Of Mice and Men – Class Notes

Task 2

Tragedy is a story which turns out badly for the protagonist.

Symbols are words or images which represent a larger idea. Animals in Of Mice and Mensymbolise nature’s cruelty, but also its peace.

Naturalist Philosophy is the belief that nature does not care about our lives, and that we have no real control over our existence.

Literary realism is a form of writing where the text tries to reproduce the way people actually speak and communicate.

Sub-text is the underlying meaning in a text.

Task 3

Difficulties facing people in the Great Depression

1.     A scarcity of jobs.
2.     Scarcity of food.
3.     Low pay for those jobs they could find.
4.     Need to move to find work.
Task 4

1.     George is described as “small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features”.

To be “quick” and “sharp” has connotations of intelligence; while “restless eyes” suggest he is always looking out for danger.

Lennie is described as “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”.

The emphasis on physical weight and size demonstrates Lennie’s strength, while the word “dragging” shows a possible lack of intelligence. The comparison to a bear is one of many comparisons to an animal which are made with regard to Lennie. (Also “horse” and “paw”)

2.     George clearly resents Lennie as a burden (“God, you’re a lot of trouble”) but, if he could “get along so easy and so nice if I didn’t have you on my tail”, why does he continue to travel with him? There is a clear suggestion that George needs Lennie’s friendship – without him, he has nobody.

3.     Lennie “likes to pet sof’ things” – this is foreshadowing later tragedy. Lennie’s child-like enjoyment of soft textures will get him into trouble. George understands that Lennie does not understand his own strength, and that Lennie cannot touch anything too fragile, or he will kill it. 

4.     George and Lennie were “run out” of Weed after Lennie “Just wanted to feel that girl’s dress” – the girl cried out and everyone believed Lennie was attacking her.

5.     The dream is central to the novel. For Lennie, it is a place where he can be free to touch soft things, the rabbits, but for both men, it is a dream of freedom – to have their own land, to not have to travel, and to live in peace and friendship. This dream is central to all human beings, but even moreso to these men in this period.

Task Five

1.     The tone of the opening paragraphs is peaceful, almost idyllic. The language seems almost lazy, with its talk of “recumbent (lying down) limbs” and the water gently “twinkling” down to the pool.

2.     Steinbeck incorporates a number of animals to show that in this peaceful, beautiful setting, animals are at home – they are undisturbed. This also contributes to the idyllic atmosphere of the setting.

3.     While Steinbeck talks about the men who have been in this setting, there are no men currently there. He uses this absence to suggest that the natural world exists in beauty without men, and has no need of mankind.

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