Structure Mice Men Essay Gcse

Evidence and explanation of the language used

Colloquial language

How is it used?

The men on the ranch speak colloquially, for example when Carlson talks to Slim about Candy’s dog:

Why is it used?

This style of speaking represents the way that men like this would really have spoken, so Steinbeck is presenting the characters in a realistic way.

What is its effect?

Carlson is very direct and unsentimental in the way that he speaks. The language he uses is colloquial and informal, reflecting the relaxed way in which the men talk to each other. This quotation in particular also demonstrates the lack of emotion Carlson feels for the dog, even though Candy has strong feelings for his pet. Steinbeck demonstrates the reality of life for itinerant workers during the Great Depression.

Animal imagery

How is it used?

Lennie in particular is described using similes and metaphors linked to animals, for example during the fight with Curley:

Why is it used?

Lennie’s mental disability makes him unable to understand situations, the way that others behave and what they say. His size and lack of intelligence are often emphasised through the comparisons made between him and animals.

What is its effect?

Lennie is made more sympathetic at times when linked to animals, as these descriptions suggest his lack of understanding and inability to see the consequences of his behaviour. So when he does bad things, it is difficult to blame him for these. Steinbeck also focuses on Lennie’s size through comparing him to animals such as bears. His relationship with George is at times presented as master and pet, showing how much Lennie needs George for guidance and to survive.

Direct style

How is it used?

When narrating most of the events of the book, Steinbeck uses a forthright style and is sparse with description, focusing on using dialogue to progress the plot:

Why is it used?

Steinbeck reflects the way that the men speak through his straightforward narration of events, suggesting the way in which they have little time for emotion and for making meaningful connections with each other.

What is its effect?

In this quotation, Steinbeck uses very few words to suggest a lot about Slim’s character and about the way the men on the ranch live. Slim is shown to be thoughtful and reflective just through the brief description of how he looks at George. The lack of relationships in itinerant workers’ lives is demonstrated through Slim’s short statements, without the need for any additional narration from Steinbeck.

Descriptive style for the natural world

How is it used?

When focused on the natural setting of the river at the beginning and end of the book, Steinbeck is more descriptive in style:

Why is it used?

Unlike his narration during most of the book, when describing the natural world Steinbeck is more expressive, showing the beauty of the untouched setting. George and Lennie are much more at peace in this environment.

What is its effect?

Through his descriptions of nature, Steinbeck gives the impression that this environment provides a sanctuary for George and Lennie away from the harsh world of people. It is important that this is where they return at the end of the book, when George does what he can to protect Lennie from the violence of the other men. There is also an interpretation of Steinbeck’s descriptions of nature that he is evoking the Garden of Eden, because the peaceful setting by the river seems perfect and unaffected by humans. George and Lennie’s feeling of tranquillity at the start of the book cannot continue, just as Adam and Eve could not continue in the Garden of Eden.

You will be given a choice of two essay questions about Of Mice and Men in the exam; you need to choose one to answer. They will usually be about specific characters or themes in the text. The examiners are looking for you to demonstrate good knowledge of the whole book. You must have a clear idea about:

  • the plot
  • the themes
  • characters
  • language, form and structure
  • the context

You should be able to use some key quotations from the text, which you have remembered (you will not be allowed a book in the exam). You should structure your answer logically, with a brief introduction and conclusion.

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.

Planning your answer

Before you start writing your essay, you should spend five to ten minutes planning what you will write. Think about how you can break down your answer into logical paragraphs.

  1. Explain which character you have chosen. Give a brief summary of the reasons why they are lonely and lonelier than other characters on the ranch. For example, Curley’s wife because she is isolated from all of the men on the ranch due to her gender. Even her husband does not treat her with any respect.
  2. Give one main reason for the character you have chosen being so lonely. You will then elaborate on this reason. For example, Curley’s wife is the only woman on the ranch; the men do not view women as their equals. She is never even named, only referred to in terms of her relationship with Curley.
  3. Introduce your next main point, with elaboration. For example, Curley’s wife goes out of her way to get the attention of the men on the ranch but they are dismissive of her and just think of her as .
  4. Add a different main point, with elaboration. For example, Curley’s wife does not enjoy the company of her husband and they seem to have a bad relationship; this means that she has no one to turn to for comfort or affection, or even day-to-day interaction.
  5. Explain your final main point. For example, Curley’s wife can be unpleasant and cruel (such as to Crooks), but really all she is looking for is someone to talk to. She does not treat others with respect because she is never shown any respect herself, mainly as a result of being a woman.
  6. Sum up your ideas about the character and why they are so lonely. For example, Curley’s wife’s tragic death is the final stage of her loneliness; even when she has been killed, Candy blames her for ruining the dream that he shared with George and Lennie. The description of her when she dies shows that it was her life experiences that made her act badly, it wasn’t a natural part of her.

Example question - higher tier

To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Planning your answer

Before you start writing your essay, you should spend five to ten minutes planning what you will write. Think about how you can break down your answer into logical paragraphs.

  1. Loneliness affects all of the characters because of the harsh environment in which they live and work. Due to the conditions created by the Great Depression, none of the characters are able to change their lifestyles to form meaningful friendships and many of them lack sympathy for each other because of their own struggles.
  2. George and Lennie’s friendship stands out as being rare and unique in the book. They remind readers that most men like them are alone. The contrast between their relationship and the other characters’ isolation emphasises the importance of having a companion.
  3. The death of Candy’s dog demonstrates how cruel the workers’ lifestyle is. There is no room for sentimentality or affection in the world they live in. Candy’s desperation to join George and Lennie in their dream of owning a farm shows his need for company.
  4. Crooks is isolated on the farm because of his race, making him even lonelier than the other workers, because he does not even experience the basic human interaction that they get from living in the same building.
  5. Curley’s wife’s loneliness is also exacerbated because she is different to the others on the ranch. As the only woman, she is not given respect and does not even have her own identity as she is never named. Her need for attention actually makes the men treat her worse as they think of her as .
  6. The destruction of George and Lennie’s dream at the end of the book reveals the impossibility of escaping from the loneliness caused by the conditions of the world in which the men live.

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