Steinbeck's Of Mice & Men Test Review
M & M test over entire novella -
John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men
John Ernst Steinbeck (1902-1968) was one of the most famous American novelists of the twentieth century. After dropping out of Stanford University and an unsuccessful attempt to write myths, Steinbeck found his stride in writing California novels and Dust Bowl fiction, set among common people in the Great Depression. Steinbeck wrote in a realist style about poor, working-class people. His most famous works are: The Grapes of Wrath, which tells the story of a poor family from Oklahoma and their journey to and subsequent struggles in California and Of Mice and Men, a tragedy about two migrant farm workers. Another popular work her wrote is entitled East of Eden. The Salinas, California area, including the Salinas Valley, Monterey, and parts of the nearby San Joaquin Valley acted as a setting for many of his stories. Because of his feeling for local color, the area is now sometimes called “Steinbeck Country”.Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962 for his “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception.” The day after Steinbeck's death in New York City, reviewer Charles Poore wrote in The New York Times: “His place in [U. S.] literature is secure. And it lives on in the works of innumerable writers who learned from him how to present the forgotten man unforgettably.”
Of Mice and Men is the story of two migrant workers, Lennie and George, who seek work in California. The title of the story refers to a line in “To a Mouse” by the Scottish poet Robert Burn.Steinbeck originally intended the story to be a play, and it has been produced as one. In many ways, the story is structured as a play, with several long scenes, stage direction-like descriptions, and large amounts of dialogue.The novel was banned from various school libraries or curricula in 1993 and 1994 for “profane language, moral statement, treatment of the mentally handicapped”.
**NOTE: If you have read this before, or if you read ahead, I BEG you not to share what happens with your classmates or friends who haven’t read those parts yet.
Don’t ruin the book for them!
Assignment #1: Read pages 1-16. As you read, make two lists: one list that shows what you’ve learned about George (from his physical appearance to his personality traits) and one list that shows what you learn about Lennie in these pages. You should include in these two lists not only “facts” from the text but also things you, as the reader, assume to be true about these characters based on Steinbeck’s writing and the scene in which you have seen these two characters interact. What are their personalities like?
WORDS OF THE DAY: imperious and morosely
EXTRA CREDIT: Draw/paint/create two pictures/collages (in color): one of Lennie and one of George. Use your lists to make your artistic interpretations vivid and believable. On the back of each drawing, write a few sentences explaining why you created your piece the way you did. What personality traits were you trying to highlight? (THIS IS DUE AT THE END OF THIS UNIT.)
Assignment #2: Read pages 17-27 (up to where George says “I don’t like mean little guys.”) and respond in half a page: How does George help Lennie out when they’re being “interviewed” by the boss at the ranch? If you were Lennie, would you have felt insulted or relieved for George’s help?
WORDS OF THE DAY: pugnacious and ominous
Assignment #3: Read pages 27-37 and respond to the following questions: 1. Describe Slim in as much detail as you can. What do you think his role will be on the ranch and why? (An ally? A whistleblower? etc.) 2. Describe Curley. What makes him dangerous?
WORDS OF THE DAY: profound and complacent
Assignment #4: Read pages 38-49 until where it says “Then he rolled slowly over and faced the wall and lay silent.” Answer the following question in half a page: George tells Slim about his past and why he now travels with Lennie. What new things do we learn about Lennie through what George says? Does this change your view of Lennie—why or why not?
WORD OF THE DAY: plaintive
Assignment #5: Read pages 49-65. As you read, think about why George and Lennie’s dream of having their own farm is so important to them (don’t forget that they’re migrant farmers and that this novel takes place during the Great Depression). No writing tonight—just thinking.
WORDS OF THE DAY: reprehensible
Assignment #6: Read pages 66-83 and write a rich and detailed paragraph from the perspective of one of the following characters: Crooks, Candy, Lennie or Curley’s wife. In this paragraph, I want you to discuss in detail (and in the language and tone of that character) why this character you’ve selected thinks that he/she may be seen by others as an “outsider”.
WORDS OF THE DAY: aloof and contemptuous
Assignment #7: Read pages 84-94 and answer the following questions (no word of the day today): 1. How did Lennie’s puppy die? What does Lennie worry about now that his puppy is dead? 2. Why do you think Curley’s wife wants to talk to Lennie? 3. What happens to Curley’s wife after she tells Curley to touch her hair? 4. Why do you think George tells Candy they can’t get the land they want now? Why has their dream become an impossibility now?
Assignment #8: Finish the book (pages 95-107) and respond in 3/4 of a page (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you finish the book): Did George do the right thing, in your opinion?
WORD OF THE DAY: belligerent
Assignment #9: Study for vocabulary quiz.
Be prepared to define each word and use it in a sentence.
Assignment #10: Prepare for in-class essay tomorrow.
Assignment #11: Write a one page film review of the film version of Of Mice and Men. Is it what you expected? Are characters portrayed as you had imagined them? What were the strengths of the film? Weaknesses? Write with the authority of a film critic!
of loneliness in ‘Of Mice and Men’?
‘Of Mice and Men’ is written by John Steinbeck, published in 1937. The novel is set in the 1930s during the great depression in California. The two protagonist characters, George and Lennie are farm workers who have a dream of one-day
owning their own ranch. They find work in a ranch near Soledad, after escaping from Weed because of Lennie’s incident. They are met by different characters on the farm that all have a dream. To be lonely means to lack friends or companionship and to feel isolated. Most of the characters are lonely and the only thing that keeps them alive is their dreams. Some of the loneliest characters they meet are Candy, an old man with only one hand, Crooks, a black cripple and Curley’s Wife, a woman who has no identity, she is lonely even though she is married. Although they are all on the ranch together, they are lonely because of who they are and their history. ‘Of Mice and Men’ is an emotional story with many different themes and characters. This essay will describe the way loneliness is portrayed in ‘Of Mice and Men.’
George Milton and Lennie Small are friends who travel together. They both share the same dream, which is to one day own their own ranch. George is quick-witted and intelligent. He takes the parental role of looking after Lennie, a simple-minded man who in the book is described as a giant. Lennie is kind hearted with huge physical strength. He does not know how powerful he is and likes to pet animals. The other men on the ranch find their relationship unusual, they do not know of their past. George describes himself and Lennie as the loneliest guys in the world.
‘Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They belong in no place.’
George feels sorry for himself; he can see the reality of being a ranch-hand. This loneliness therefore makes both him and Lennie have a dream that motivates him to work. It is the one thing that they are living for.
The boss believes that George is exploiting Lennie. The other men come to see that their friendship is built upon loneliness. Others such as Crooks, Candy, Curley’s wife and maybe Slim are jealous of their relationship. Although both George and Lennie are close friends, they are still lonely in the sense that they are not alike. Lennie is lonely in the sense that there is no one who is as simple-minded as he is, he does not realise this, as he is too busy playing with his pup.
When George and Lennie first arrive on the ranch, they are met by Candy. Candy and his dog’s relationship resemble George and Lennie’s relationship. In the same way, that Candy seeks comfort in his dog, Lennie seeks comfort in George. Candy has a parental role towards his dog, just as George has a parental role towards Lennie. Lennie can be compared with the dog in the sense that he listens, but does not talk; this provides comfort for those who talk to him about their feelings. Both Lennie and Candy’s dog are shot by the same gun (Carlson’s luger). Carlson is unsentimental about Candy’s dog, as he can see no practical use for it.
‘He ain’t no good to you Candy. An’ he ain’t no good to himself. Why’n’t you shoot him Candy?’
His suggestion is reasonable for the other men in the bunk- house but he seems oblivious to the strong bond between Candy and his dog. Candy tries to justify the reasons for keeping his dog.
‘I had him so long. Had him since he was a pup. I herded sheep with him.’
In the end, his dog is shot because of his lack of authority towards the other men. Candy is left lonely and deserted after he loses his lifetime companion. He later cheers up after he joins in with George and Lennie’s plan of owning the dream farm.
‘I’d make a will an’ leave my share to you guys in case I kick off.’
Candy promises them, that if he died, he would leave George and Lennie his money. This increases his chance of becoming part of the dream. It also increases the chance of the dream becoming reality.
Carlson is also a lonely character; he is callous and does not know the appreciation of friendship. He has his gun to look after and care for, the movement of his hands whilst he cleans it show signs of loneliness, he also appears nonchalant.
‘He laid them on his bed and then brought out the pistol…then he fell to cleaning the barrel with the little rod.’
He spends time looking after the gun, he does not take part in the conversation between the other men, he feels happy with his gun and does not see the value of friends and companionship.
Curley’s wife is one of the loneliest characters in the novel; she has no identity, she is seen as an object, a possession of Curley’s. Curley’s wife is seen as a flirtatious ‘tart’ by the other ranch-hands, true, Curley’s wife does flirt, she is very conscious of the effect this has on men, but she is not a tart. She wants attention and by gaining that attention, she act the way people think.
‘She had full rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red.’
She likes to dress up and wear a lot of make up, to attract the men. The men on the other hand do not flirt with her, as they are afraid of what Curly might do. This leads to the loneliness of many characters.
Although the men think it is wrong of her to flaunt herself sexually and give everyone the ‘eye’, the men all visit a whorehouse for sexual gratification and momentary companionship. Those like George and Whit contradict themselves when they talk about Curley’s wife as being ‘jail-bait’.
‘She’s gonna make a mess. They’s gonna be a bad mess about her. She’s a jail-bait all set on a trigger,’
George senses danger coming his way, but he chooses to ignore it, as he needs the money.
During the 1930s, women were seen as possessions of their husbands who were to stay at home. George’s view of women, seem to be very basic and biased, he sees them as instruments to relieve physical urges.
‘She never talks dirty, neither. Got five girls there.’
George does not express the need for any female companionship mainly because he is too busy keeping Lennie out of trouble. She confides in Lennie and tells him about her dreams of becoming a movie star. Steinbeck uses Lennie as a voice to the reader, it is because of him that the reader finds out about Curley’s wife’s dreams and feelings.
‘Coulda been in the movies, an’ had nice clothes – all them nice clothes like they were.’
She seems to be obsessed by her appearance; she wants the fame and glamour. She appears to have given up her dreams as she married Curly, she feels as though her dreams have been shattered and that she can no longer achieve her goals.
Like Curley’s wife, Crooks also has no name, it is just a nickname the other ranch-hands use because he is crippled. He is intelligent and very well organised; he has his own room where he keeps his books and possessions. For him, his room is a haven or an oasis.
‘For, being alone, Crooks could leave his things about…this room was swept and fairly neat, for Crooks was a proud, aloof man.’
This shows signs of isolation, as there is no one to comment on the tidiness of his room. He feels isolated and bitter. He is the victim of oppressive violence and prejudice on the ranch. When he first meets Lennie, there is an immediate rejection of friendship mainly due to the anguish of his loneliness.
‘Well, I got a right to have a light. You go on get outa my room. I ain’t wanted in the bunkhouse, and you ain’t wanted in my room.’
He does not know that Lennie is unlike the other men, he has been criticised and made fun off, so he does not appreciate the company of others until he gets to know them and their attitude towards him.
He tells Lennie of his hopes of having some one to talk to.
‘I tell ya a guy gets too lonely, an’ he gets sick.’
He admits to feeling isolated, he wishes for a friend to talk to. For a moment, Lennie seems to be a new friend, Lennie sees Crooks as an individual, a person in his own right. Crooks respects him for this and is excited about his new companionship. Again the reader only finds this out when Crooks tells Lennie about his feelings. Crooks admits to not having a dream as he is afraid of disappointment, he does however get caught up in working with George and Lennie in the dream farm. His hopes are shattered by George’s dismissive attitude.
‘I didn’ mean it. Jus foolin’. I wouldn’t want to go no place like that.’
The lonely characters feel they can confide in Lennie, as they know he will not tell anyone. Crooks is treated as an outcast due to the perspective of race and black people of the time. Black people were seen as outcasts that had no right to mix with the whites.
Curley is a small ex-boxer. He is one of the most violent characters on the ranch. He hopes that by being violent and aggressive towards the weaker characters, he will gain authority. He however avoids those he considers to be strong and with authority, such as Slim. He sees everyone with a lower status and sees people as a hierarchy.
‘He wore a work glove on his left hand, and, like the boss, he wore high-heeled boots.’
According to Candy, the work glove that Curley wears is full of Vaseline to keep his hands soft for his wife. The high-heeled boots give signs of status and height.
A debatable character is Slim, is he lonely, does he feel isolated? Because of his calm attitude and natural authority, the less lonely characters rely on him. He is understanding and kind, which is why George tells him of the incident in Weed. He does not seem to have a friend, does that mean he has resigned? There is however some hope for him after Lennie is shot, he is the one who comforts George and tells him he done the right thing.
‘You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. Come on with me.’
The book begins with a calm and peaceful setting of nature.
‘A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops close to the hill-side and runs deeps and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool.’
This shows the peaceful world of nature, it is very calm and tranquil. The pool shows signs of innocence, as it is only a branch of the Salinas River. The river is a sign of the secrets and the future in nature and the novel. The deep green makes it unable to see the riverbed; this shows signs of a faint and perhaps a dangerous view of the future. Despite the movement and the motion of the river, there are still signs of loneliness; there is only the cyclical of nature. The language Steinbeck uses to describe the setting is sophisticated and formal.
‘On the sand-banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little grey, sculptured stones…from the direction of the state highway came the sound of footsteps…the rabbits hurried noiselessly for cover.’
‘For a moment the place was lifeless, and then two men emerged from the path and came into the opening by the green pool’
This shows the peaceful world of nature being disturbed by man. The rabbits sensed the presence of danger and hurried away, it is a movement from harmony to discord. There is a contrast between man and nature. The rabbits sat quietly without making a lot of movement and noise, whilst George and Lennie emerge and break the peace. The peace of nature is also disturbed at the end when Lennie is shot. The pool is described as an innocent place; it reflects Lennie’s innocence.
There is however, senses of loneliness as neither George nor Lennie speak, there are no sounds of nature from when they emerge. The pool is still and the wind has stopped rustling through the leaves.
The language Steinbeck uses to describe the landscape and a character is contrasted with the way the characters speak. The characters use American colloquial slang. The characters also speak of being lonely and wanting companionship.
Steinbeck pays attention to the description of the characters; he mainly concentrates on the hands. Lennie’s hands are described as paws, Candy’s has one missing, Curley’s keeps his left hand in a glove, Crooks’ palms are noted (colour). George has strong but small hands, Slim hands are mentioned and Curley’s wife’s hands are only described in terms of fingernails.
Steinbeck presents the theme of loneliness through the characters. The language he uses to describe the landscape and characters show signs of loneliness. The character’s past reflect their loneliness and the death of both Candy’s dog and Lennie create the major theme of loneliness. Nature and animals play a large role in the story, the main comparison of man and nature is when Lennie is described as a bear.
‘He walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws.’
Steinbeck wants to show the size and strength of Lennie therefore he compares him to a bear.
The book was written during the 1930s during the Great Depression. This was a difficult time for America and its people; Steinbeck shows the fear of the Depression by having the men all work together. No matter how much the men on the ranch stick together and some may support each other, they are still lonely.
The 1930's Dust Bowl "Dust Bowl" was a term born in the hard times from the people who lived in the drought-stricken region during the great depression. The term was first used in a dispatch from Robert Geiger, an AP correspondent in Guymon, and within a few short hours the term was used all over the nation. The "Dust Bowl Days", also known as the "Dirty Thirties", took its toll on Cimarron County. The decade was full of extremes: blizzards, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and dirt storms.
Early Thirties Economy In 1930 and 1931, the decade opened with unparalleled prosperity and growth. NATION'S BUSINESS magazine labeled the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas as the most prosperous region. The Panhandle was a marked contrast to the long soup lines of the Eastern United States.
Farming in the Panhandle Wheat was a real good thing. The world needed it and was paying a good price for it. Wheat farmers with tractors, one way plows and combines purchased by most farmers after the phenomenal crop of 1926, began plowing and planting wheat as never before. The lands were planted to wheat year after year without a thought as to the damage that was being done. Grasslands that should have never been plowed were plowed up. Millions of acres of farm land in the great plains were broken.
1930 was dry but most of the farmers made a wheat crop. In 1931 the wheat crop was considered a bumper crop with over twelve million bushels of wheat. Wheat was everywhere, in the elevators, on the ground and in the road. The wheat supply forced the price down from sixty-eight cents/bushel in July 1930 to twenty-five cents/bushel in July 1931. Many farmers went broke and others abandoned their fields.
With continuing hard times and dry years, the farmers, who still had a lot of pioneering spirit and faith in the land, made ready to weather the storms. The old survival methods of pioneering were brought out of storage, dusted off and put into practice. Many farmers increased their milk cow herd. The cream from the cows was sold and the skim milk was fed to chickens and pigs.
When normal feed crops failed, thistles were harvested, and when thistles failed, hardy souls dug up soap weed which was chopped in a feed mill or by hand and fed to the stock. This was a back breaking, disheartening chore which would have broken weaker people. But to the credit of the residents of the Dust Bowl, they shouldered their task and carried on.
"I don't know, we just made it." The people of the region made it because they knew how to take the everyday practical things which had been used for years and adapt them to meet the crisis. Finding a way to make do or do differently was a way of life for the pioneers who had come to the region only a short time earlier. When they arrived there were no houses, wells, cars, telephones or fields. Times were hard when the land was settled, and the people knew how to live and grow in difficult periods.
The Storms In 1934 to 1936, three record drought years were marked for the nation. In 1936, a more severe storm spread out of the plains and across most of the nation. The drought years were accompanied with record breaking heavy rains, blizzards, tornadoes and floods. In September 1930, it rained over five inches in a very short time in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The flooding in Cimarron County was accompanied by a dirt storm which damaged several small buildings and graineries. Later that year, the regions were whipped again by a strong dirt storm from the southwest until the winds gave way to a blizzard from the north.
After the blizzards in winter 1930-1931, the drought began. First the northern plains felt the dry spell, but by July the southern plains were in the drought. It was not until late September that the ground had enough water to justify planting. Because of the late planting and early frost, much of the wheat was small and weak when the spring winds of 1932 began to blow. The wheat was also beaten by dirt from the abandoned fields. In March, there were twenty-two days of dirt storms and drifts began to build in the fence rows.
In late January 1933, the region was blasted by a magnificent dirt storm which killed much of the wheat. In early February, the thermometer dropped seventy four degrees in eighteen hours to a record low at Boise City. The mercury stayed below freezing for several days until another dirt storm scourged the land. Before the year was over, locals counted 139 dirty days in 1933.
Although the dirt storms were fewer in 1934, it was the year which brought the Dust Bowl national attention. In May, a severe storm blew dirt from Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas as far east as New York City and Washington D.C. In spite of the terrific storm in May, the year 1934 was pleasant respite from the blowing dirt and tornadoes of the previous year. But nature had another trick up her sleeve, the year was extremely hot with new records being made and broken at regular intervals. Before the year had run its course, hundreds of people in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas had died from the heat.
In 1935, the weather in the Dust Bowl again made the national headlines. This storm was followed by another and yet another in rapid succession. In late March a severe storm lashed Boise City so hard that many people were stranded for hours. No one dared to leave a store and head for home although it might be less than a block away.
On Sunday April 14, 1935, the sun came up in a clear sky. The day was warm and pleasant, a gentle breeze whimpered out of the southwest. Suddenly a cloud appeared on the horizon. Birds flew swiftly ahead of it, but not swift enough for the cloud traveling at sixty miles per hour. This day, which many people of the area readily remember, was named "Black Sunday".
By May, it seemed like the wind and dirt had been blowing for an eternity. Rain was an event occurring only in dreams. It was a year of intensive dirt storms, gales, rollers and floods mixed with economic depression, sickness and disaster. It was a year of extreme hardship, but surprisingly the vast majority of the people stayed. By 1935, the unusual had become the usual, the extreme became the normal, the exception became the routine.
During 1936, the number of dirt storms increased and the temperature broke the 1934 record high by soaring above 120 degrees. On one pleasant June day in 1936, the ground began to tremble. A sharp earthquake shook the land from Kenton to Perryton and from Liberal to Stratford. By the fall of 1936, the rains began to return and the heat wave was broken. The following year, 1937 was another year of unprecedented dirt storms. Day after day, Dust Bowl farmers unwillingly traded farms as the land moved back and forth between Texas and Kansas. And of course there were the usual floods. 1938 was the year of the "snuster". The snuster was a mixture of dirt and snow reaching blizzard proportions. The storm cause a tremendous amount of damage and suffering.
The Future The Dust Bowl taught farmers new farming methods and techniques. The 1930's fostered a whole new era of soil conservation. Perhaps the most valuable lesson learned form the Dust Bowl - take care of the land. The Dust Bowl's future is controlled almost exclusively by the weather. The prolonged drought combined with the meteorological phenomena of the 1930's was rare and never before tortured the Great Plains as it did. Droughts and winds still cause many problems, but most are averted and minimized with proper soil conservation. When times turn dry again, will the wind blow and history repeat itself? Only time will tell.
Black Blizzard (The History Channel)