife’s character, which goes some way to explaining her behaviour.

35 At the start of the extract, the reader would feel almost sorry for Curley’s wife; she seems almost innocent: “I ain’t giving you no trouble,” she pleads defensively to be allowed to stay in the negro’s room with the other rejects. She also seems very bewildered and lonely, questioning the men why she would not like to talk to somebody “ever’ once in a while”, the adverb phrase suggesting that she rarely gets to converse with anyone except her husband who we already know to be pugnacious, a totally unsympathetic character. In fact, on the mention of her husband, she “flared up” immediately. This verb suggests an almost fiery anger towards him, and her quick short sentences show that she is overcome with anger. Her rhetorical, sarcastic question “Swell guy, ain’t he?” shows her true feelings towards Curley. Her then rapid burst of words and long sentences suggests she can’t control this burst of frustration. We as readers feel sorry for the girl trapped in a marriage to Curley and equally that “two-by-four house” which is obviously not a home to her.

36 We may also feel sorry for her because the other characters seem to read her all wrong: they seem to think that she has it all, just because she is the boss’s son’s wife. We can see this when they tell her to go along to “your” house, the pronoun showing that they see that house as belonging to her. However, Curley’s wife describes it as “that” house, the repetition of the demonstrative adjective makes the house seem like a negative place, a place that definitely does not belong to her. The characters even think she is satisfied with her husband, whereas Curley is controlling, checking up on her, he talks at her, rather than to her, or leaves her on her own.

37 However, we also she that she can be devious: she obviously knows the answer to the question “What happened to Curley’s han’?” before she asks it. Her demanding tone of voice “Who bust him?” makes us feel that her mask is coming off and that maybe Curley’s wife isn’t just a pretty, naïve girl. Her repetition of the word “awright” shows a change in tone as she senses rejection by the men. At first she responds by trying to impress them with her boast that she could have been “in pitchers”. Again we feel sorry for her briefly, because here is another person whose dreams remain unfulfilled; we see her clinging to an escape from the harsh reality of her life. It is such an exciting prospect that she is “breathless” with indignation, the adjective showing her excitement.

38 But them our view towards her changes as she abuses the men who were left behind, calling them “bindle bums” and “bindle stiffs”. She describes Crooks as a “nigger”, Lennie as a “dum-dum” and Candy as a “lousy ol’ sheep” – she doesn’t even think of them as men because she exclaims that “ever’body went to town”. But again our feelings change because she admits she is “likin’ it” because she is so lonely and unhappy with her life. In conclusion, I think that reader would mostly feel pity for Curley's wife as her speech and body language makes her seem more innocent, lonely and desperately unhappy than we have realised before.

39 Discovery of Curley’s wife’s body
Still by far and away the most popular prose text, there was plenty to say about the extract from “Of Mice and Men” and candidates discussed the feelings of George as well as commenting on Steinbeck’s use of language, such as the image of George’s face “as tight as wood”. There were also interesting speculations about George’s motivation at the end of the extract; it’s always good to see candidates putting forward their own theories backed up by supporting evidence. One perceptive candidate succinctly observed how “pragmatism takes over George’s emotions.” Another noted how “it is at this point in the novel when dreams meet reality and dreams do not last long in the real world.”

40 (a) George tries to act calmly at the start of this extract as “…He put his hand over her heart.” This shows us that he wanted to be sure she was dead before he did anything else; he wanted to remain calm. When George stood up he knew what had happened. This is indicated by the quote “stood up slowly and stiffly, his face was hard and tight as wood, and his eyes were hard.” This indicates that George knew that Lennie had killed her, but he could also see that the dream of buying the ranch had gone. George then had to think what to do. He was unsure of what would happen both to himself and Lennie. He hoped that Lennie would be helped: “Maybe they'll lock ‘im up an’ be nice to ‘im,” but he knows that it won’t happen. This is supported by the quote “That’s right, Curley will.” George is almost more worried about Lennie than he is about himself. Selects and discusses. C-

41 (b) You could argue to a great extent about the way George takes this news. Is he panicking and out of control? Or has he got it under control? When Candy calls George to see Curley’s wife dead on the floor at first he can’t believe it, shown by the verb “stared” and question “What’s the matter with her?” When he realises, the exclamation “Oh, Jesus Christ!” shows he is very shocked. The realisation of the inevitable comes as a huge shock and his first reaction is to hide his emotions: the simile “His face was as hard and tight as wood.” shows that he is still in shock. He is only starting to understand. He seems to berate himself for believing that they could get away without any trouble. He speaks to himself “hopelessly” and confesses “I should of knew.” Finally he begins to get to grips with what has just happened. “George was a long time in answering” but his first comments are tentative; he is not very sure of himself seen by the use of ellipsis and repetition: “Guess…we gotta tell the guys.. I guess…” At the moment George is not in full control of the situation and is still trying to digest the news and tries to “reassure himself” that, like previous times, all will turn out well. “Maybe they’ll lock ‘’im up an’ be nice to ‘im.”

42 As ever, he has Lennie’s best interests at heart when he says “We can’t let ‘im get away.” He doesn’t say this so that Lennie could get punished but he is worried what will happen to Lennie if he is by himself. Throughout the whole novel George was a good friend to Lennie and his reaction here proves this: “Why the poor bastard’d starve.” However, Candy’s description of what Curley will do when he finds him seems to bring him back to reality: “that’s right, Curley will,” and he confesses that deep down he “knowed we’d never do her.” By now George has lost faith and gives up on the dream, stating that he is going to behave like all the other ranch hands and start going to “some lousy cat-house” after he’s worked for a month. Towards the end of this passage George finally realises what will happen and comes up with a solution. He says “I ain’t gonna let ‘em hurt Lennie.” He has found his love for Lennie again. So George tells Candy what to do and he is back in control again and thinking right. Very engaged, sustained and thorough discussion. A-

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