English Of Mice And Men Essay

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.
  1. My exam board is WJEC but any rough idea on what mark I would get as well as any suggestions on how it could be improved would be very appreciated. It is out of 20 marks. Thank you.
    Steinbeck uses the character of Candy as a device within the microcosm of 1930's America to highlight the inequalities and injustices of the world, as well as representing prejudice and ageism during this time. Candy is also often used by Steinbeck to give the reader vital information on a number of occasions throughout the novella.
    During the Great Depression there was a creation of the survival of the fittest within society. Candy was thought to be low down in society because he's old and unfit to do hard work due to his accident with his hand.
    Steinbeck constantly reminds the reader of his weakness.
    'The old man squirmed uncomfortably.'
    The word 'old' highlights Candy's weakness, and his lack of power is emphasised by 'squirmed'. He is the eldest worker on the ranch and is therefore probably the next one to be sacked. Candy realises this himself and as a result is in fear of losing his job. This hints at the utilitarianism during the depression and the idea that Candy and his dog could be seen as a parallel relationship to George and Lennie, or even his dog representing Candy himself. People were known by their jobs emphasising the importance of them and how when you become old you become useless also.
    Even though people during the depression tended not to trust each other, Candy is open about his thoughts and feelings.
    'Well-she got the eye'
    'Well, that glove's fulla Vaseline'
    Candy is openly criticising Curley and his wife who could easily make him lose his job. His sexist opinion of Curley's wife highlights the views of women in 1930's America. Even his name which relates to sweet and pleasure convinces the reader to trust in this character. The fact that Candy tells George a lot about his thoughts also makes the reader to trust in George. We have opinions on characters such as Curley's wife before she's even in the novella because we rely on his views.
    It is clear that Candy and his dog have a special friendship, however because companionship was so unusual during the depression other characters couldn't understand their relationship.
    'You wouldn't think it to look at him now but he was the best damn sheep dog I ever seen.'
    He could be talking about himself at this point which could further suggest that Candy was once a more powerful and respected man. This idea is reinforced when he stands up the Curley's wife but is later reminded of his weakness, implying age has worn him down just like his dog. This would support Candy's fears of becoming old and useless, emphasised ageism and how successful people also lost everything during 1930's America.
    At the start of the novella Candy didn't really have a dream as he had what most people wished for-companionship. However, due to the death of his dog Candy was easily attracted to George and Lennie's American Dream and almost makes it a reality.
    'They fell into a silence. They looked at one another, amazed. This thing they had never really believed in was coming true.'
    Candy realises that he is one of the weaker ranch workers and is most likely the next one to lose his job because he won't be of use. This highlights the survival of the fittest and ageism during he depression.
    Candy fears for his job and eagerly joins the American Dream as it offers security, emphasising how unreliable and the lack of jobs were during 1930's America. During this time people put so much hope into their dreams for something to aspire to that at the end of the novella Candy pleas with George to go ahead with it even after Lennie kills Curley's wife. When his dream is shattered he still blames it on Curley's wife emphasising his sexist views of women and how she is the destruction of men's dreams. Candy's desperation not to lose his job is shown when he lies about Curley's hand to his wife because if George and Lennie were sacked, his dream would come to an end.
    At the start of the novella Candy was one of the few characters who did not experience loneliness as he had his dog.
    'A guy on the ranch don't never listen nor he don't ask no questions.'
    Candy's only companion was his dog. By the other ranch workers shooting him, they actually took away from Candy what they wanted for themselves without realising it-friendship. In this quote Candy defines a lonely person. At this point Candy is talking about the other ranch hands as he manages to escape loneliness due to his dog. However, after his dogs dies he soon becomes a lonely character and this soon applies to him.
    Candy's age excluded him from the other workers and he was unable to protect his dog due to his lack of authority which highlights ageism in 1930's America. The other ranch hands saw the dogs death as putting him out of his misery which implies Steinbeck's message of fate awaits you if you out live your usefulness, which again emphasised the idea of survival.
    Thank you for reading, any estimated marks or constructive criticism will be appreciated

  2. Really good. You could also include why Candy feels that he can stand up to Curley and how that shows the transformative power of the dream

    Last edited by sjstevendale; 15-05-2015 at 18:50.

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