Of Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck
GCSE English Literature
SUMMARY OF THE PLOT
In Section A of the GCSE English Literature examination, you will be expected to write an essay about John Steinbeck’s novel ‘Of Mice and Men’. This question may focus on one of the following areas:
* Themes / Ideas
* Techniques / Language
* Close writing about a given extract from the book
To revise most effectively for the examination, you should complete the following tasks:
(1.) Re-read ‘Of Mice and Men’. While reading, highlight any important quotations which tell you something important about characters, themes or Steinbeck’s ideas behind writing the book. (2.) Compile revision sheets on the key characters and key themes. Each sheet should list at least 5 important quotations and descriptions of the most important parts of the book. (3.) Use the Internet to find extra information to help you gain more detailed ideas about the novel. You can access some useful websites from the GCSE Revision class page on the VLE, but as a starting point, www.bbc.co.uk/gcsebitesize has some excellent activities to test your knowledge. (4.) Use this revision guide. There are sections on the key characters, themes, context, and Steinbeck’s use of language and other techniques. (5.) Ask your teacher for past exam papers so that you can practise writing in timed examination conditions.
It is very difficult to write about a whole novel in an exam, even with the book there to help you. The only way to achieve success in this part of the exam is to know the book VERY well. You should be able to flick straight to the correct pages so that you can find useful quotations and ideas. Remember – don’t just re-tell the story. You don’t get many marks for this. You will only get a ‘C’ grade if you explain HOW the story is written, using P.E.E to structure and develop your ideas.
Of Mice and Men:
The novel opens with two men, George Milton and Lennie Small, walking to a nearby ranch where harvesting jobs are available. George, the smaller man, leads the way and makes the decisions for Lennie, a mentally handicapped giant. They stop at a stream for the evening, deciding to go to the ranch in the morning. Lennie, who loves to pet anything soft, has a dead mouse in his pocket. George takes the mouse away from Lennie and reminds him of the trouble Lennie got into in the last town they were in—he touched a girl’s soft dress. George then reminds Lennie not to speak to anyone in the morning when they get to the ranch and cautions Lennie to return to this place by the river if anything bad happens at the ranch. When he has to take the dead mouse away from Lennie a second time, George moans at the hardship of taking care of Lennie. After calming his anger, George relents and promises Lennie they will try to find him a puppy; then he tells Lennie about their dream of having a little farm where they can be their own boss and nobody can tell them what to do, where Lennie will tend their rabbits, and where they will “live off the fatta the lan’.” Lennie has heard this story so often he can repeat it by heart. And George emphasizes that this dream and their relationship make them different from other guys who don’t have anyone or a place of their own. They settle down and sleep for the night.
The next morning at the ranch, the boss becomes suspicious when George answers all the questions and Lennie does not talk. George explains that Lennie is not bright but is a tremendous worker. They also meet Candy, an old swamper with a sheep dog; Crooks, the black stable hand; the boss’ son Curley, who is an amateur boxer and has a bad temper; Curley’s wife, who has a reputation as a “tart”; Carlson, another ranch hand;...
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