Monday, November 12, 2012

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

1. Briefly summarize the plot of the novel you read, and explain how the narrative fulfills the author's purpose (based on your well-informed interpretation of same).

Of Mice and Men is about two migrant farm workers, George and Lennie. George and Lennie are traveling to a California farm to find work. Overcome with thirst, they decide to stop and set up camp for the night. Quickly it becomes obvious to the audience that Lennie, a giant of a man, is mentally disabled and deeply devoted to George, a smaller sharp man. Even though Lennie is much bigger than George, Lennie depends on George for protection and the two have a deep friendship. Lennie is obsessed with petting small fuzzy things the only problem is that usually he ends up killing the fuzzy things as shown when George catches Lennie petting a small dead mouse. Both Lennie and George share the dream of buying their own little portion of land and, to Lennie’s delight, keeping rabbits.
         The next day George and Lennie arrive at the farm ready to work. George does must of the talking, telling the boss that him and Lennie are cousins and Lennie was kicked in the head as a child. They are hired and meet the rest of the farm hands. Candy, an old handyman, Curley, the boss’s mean-spirited son, Slim, the ranch’s high authority mule driver, Carlson, another farm hand, and finally Curley’s newly wed flirtatious wife.  Curley’s wife flirts with George and Lennie and George warns Lennie to stay away from here.
           The next day George confides in Slim, telling him Lennie and his story and how they were driven out of the last town because Lennie was accused of rape. Slim agrees to give Lennie one of his puppies. Slim agrees with Carlson on putting down Candy’s ancient dog and getting a puppy. Slim goes off to the barn to do some work and Curley, who maniacally searching for his wife, heads after him to accost him. Candy overhears George and Lennie discussing their plans to buy their own plot of land and offers to throw his life’s savings into the plan if he can live on the land too. Slim and Curley return from the barn with Slim berating Curley for his suspicion, Curley is engulfed in rage and chooses Lennie as his target. Lennie easily crushes Curley’s hand and Slim warns Curley that if he tries to get George and Lennie fired, he will become the laughingstock of the farm.
         Next night, the farm hands go to the brothel and Lennie is left at the farm with Crooks and Candy. Curley’s wife comes by and flirts with them. She notices Lennie’s injures and infers that Lennie is responsible for Curley’s injuries. The day after Lennie accidentally kills his puppy. Curley’s wife consoles him and tells him of her dream of becoming a movie star. Lennie tells her that he loves soft things and she lets Lennie touch her hair. Lennie grabs her hair too tightly causing her to cry out. Lennie silences her by breaking her neck.
         Lennie runs away from the ranch to the pool that he and George camped at before they arrived at the ranch. The men put together a lynch party and set out to kill Lennie. George finds Lennie and comforts him, telling him about their farm they will buy in the future. As the lynch party approaches, George shoots Lennie in the back of the head. George tells the men that he wrestled the gun from Lennie and shot him. Only Slim understands and consolingly leads him away.

2. Succinctly describe the theme of the novel. Avoid cliches.

The two themes of Of Mice and Men are the impossibility of the American Dream and the idealized male friendship. By the end of the novel almost every character confides that they had a dream once that they were forced to give up on therefore the impossibility of the American Dream. As for the ideal male friendship George and Lennie stick together as much as possible and the other men of the farm wish to come together in a way that would allow them to be like brothers.

3. Describe the author's tone. Include a minimum of three excerpts that illustrate your point(s).

The tone has a realistic feel to it. The author tells it how it is and this is shown the most in the way that dialogue is written in the novel. “It ain’t so funny, him an’ me goin’ aroun’ together.” (pg 37) The improper speech “tells it how it is”.

4. Describe a minimum of ten literary elements/techniques you observed that strengthened your understanding of the author's purpose, the text's theme and/or your sense of the tone. For each, please include textual support to help illustrate the point for your readers. (Please include edition and page numbers for easy reference.)

Foreshadowing – “I could pet it with my thumb while we walked along.” (pg 5) Lennie’s obsession with petting things, and eventually killing them, is foreshadowing the demise of Curley’s wife.

Symbolism – “Why’n’t you get Candy to shoot his old dog…” (pg 33) The death of Candy’s dog and the death of Lennie are one and the same. The death of an innocent character.

Imagery – “…walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws.” (pg 2) The description of Lennie equating him to a bear.

Setting – “A few miles south of Soledad…” (pg 1) This sets the setting and the culture of the characters.

Dialect – “I ain’t sure it’s good water.” (pg 3) The dialect establishes early on the type of characters and the culture of the area.

Conflict – “Come on ya big bastard. Get up on your feet. No big son-of-a-bitch is gonna laugh at me. I’ll  show ya who’s yella.” (pg 59) The conflict between Curley and Lennie sets up the plot for the climax and the resolution of the novel.

Internal Conflict – “No, Lennie. I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ I ain’t now. That’s a thing I want ya to know.” (pg 101) George face an internal conflict on what to do with Lennie. Lennie is his friend and George cares deeply about him but Lennie is dangerous and killed Curley’s wife.

Oxymoron – “His name’s Lennie Smalls.” (pg 20) This one is quite clear. His name is Smalls yet his is described as a lumbering oaf of a man.

Simile – “ …in and out of the beams flies shot like rushing stars” (pg 16) In this novel similes are used to help describe the setting and also to describe the characters in a manner that catches the readers’ attention.

Microcosim – Truthfully I couldn’t find a proper quote for this one. Every sect of society can be found on the ranch. The mentally challenged, the black man, the old man, the cripple, the woman, they’re all here in a single location.

1. Describe two examples of direct characterization and two examples of indirect characterization.  Why does the author use both approaches, and to what end (i.e., what is your lasting impression of the character as a result)?


“The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp strong features.” (pg 2)

“…a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide sloping shoulders…” (pg 2)

Steinbeck uses driect characterization to set up the initial appearance of the characters and this allows readers to infer nonphysical characteristic of the characters.


“Red and blue and green rabbits, Lennie. Millions of ‘em.” (pg 15)

“Sure I gotta husban’. You all seen him. Swell guy, ain’t he? Spends all his time sayin’ what he’s gonna do to guys he don’t like…” (pg 74)
In contrast to how Steinbeck uses direct characterization, indirect characterization is used to bring up nonphysical characteristics of the characters.

2. Does the author's syntax and/or diction change when s/he focuses on character?  How?  Example(s)?

“…a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely.” (pg 2)

When Steinbeck focuses on characters his syntax and diction take on a more descriptive style. He uses similes and metaphors a lot more than he does during the rest of the novel.

3. Is the protagonist static or dynamic?  Flat or round?  Explain.

The protagonist, George, is a static character because his values and point of view does not really change. His situation changes to a point where he can no longer protect Lennie.

4. After reading the book did you come away feeling like you'd met a person or read a character?  Analyze one textual example that illustrates your reaction.

“His name’s Lennie Smalls.” (pg 20)

I feel like I read a character. Nothing really stood out to me that made me feel like I’ve met anything more than just a character. There was no emotional connection.

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