Of Mice and Men essay planning - crypt-english-dept

Explore the ways Steinbeck presents and
develops a central character in Of Mice
and Men.
Key considerations:
•Why does Steinbeck present George/Lennie in the way
that he does? What does he want you to think about
that character?
•Can you make an overall argument about what
Steinbeck was trying to achieve (or “say”) through the
book? Can you link this to the presentation and
development of your chosen character?
•Can you select examples from the book to enable you to
support your points/argument? Can you analyse the
writer’s use of language, structure and form?
Chapter 1
How Lennie is introduced
Chapter 2
What happens and how Lennie’s
character is shown/developed
Chapter 3
What happens and how Lennie’s
character is shown/developed
Chapter 4
What happens and how Lennie’s
character is shown/developed
Chapter 5
What happens and how Lennie’s
character is shown/developed
I think that Steinbeck wants to...
When Lennie...
Here, the description of Lennie is
carefully worded in order to...
Also/in addition/similarly/at the same time...
Slim says that...
Here, the structure of the novel
helps us to understand that...
While some might argue that Lennie’s
character does not change through the novel, I
think that Steinbeck does a lot to develop…
And so on, towards the conclusion
Point 1.
Supporting evidence/quotation (from
anywhere in novel)
Point 2 (linked)
Supporting evidence/quotation
Point 3
I want to argue that Lennie is presented as an innocent.
I’m not sure why yet though...but I can
confidently build an argument that he’s not
corrupted or tainted by evil or sin...
This is shown in stark contrast to other
characters, especially Curley...
Steinbeck makes Lennie a mentally
handicapped character. Why? To heighten
the pathos? (you feel more sorry for him) Or
to emphasise his innocence? (Or both?)
The comments of Slim develop our view of
Lennie – ‘he ain’t mean...’ Given the weight
of Steinbeck’s approval of Slim in this novel
(see his introductory description), Slim’s view
of Lennie is powerfully persuasive – the voice
of Steinbeck, almost dictating that we
approve of Lennie as a ‘nice guy’.
That’s why he’s compared to animals –
animals cannot help what they do; they
are in keeping with their environment...
Perhaps that’s why
Steinbeck uses verbs
suggestive of labour
in chapter 1 when he
describes the bird
‘pounding down
river’ etc.
The narrative form Steinbeck chooses
depends heavily on dialogue. How is this
used to develop Lennie’s character?
How does the character of Lennie develop?
Initially presented as a burden on George.
“God a’mighty, if I was alone I
could live so easy.”
However, it seems that George feels
responsible for him, and there is a sense of
companionship, belonging and purpose in
George’s life
“Guys that work on ranches... But
not us.”
Lennie’s character is implicitly developed
by the parallel with Candy’s dog; the
shooting of the dog because it is a burden
to its master and cannot work (“suffers
hisself”) –the shooting crucially approved
by Slim, as is the shooting of Lennie. What
does this imply?
Is this why Steinbeck compares Lennie
to a dog bringing a ball back to its
master in Chapter 1?
The narrative is circular in many ways. It
begins in the brush by the river and ends
in the brush by the river. Does this suggest
anything about the development (or nondevelopment) of Lennie’s character?
Lennie – some starting points:
• Note all the comparisons between Lennie and animals through the novel; why does
Steinbeck do this?
• How does Steinbeck present Lennie’s very weak mental faculties? Why did Steinbeck
choose to present Lennie in this way? How does our view of Lennie’s weaknesses
develop through the novel? Why?
• How do conversations between various sets of characters help to develop Lennie’s
character – help us to understand Lennie, his relationship to George and his significance
in the story?
• How does Steinbeck structure the story to develop our response to Lennie? (e.g. look at
the encounters with other characters which invite contrasts and comparisons, such as
Lennie & George, Lennie & Curley, Lennie & Crooks, etc.) Explore these links and
contrasts, and what Steinbeck is suggesting to you through them.
• Steinbeck uses symbols and parallels to develop characters (i.e. Candy’s dog, hands,
rabbits, farm animals, etc.) How does this affect our understanding of/feelings about
Lennie and his significance in the novel?
• What do you think Steinbeck wanted to say about the world/human beings/society/Men
in this book, and how does he use Lennie to communicate this?
George – some starting points:
• How does Steinbeck present George at the beginning of the book (i.e in contrast to
Lennie, as Lennie’s “master” etc.)
• How does Steinbeck present and develop George’s character through various
dialogues, comparisons and interactions with other characters? Focus on George and
Slim, George and Carlson, George and Curley, George and Curley’s wife, George and
Candy. For example, how does George’s conversation with Slim at the beginning of
section 3 help us to understand George’s feelings about Lennie and his “journey” as a
person? How does George’s conversation with/about Curley’s wife help to depict his
attitudes to women in relation to those of other characters? (see also George’s
comments about ‘cat houses’). Is George’s attitude meant to seem typical of male
roles at the time or to stand out as different?
• How does Steinbeck structure the story to develop our response to George? For
example, compare George’s incantatory reiterations of the dream of owning their own
place (three times in the novel). Does this show any change or development? (i.e. of
mood, feelings, motivation, irony?) Also look for other repeated elements, such as
George’s comments about women brothels and what these suggest about him.
• The novel ends where it began (the narrative is circular in this regard); at the end, do
we feel that George has developed or not? Why?
Sentence starters
Steinbeck seems to want to...
The novel demonstrates that...
The first time we are introduced to George/Lennie,
Steinbeck suggests to us that...
I think that Steinbeck wants to show us ....

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