7 How does Steinbeck strike an immediate contrast between the two characters? In particular, find words within each description that are direct ‘opposites’ to each other.George and Lennie take very different approaches to drinking the water. What does each man’s approach say about his character?What do George’s first words to Lennie tell us about the relationship between the two men?What other examples of imagery (metaphors and similes) can you find in the extract? How do they give us a clearer picture of the two men and their environment?Compare the ways in which the two characters talk. How does Lennie’s grammar and sentence construction differ from George’s? What is particularly characteristic of George’s speech, especially when he ‘gets mad’?
8 The American DreamOne of the major themes in the book is ‘The American Dream’, the hope of creating a better life. Look at the story about their farm that George and Lennie share. How does this story relate to ‘The American Dream’? Add your ideas to the image below.They could work for themselvesGeorge and Lennie talk about their farm on the second from last page of this section (page 16 in the Penguin (2000) edition.)
9 Describing LennieFind quotations on the second and third page that describe Lennie using characteristics normally associated with animals.Why do you think Steinbeck describes Lennie in this way?What happened to George and Lennie that meant they had to leave Weed?Why do you think Lennie likes hearing the story about the ranch so much?Example quotations:‘he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws.’‘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.’‘Lennie dabbled his big paw into the water.’
10 Foreshadowing What is foreshadowing? A subtle hint about something that will happen later in the book.Often a signal that warns of danger for one of the characters.A way of creating anticipation and tension for the reader.A way of making the reader want to find out what happens next.Look at the end of Section One. Can you find an example of foreshadowing here? What do you think might happen later on in the book that is being hinted at here?
11 Foreshadowing and Animals Steinbeck provides clues that the novel will end tragically and, in the tradition of Greek Tragedy, this outcome is inevitable from the outset. One of the unifying devices in providing the sense of tragic inevitability is the use of animals and animal imagery, in the title and in the opening.
12 Exam Question: Discuss Steinbeck’s use of animals/ animal imagery as a clue to the novel’s outcome.
13 The Title Characterisation Setting The Theme Discuss Steinbeck’s use of animals/ animal imagery as a clue to the novel’s outcome.Choose 1 area and use the bullet points as a guide to answering the question.The TitleThe title is faithful to Robert Burns’s poem from which it is taken. In Burns’s poem "To a mouse" we read:The best laid schemes o’ Mice and Men,Gang aft a-gley (often go wrong)An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ painFor promis’d joy."In your discussion, you might want to consider the following:• Steinbeck’s use of the alliterative “Of Mice and Men” and the context of the title in Burns’s poem• The fact that the poem is about the struggle for survival of a fieldmouse• The fate of the mice in the first chapterCharacterisation• The animal imagery used to introduce Lennie and associations with that animal• The powerful link between Lennie and the mice• Lennie’s “blubberin’” when his mouse is thrown awaySetting• Where George and Lennie have come from and what seems to have happened there• The fact that the rabbits “hurried noiselessly for cover”• The disturbance of the animals in their natural, calm environmentThe Theme• The story “about the rabbits”• What immediately precedes the story “about the rabbits”• The significance of the more ‘colourful’ description of the rabbits at the end of the chapter
14 The Title Characterisation Setting The Theme Discuss Steinbeck’s use of animals/ animal imagery as a clue to the novel’s outcome.Choose 1 area and use the bullet points as a guide to answering the question.The Title• Alliterative connection between mice and men – both subject to fate. Context of title gives biggest clue of tragedy/pessimism for the dream• Struggle for survival of subject of Burns’s poem – hints strongly at vulnerability – powerful image of innocent helplessness against a much stronger force. Underlined in Lennie’s character in first chapter• Simple logic. Dead mice in 1st chapter signals possible human tragedy given the novel’s titleCharacterisation• Bear metaphor significant. Legendary strength. Bear hug – over-enthusiastic and therefore painful – pre-cursor to Curley’s wife incident. Bear-baiting is effectively the catalyst which propels the plot towards its tragic conclusion• Lennie and mice both vulnerable – mice physically, Lennie emotionally• Lennie’s childlike “blubberin’” when mouse is thrown away is further evidence of his emotional vulnerability, easily susceptible to exploitationSetting• Mystery of events in Weed. Lennie petting girl’s dress, “jus’ wanted to pet it like it was a mouse” – trouble in the past – recurring cycle of events?• Rabbits run for cover when situation becomes dangerous. Parallels with description of how “we got to hide in a irrigation ditch all day and…sneak out in the dark.” Probability of this happening again with tragic result• Tranquillity of setting is deceptive. Rabbits presented as innocent, cute and playful in their natural setting, but hint of calm before the storm hallucinatory, grotesque rabbit of last chapterThe Theme• Rabbits’ story represents the dream that from the outset seems unrealistic• Other animals used to paint picture of land ownership and self-sufficiency, but through George relating the story to the childlike Lennie, has the quality of fairytale set against struggle for survival• Rabbits description at the end of chapter 1 used to eliminate possibility of any aspect of dream having any realistic meaning – fantasy world of the imagination only
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