If you need help in English Literacy GCSE or want information on ‘Of Mice and Men’, you have come to the right place. This article as well as being very long will have everything you need to know about ‘Of Mice and Men’, from the story plot to why it’s called ‘Of Mice and Men’ and from an analysis of the main characters such as Lenny, George, Slim and so on. Feel free to skip the the sections that are most relevant to you.
Before I get things going, I must tell you there is a reason why this story ‘Of Mice and Men’ is called ‘Of Mice and Men’ and it’s all because of a Scottish poem named ‘To a Mouse’ by Robert Burns. It is very difficult to understand however towards the end there is a stanza that is:
‘But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promis’d joy!’
As you can see, it says ‘The best laid schemes’ which can relate to :
Which are all important factors in this story.
The workers George Milton and Lennie Small are resting near a river and are on their way to a nearby ranch where they expect to do some temporary work. They have hurriedly left the last ranch they worked at due to an incident involving Lennie. Lennie finds a mice in which he killed by petting it too hard. George takes the mice and throws it away. Then, Lennie constantly pleads George to tell him over and over again about their dream ranch, where Lennie will be able to full fill his dream and ‘tend the rabbits’. George loses his temper a bit at Lennie saying how better he would be off without Lennie, but realises he is being mean. George also tells Lennie is something bad happens, Lennie should meet George by the stream they are currently at.
So, what hints are there that foreshadows of future trouble?
- Lennie has killed creatures in the past.
- They lost their old jobs.
- Lennie gets into lots of trouble with a quote ‘get in trouble like you (Lennie) always done before’.
- Lennie forgets things.
- Expectation of trouble: meet at stream if something bad happens.
- Need escape route if something goes wrong.
The Key Themes in this Chapter:
– Friendship ‘loneliest guys in the world…but not us…’
– The Dream of a ranch for themselves. This links to the title and of Robert Burn’s poem where it says the best laid plans often go wrong.
– Father-son relationship.
The next day, George and Lennie make it to the ranch where they meet most of the main characters; Curley, the boss’s son; the boss who is suspicious that George won’t let Lennie speak; Candy, an old swamper with one hand; Curley’s wife, beautiful young wife that flirts with everyone; Slim, the top ranch hand who is respected by everyone; and Carlson, another of the established hands. Slim is friendly to George and Lennie. Slim’s bitch dog recently gives birth to puppies and Lennie begs George to ask him if he will give one to Lennie as a pet.
So, what hints are there that foreshadows of future trouble?
- Curley takes a dislike to Lennie and George.
- George takes a dislike to Curley.
- Curley’s wife is a ‘jail-bait’ because she’s a flirt.
- Lennie is attracted to Curley’s wife.
- Lennie wants a puppy but from previous experiences might kill it.
- Lennie’s disability to talk and not be as clever is making him a target.
- Lennie doesn’t like it and wants to leave.
We have now met the main characters which are as follows:
- George – Lennie’s best friend. Has to always keep an eye for Lennie. Clever.
- Lennie – George’s best friend. Clumsy, forgets things and extremely strong.
- Slim – The best worker. Very nice, the prince of the ranch and is respected.
- Carlson – He’s fat and not sympathetic as he has it in for Candy’s dog and wants it to be shot.
- Candy, the swamper (given that name as he’s old like his dog and has a hand missing) – knows most of the time what’s going on but is quiet.
- Crooks the Stable buck (he’s black) – He has a hunch from where a horse kicked him, lives in the stables and at Christmas was invited into the bunk house.
- Curly – Small, does boxing and is very angry and tries to dominate. Keeps one hand in a glove of Vaseline so it’s soft for his wife.
- Curley’s wife – Aimlessly wonders around, very attractive and flirts with all the men on the ranch.
- The boss – Curley’s dad and owns the ranch. A bit suspicious of George and Lennie.
Now, this story is very much centralised on ‘The American Dream’ which in this case is similar to Lennie and Georges dream: of a better life.
How does the American dream link to the first two chapters?
- George and Lennie’s dream of a better life, pursuit of happiness. P32
- The idea they have worked their whole life to try and reach happiness.
- George’s dream to own land and have freedom, to be independent.
- The racism, ‘nigger’ (quoted on page 41) contradicts the idea of equality.
- How ranchmen lose their money on prostitutes, drink and ‘blow their stake’. Not possible to become wealthy therefore wealth=happiness and poverty=sadness. P32
- Ranchmen don’t work towards anything: they have no ‘pursuit of happiness’ unlike George and Lennie.
In chapter 3, a lot goes on which is why it’s best to evaluate the chapter through listing key incidences in chronological order.
This colour= what goes on – This colour= themes and ideas – This colour= page numbers – This colour=key characters involved
- George opens up to Slim about Lenny – friendship and loneliness – P65-69 – Slim and George
- Killing the dog, Candy letting the dog get shot – violence and selfishness – P70-74 – Slim, Candy, Carlson and George.
- The silence before the shot – Awkwardness – P75-76 – Everyone, Candy especially.
- Curley suspects wife is with Slim – violence and conflict –P81-83 – Curley and Slim.
- Candy, George and Lennie dream about future life becoming possible – dreams, friendship, loneliness and unity – P83-89 – Candy, George and Lennie.
- Slim confronts Curley – conflict – P89-90 – Slim and Curley.
- [Climax] Curley fights with Lennie, Lennie squashes Curley’s hand – violence and conflict – P90-94 – Lennie, Curley, Slim and George.
As you can see, a lot goes on in chapter 3 that builds tension and causes a lot of conflict. The idea that there will be trouble has turned out to be true as Lennie crushes Curley’s hand. However, this is only the beginning to Lennie’s troubles.
In chapter 4, all the men go into town on Saturday night except Lennie, Candy and Crooks. Crooks reluctantly allows Lennie into his room where they talk. Crooks taunts Lennie that George may not return, leaving Lennie on his own. Lennie begins to panic at this though and Crooks is forced to apologise in an attempt to calm Lennie down. Candy joins they and he and Lennie let slip to Crooks their intention to buy a farm. They are interrupted by Curley’s wife, who is looking for company. Candy and Crooks resent her presence and when Crooks orders her out of his room, she attacks him verbally, using her superior social status as a white women.
So what can we learn from the character ‘Crooks’?
- Intellectual (has a big collection of books).
- Lonely – makes him aggressive but friendly.
- Desperate for friendship.
- Wants a new life e.g. farm.
- Has a (american) dream too.
- One of the ‘weak ones’ or ‘bindle stiffs’ (used by Curley’s wife, almost saying they are the misfits).
- Proud and feels superior.
- Has a streak of cruelness.
And what can we learn from the character Curley’s wife?
- Dangerous and almost cruel.
- Wants attention and someone to talk to.
- Lonely and therefore is part of the ‘weak ones’ or ‘bindle stiffs’.
- Harbours her own secret (american) dream – being in Hollywood as an actress.
- Controlled by Curley.
Quotes to show the theme ‘Loneliness’ (all on P105)
- ‘A guy needs somebody’
- ‘I tell ya a guy gets too lonely’
- ‘If some guy was with me’
Quotes to show the theme of ‘Dream’
- ‘We’re gonna have rabbits an’ a berry patch’ P106
- ‘Get a little piece of land in his head’ P106
- ‘An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever get it’ P106
- Curley’s wife’s dream ‘I could have went with shows’ P111
Quotes to show the theme of ‘Prejudice’
- ‘I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny’ P113
- ‘Listen, nigger’ P113
- ‘Nobody listen’s to you’ P114
- ‘Nobody listens to us’ P114
- ‘They left all the weak ones here’ P110
Most of the men are outside playing at throwing horseshoes except Lennie. He is in the barn where he has just accidentally killed his puppy by stroking it too hard. Curley’s wife comes in and starts to flirt with Lennie who confesses to her his liking for stroking things nice and soft. She then invites him to stroke her long soft hair, but as his stroking becomes harder, she panics; the harder the strokes the more she panics and in the end, Lennie accidentally breaks her neck by picking her up and telling her to stop screaming. He half-buries her body in hay and runs off. Candy discovers Curley’s wife’s body and informs the rest of the men. Curley is furious and decides to seek revenge, organising a man-hunt to pursue and kill Lennie. Unwillingly, George joins the hunt.
‘And the meanness and the planning and the discontent and the ache of attention were all gone from her face’ P129
Translation – The prejudice, conflict, dreams and loneliness had all gone from her face.
Death is the only release for her, she’s only truly happy when she’s dead.
- She doesn’t like Curly ‘I don’t like Curly’.
- Tolerant and understanding for Lenny.
- Empathy for Lennie.
- Desperately lonely.
- She had dreams that were then shattered when she married Curly.
- Always called ‘Curley’s wife’ like a possession and to make her linked to Curley.
As well as there being a lot about Curley’s wife, there is just as much in chapter 5 to do with the dream.
- George controls the dream and decides it can’t and was never going to happen.
- Candy, George and Lennie’s dream is shattered.
- Curley’s wife had a dream of being in Hollywood as an actress: her dream is shattered.
- Candy’s impression of Curley’s wife stays the same even when she dies.
- Slim and George are sorry for Lennie doing it because only them to know what Lennie is like.
- Curley’s view is not of sadness but at anger for Lennie killing his wife.
Chapter 6 (Final Chapter)
George meets up with Lennie at the clearing where he had instructed Lennie to go in the event of any trouble. Lennie is panicking and George attempts to calm him down by telling him once again about their ranch (their dream). George distracts Lennie’s attention and shoots him in the back of the head with Carlson’s Luger pistol which he had stolen from the bunk house.
This story is the classic example of ‘The American Dream’, where in this period of time, the american dream was the possibility of freedom, prosperity and success. George, Lennie, Candy and Curley’s wife all had dreams but were shattered. The idea of a better life gave many Americans false hope, as in most cases, their dreams were very optimistic. George always knew from the start when he first talks about his and Lennie’s dream at the stream, it was never really going to happen as George is clever and foreshadowed there being trouble involved in Lennie, which was true.
Following now are important quotes by each character during the story, with the bolder blue being themes blue being quotes and green being page numbers
Dream ‘I could live so easily’ P24
Dreams ‘I could stay in a cat house all night’ ‘get whatever I want’ P29
Dreams ‘we got a future’ P32
Loneliness/friendship ‘we got somebody to talk to’
Prejudice ‘Don’t even take a look at that bitch’
Conflict/violence ‘Get um Lennie, don’t let him do it’ P96
Conflict/warning (George) ‘Hide in the brush’ P34
Violence ‘make ‘um stop George’ P91
Prejudice ‘smiled helplessly in an attempt to make friends’ P99
Dreams ‘gonna let me tend the rabbits’
Conflict/violence ‘Don’t you go yellin’ he said, and he shook her. (towards the end)
Friendship ‘Me an’ you’ (at the end)
Dreams ‘Le’s do it now. Le’s get that place now’
Loneliness/friendship ‘I can see Lennie ain’t a bit mean’ P67
Loneliness/friendship ‘Slim asked calmly’ P67
Conflict/violence ‘You lay off me (to Curley)’ P90
Loneliness/friendship ‘You hadda, George. I swear you hadda’ P148
Loneliness/friendship ‘a guy got to sometimes’ P148
Loneliness/friendship ‘that ain’t no good George’ P148
Dream ‘Tell ya what Lennie I been figuring out about those rabbits’
Loneliness/friendship ‘I ought to of shot that dog myself’
Conflict/violence ‘let no stranger shoot my dog’
Prejudice got called a ‘bindle bum’ by Curley’s wife
Loneliness/conflict ‘you go on get outta my room’
Loneliness/conflict ‘Don’t come in a place where you’re not wanted’
Prejudice ‘Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play cards because I’m black.’
Loneliness ‘ther’re talkin’, or they’re sittin’ still not talkin” P103
Violence (Lennie) ‘who hurt George?’ he demanded P104
Loneliness ‘I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick’ P105
Violence ‘An’ never a God dam one of em gets it’ P106
Prejudice ‘They left all the weak ones here’ P110
Loneliness ‘Think I don’t like to talk to somebody’
Prejudice ‘bindle bums’
Conflict ‘Jail bait’
Dreams ‘I coulda made somethin’ of myself’ P124
Loneliness ‘I don’t like Curley’ P125
Friendship/dreams ‘this guy says I was a natural’
Friendship ‘Your kinda a nice fella’ P126
Conflict/violence ‘well, next time you answer when you’re spoken to’ P47
Conflict/violence ‘come on, ya big bastard’ P96
Prejudice ‘no big son-of-a-bitch is gonna laugh at me’
Loneliness(Curley’s wife) ‘I don’t like Curley’ P125
Conflict/violence ‘I’m gonna shoot the guts outta that big bastard myself’ P135
‘Let’s get it over with’ P72-75
Does’t understand friendship ‘why’nt you shoot him?’
‘Did he have my gun?’ P148
Loneliness/friendship ‘now what the hell ya suppose is eating them two guys?’ P149
‘How’d you do it?’
‘He wouldn’t even quiver’
Writing your answer:
After you have planned your answer, write it up into paragraphs. You should use short quotations which you have remembered from the book to support your ideas. You will also be given marks for paraphrasing parts of the book and referring to specific events, as this shows your knowledge of the text. It is also important that you discuss how the context has impacted on the book throughout your essay, as this is an important part of the mark scheme.
Example question - foundation tier
Choose a character who you think is a victim of loneliness because of the society in which he or she lives. Write about this character, explaining the reasons for your choice.
Sample answer – foundation tier (point two):
Curley’s wife is a lonely character because the men do not like her. She is the only woman on the ranch so she doesn’t have anyone to talk to and so she tries to talk to the men who work on the ranch. She is talked about negatively by the men on the ranch before she is directly involved in the book and then when she appears, there is a description of her wearing red to suggest danger and she is not dressed appropriately for the ranch. She tries to flirt with the men but they don’t like her and aren’t nice to her.
- This is too descriptive. You are being asked to analyse the book in the context of the essay question, not describe what happens so make sure that you don’t just tell the story in your answer, as has been done here.
- There is no quotation used here to support the point. When possible, use short quotations from the text as evidence to support your ideas.
- You must link your ideas about the book to the context in which it was written.
- This response is not answering the question all the way through. It is important to link all of your ideas to the task you have been given.
Sample answer – foundation tier (point two) – improved:
Curley’s wife is shown to be an outsider on the ranch because of her gender, which makes the men respect her less and not treat her as an equal. This is clear in the way that she is never referred to by her own name (which the reader does not find out) but only in relation to Curley, so she seems like she is not important as a person in her own right, just as the wife to the boss’s son. When she first appears in the book, George calls her and Candy has already told George and Lennie that she is . This means that the men on the ranch have no respect for her and so she is very lonely because none of the characters see her as being worth their time.
- This is a secure foundation tier response.
- There is a clear focus on the question.
- Awareness is shown of the context of the book.
- There is sound evidence of knowledge of the text.
- Short quotations are used appropriately to support the point.
Example question - higher tier
To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Sample answer – higher tier (point two):
George and Lennie’s friendship draws attention to how much of a problem loneliness is for the other characters because it is described as being so unusual. They talk about their friendship, saying This shows how important their friendship is to them because other people like them don’t have one. We can see that they care for each other and both need each other to carry on. Even though George finds it difficult to look after Lennie at times, he still wants to have him around and enjoys his friendship.
- This is lacking detail. There needs to be increased discussion of how George and Lennie’s friendship shows that loneliness is
- While a quotation is used, showing knowledge of the text, this needs to be analysed specifically. The comment on the quotation is too brief and general.
- There needs to be more references made to the context of the text.
- Focus on the question is lost in the second part of this paragraph. You must ensure that you are concentrated on the task throughout your response.
Sample answer – higher tier (point two) – improved:
Steinbeck emphasises the loneliness of the lifestyle led by itinerant workers through the uniqueness of George and Lennie’s friendship. Early on in the novel, they state that men like them are This extreme language and use of the superlative demonstrates that there is little hope for such men to escape their isolation. The nature of ranch workers’ insecure employment made it impossible for men like George and Lennie to make lasting connections. George and Lennie contrast the universal experience of their peers – – with their own – This use of the contrasting personal pronouns and draws attention to how different they are and separates George and Lennie from all those around them. However, the tragic end of the novel reveals that even this rare friendship is impossible to maintain in the brutal environment of the ranch. George is left alone, demonstrating that companionship is only temporary in this world.
- This is a confident higher tier response.
- There is assured discussion of several different parts of the book, showing a secure grasp of the text as a whole.
- Details are commented on, with analysis shown, so there is evidence of the ability to move between the general and specific when commenting on the text.
- The context of the novella is discussed and linked to the question.