Of Mice and Men

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  • Topic: Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, Want
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  • Published : February 6, 2012
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Of Mice and Men: Essay Plan

How does Steinbeck use the human need for companionship and a sense of belonging to intensify the pathos in Of Mice and Men?

Pathos=quality in writing that arouses pity or sadness
Pity=feeling of sorrow for another’s suffering

Guidelines for Introduction

-Explain that it can be argued that the novel is about loneliness and man’s need to be with others.

-State that Steinbeck has set his story in a time and place where being on one’s own was a feature of the lifestyle.

-Comment on the fact that various forms of discrimination (against people with special needs, women, black people, the old) were culturally acceptable and served to further isolate certain groups of people.

-Move on to say that Steinbeck’s ability to highlight the loneliness of his main characters intensifies our pity for them…that we can understand that for each of them all they really wanted was to ‘fit in’ and be accepted.

-Conclude by stating that you will be exploring how Steinbeck leaves us with a view of the harshness of life…that each of these people was somehow ‘disposable’ …that they just did not matter that much. And that makes us feel sorry for their plight.

Chapter 1

-The peaceful, natural setting Steinbeck opens with is unsettled by “the sound of footsteps on crisp sycamore leaves” followed by a shift in focus as “two men emerged from the path and came into the opening by the green pool.” The idea of companionship is introduced through Steinbeck’s simple opening description.

-We see the contrast between the two individuals. George small and quick…Lennie big and slow. See middle paragraph p. 19 for details.

-Lennie’s inability to look after himself properly is suggested through George’s reprimand: “You never oughta drink water when it ain’t running, Lennie. You’d drink out of a gutter if you was thirsty.” p. 20 This coupled with Lennie’s mimicking George’s movements shows that Lennie is childlike in his behaviour.

-George is easily frustrated by Lennie. Steinbeck gives the impression that George has been looking after Lennie for some time. “So you forgot awready, did you? I gotta tell you again, do I? Jesus Christ, you’re a crazy bastard!” p. 21 This continues with George giving in to the situation: “OK – OK. I’ll tell ya again. I ain’t got nothing to do. Might jus’ as well spen’ all my time tellin’ you things and then you forget ‘em, and I tell you again.” p. 21 Other detail like “Think I’d let you carry your own work card?” and “What’d you take outta that pocket?” show that Lennie cannot be trusted. George is committed to caring for Lennie but knows his life would be simpler without him: “God you’re a lot of trouble. I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn’t have you on my tail. I could live so easy and maybe have a girl.” p. 24

-The incident with the mouse and George’s reference to what happened in Weed show the potential danger in Lennie’s innocent/childlike behaviour. “Lennie looked sadly up at him. ‘They was so little,’ he said apologetically. ‘I’d pet ‘em, and pretty soon they bit my fingers and I pinched their heads a little and then they was dead – because they was so little.” The reader sees the pathos in this scene…we feel pity for George who is doing the morally right thing and has the benefit of Lennie’s companionship, but is suffering on a personal level as a consequence: “God a’mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. …An whatta I got. I got you! You can’t keep a job and you lose me ever’ job I get. …An’ that ain’t the worst. You get in trouble. You do bad things and I got to get you out. You crazy son-of-a-bitch. You keep me in hot water all the time.” p. 29

-The two men share a belief that they are different than other men such as themselves because “We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.” Lennie has this difference memorised: “Lennie broke in. ‘But not us! An’ why? Because … because I got...
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