LITERATURE SECTION A: Post 1914 prose Of Mice and Men In the GCSE Literature examination you will be asked to write one question about the novel you have studied in class. You will have 45 minutes. You will need to: - Analyse the decisions the writer has made - Explore the techniques used by the writer - Understand how context can change our perception of the novel Setting and context are often thought to be the same thing. They both are defined as the time and place the book is set in. However there are important differences and they produce different responses to the book. Setting is the actual places the character visits and what the time is when he does this. They tell us something about the character and the effects of the environment on the character. Context is the time and place the writer produced his novel and how this is different to ours. This changes the ideas, beliefs and attitudes of the reader to the events. This is a much more important idea, as it is part of the grade descriptions for the higher grade. The time and place that Of Mice and Men is set in is very important to understanding the book. John Steinbeck’s main aim was to explore the idea of the American Dream. It is important that you understand what the American Dream is and how it affects the attitude of characters in the novel. Task 1: Type “American Dream” into Google and look at three different sites and what they have to say. Then, answer these questions: a) What is the American Dream? b) What are the dreams of the different characters in the novel? Complete this table. Character Dream George Lennie Candy Curly’ Wife c) Slim is meant to be a symbol of the American Dream. Explain why he is thought to have achieved the dream even though he works for the boss. Task 2: Look up the following ideas on the internet or in the library. Write down some of the most important ideas. Then, think carefully about how this links to the book and what Steinbeck is saying about life at this time. Idea Researched facts How does it link to “Of Mice and Men”? “Of Mice and Men” features ‘migrant’ or ‘itinerant’ farm workers. What can you find out about farm workers at this time and what it was like to live life this way? What was the Wall Street Crash in 1929 and how would it have affected American life? What is a ‘dust bowl’ and how did this create havoc for farmers like those living on the ranch in Soledad? Task 3: The most important description of setting, or place, is at the beginning of Chapter 1 and Chapter 6. Here the same place is described but in different ways. The changes in description tell the reader a lot about the impact of the changes in the book. Complete the table below. Find examples of where the same thing is described in Chapter 1 and then again in Chapter 6, one has been completed to help you: Chapter 1 Chapter 6 “A water snake slipped along on the pool, “A silent head and beak lanced down and its head held up like a little periscope” plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically.” Task 4: Explain the changes in the description. This could be a question in the examination, so make your answer as detailed as possible. Plot Plot refers to the events in the novel, the story that is being told. It is important to know the plot well, as it will help you to provide evidence to support any of your opinions. However, you need to avoid retelling the story in the exam. Here are some pictures showing events from Of Mice and Men. Task 5: Name the events that these pictures show. Put these events into the correct order and then explain the importance of these events to the story. Task 6: Which of these events is the most important and why? Task 7: Each of these events tells us something about what Steinbeck was talking about. Explain what ideas crop up in each of these events. Task 8: The structure of the novel is very important. It goes around in a circle. Complete this plot diagram for the novel, giving each title a name. Chapter 6 Chapter 1 Chapter 5 Chapter 2 Chapter 4 Chapter 3 Task 9: At the beginning of the book George and Lennie have to leave Weed because Lennie gets into trouble for touching a woman’s dress. At the end of the book he is in trouble for killing Curly’s Wife. At the beginning of the book George and Lennie are sat in the brush by the lake having escaped Weed. At the end of the book George kills Lennie by the same lake in the brush. Why does Steinbeck make the events in the book come full circle? How does this help explain why George had to kill Lennie? Characters have two purposes in novels. One is to explore a person and their character, looking at their motivations and reactions. Another purpose is to act as a symbol for an idea that is important in the novel or as a plot device. Task 10: The characters of George and Lennie are at the centre of the book. Arguably, they are the only two characters we really get to know as people. George and Lennie are opposites in many ways and yet they have come to depend on each other. a. Complete the table below. Think of four words to describe George and four words to describe Lennie. Then, find a quotation that supports your choice of word. George Lennie Word Quotation Word Quotation b. List the reasons why George needs Lennie and why Lennie needs George. George needs Lennie because: Lennie needs George because: Task 11: Lennie is described as walking slightly behind George. He is also compared to animals: including a horse, a bear and a dog. Why is this important? How does it explain Steinbeck’s choice to make such a big deal about Candy’s dog? Task 12: Some characters in the book tend to be used as a symbol. The biggest group of characters are the outsiders, those who are unable to achieve the American Dream because they don’t have the same options available to them. They help to prove Steinbeck’s point that not everyone is born equal so they don’t have the same chances. a. Sketch a picture of these four people. b. Label the sketch with the name of the character. c. Explain why each of these characters is considered an outsider. Task 14: In Chapter 4 all the outsiders gather in Crooks’ place in the barn. Pick out a quotation for each of the outsiders in this chapter. Then, explain what it tells us about the character and their chances in life. Character and quotation What does this tell us about their character and their chances in life? These are the ideas behind the novel. Of Mice and Men is an allegory. This means it has a moral meaning. This informs the reader that Steinbeck’s intentions were to teach the reader something or ask them to consider particular ideas or issues. Task 15: What does Steinbeck have to say about each of the following themes? For each idea that you suggest you need to say which part of the book makes you think this. Some bullet points have been given to help you. Theme 1: Fate and Destiny - The title - Mice - Dreams - The novella’s structure Theme 2: Dreams and Reality - Owning a ranch - Crooks and Candy - Curley’s wife - The American Dream. Theme 3: Loneliness - George and Lennie - Candy and his dog - Crooks - Curley’s wife. Theme 4: Friendship − George and Lennie’s speech − The Bosses reaction − Bill Tanner − The ending. Task 16: Which of these themes and ideas would you consider to be the most important message of the novel? What is Steinbeck’s moral? As Of Mice and Men is an allegory and because it is a novella, or a very short novel, Steinbeck uses a lot of symbolism and comparisons to explore complicated ideas. Task 17: Of greatest importance are the animals that Steinbeck uses to symbolize the important ideas in his book. Fill in the table below. In one column explore what you believe the symbol to represent. In the other column find a quotation from the novel to support you idea. Symbol Quotation Explanation Mouse Rabbit Old Dog Bear Heron and Snake Task 18: Also important are the choices that Steinbeck makes when he describes the characters in the book. For each of the main characters: George, Lennie, Slim, Crooks, Candy, Curly and Curly’s Wife, pick out adjectives and verbs that are used by Steinbeck. For instance, you might notice that everything that Slim does is god-like; whilst Curly’s Wife is described as a “tart” and “bitch” amongst others. The most important part of writing an essay on a novel is making sure you answer the question. It is easy to fall into telling the story; therefore you need to pick out the key word(s) and use topic sentences effectively. Here are some examination questions: a) Do you sympathise with the character of Curley’s wife? b) Does Steinbeck create a believable character in Lennie? c) How are animals featured in Of Mice and Men? d) What is the significance of loneliness in this novel? e) How does the ending emphasise the relationship between George and Lennie? f) How far do you agree that the death of Lennie is inevitable? g) Hopes and Dreams are important in Of Mice and Men – discuss. h) How does the author make George a sympathetic character? Task 19: Pick out the key idea(s) from each of the questions above. The first one has been done for you: a) Sympathise/ Curley’s wife b) c) d) e) f) g) h) Task 20: For one of the questions, complete this paragraph map. Follow the instructions in italics to ensure that you include all the necessary parts of an essay plan – all responses should be bullet pointed not in sentences. Introduction Introduce the text, giving background details that are important to the question. Paragraph One Give an answer to the question. Bullet point examples. Bullet point what you will say about the examples. Paragraph Two Give an answer to the question. Bullet point examples. Bullet point what you will say about the examples. Paragraph Three Give an answer to the question. Bullet point examples. Bullet point what you will say about the examples. Paragraph Four Give an answer to the question. Bullet point examples. Bullet point what you will say about the examples. Conclusion Answer the question directly whilst summarising what you have said in the essay. Here is the mark scheme that your examiner will use to mark the essay that you write. Task 21: Circle the key words in the mark scheme. Grade Description U Something specific about the text Some specific features identified Some awareness of content of text G Familiarity with specific part(s) of a text; Familiarity with the narrative sequence; Reference to some detail(s); Simple comment; Simple response to text and task F Selection of appropriate material; awareness of explicit meaning(s); range of details, some inference/deduction; simple identification of a method or an effect; simple response to characters/ situations/ ideas E Support points made; generalization(s) about text/ subject matter; some comment on specific details; some awareness of specific details; some awareness of a writer at work; supported response to characters/ situations/ ideas D Some focus on question; awareness of feeling(s) and attitude(s); range of comment on specific details; awareness of effects intended/ achieved; explained response to character/ situation/ ideas. C Structured response to question; sustained relevant knowledge; appropriate comment on meaning/ style; understanding of how effects are achieved; effective use of details to support answer; sustained response to situations or ideas B Sustained and measured response to the question; some exploration; appreciation of writer’s concerns/ attitudes/ ideas; details linked to writer’s intentions and purposes; measured/ qualified response to writer’s ideas and/ or methods A Exploratory response to terms of the question; insight into writer’s methods, purposes and characteristics; developed exploration of context/ meaning/ response; insight into structure and significance of patterns of detail; evaluative A* Subtle/ forceful response to implications of the question; consistent insight; independent discovery and interpretation of significant details; convincing interpretation; close textual evaluation or analysis; independent, analytical, evaluative Task 22: In your own words explain what you have to do well to achieve your challenge grade Here is an answer to an essay question: Explore the role of friendship in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck’s novella, Of Mice and Men, focuses on the friendship of two men George and Lennie. The novel recounts the pair’s journey from one problem in Weed to a much more serious situation in Soledad. Ultimately, the novel marks the end of their friendship when George is forced to kill Lennie. Despite the fact that one of the major themes in the novel is friendship, most of the men in the book are lonely. The novel is set in a time of migrant workers and high unemployment. Therefore, many men just take a job for a month and move on, with no one getting a chance to bond with others. This is clearly illustrated by the letter written by Bill Tanner. All the men in the bunk house were comforted by the idea that they knew this man, even just for one month. The fact that few men have friends is further exemplified by the fact that the Boss and Slim were surprised and suspicious of the close bond shared by George and Lennie. Therefore, friendship in the novel is clearly symbolised through the bond shared by George and Lennie. Throughout the novel Lennie demands that George remind him why they move around the country together. George reminds him that it is because “I can take of you and you can take care of me.” It is the idea that they can look out for each other. This is something that even Slim finds appealing and he seems to look on with admiration when George speaks with pride about Lennie. However, the friendship is hardly reciprocal. Lennie is not capable of looking after George; in fact he often gets him into trouble. It is significant that Lennie always asks for the speech after George talks about how difficult his life is because he is with Lennie. George himself admitted that he only stuck with Lennie because of guilt at some of the things that he used to make Lennie do and because he felt he owed it to Lennie’s Aunt Clara to look after him. It could be argued that Steinbeck’s ending to the novel can be seen as evidence that George was not prepared to spend the rest of his life dealing with Lennie and his problems. It is difficult to understand why he and George just couldn’t run again, as they had done from Weed. However, it is hard to believe that the moral to Steinbeck’s allegory would be that men cannot be friends. Alternatively, the ending of the novel could be seen as the ultimate act of friendship. George was aware that Curly wouldn’t give up his pursuit of Lennie and would make sure that his death was slow. Therefore, to spare him this agony, George killed him humanely, shooting him in the back of the head as he thought about the dream. Parallels can be drawn with the shooting of Curly’s dog, however unlike Curly George took responsibility for the shooting of his loyal friend so that he could be there for him at the end. Therefore, overall, Steinbeck seems to be suggesting that men at this time found it difficult to bond with other men and because of this they were lonely, whilst the friendship between George and Lennie will continue to be a matter of debate. Was it true friendship or was it feelings of obligation on George’s part? Was the killing of Lennie at the end an act of desperation for George to have a normal life or was it the ultimate act of friendship? Task 23: What grade would you give this essay and why?