Of Mice And Men

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Plot Summary - At the ranch

George and Lennie are on their way to start work at a ranch in Soledad, which translates to 'solitude' in Spanish.

They talk about their dream of getting a piece of land together.

At the ranch they are shown around by Candy, an old ranch worker.

They meet Curley, the boss's son, and Curleys flirtatious wife.

They move into the bunk house with Slim, Carlson and others.

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Plot Summary - Hand crush saga

Carlson shoots Candy's old dog which is tierd and ill.

George tells Candy about the plan to get a piece of land. 

Candy wants to join George and Lennie, offereing his savings.

Curley provokes Lennie who crushes Curley's hand.

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Plot Summary - An accidental murder

Lennie accidentally kills his puppy by petting it too hard.

Curley's wife invites Lennie to stroke her hair, but screams when he strokes too hard.

Lennie accidentally kils Curleys wife, then runs away to the brush.

Curley wants revenge and a manhunt begins to track Lennie down.

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Plot Summary - Unhappy endings

In the brush, Lennie dreams of his Aunt Clara and the rabbits.

George finds Lennie in the place they agreed he'd go if there was trouble.

He shoots Lennie in the back of the head.

The men assume that George shot Lennie in self-defence, but Slim understands the truth.

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Themes - Dreams

George and Lennie have the American Dream of working hard to buy a patch of land and making a life there, and Candy wants to join them.

George and Lennie's dream is that of a life of freedon and self-sufficiency.

Curley's wife dreams of being a movie star, though we know this is unlikely to happen.

Crooks dreams of equality and an end to his loneliness.

No-one gets their dreams in the novel - Steinbeck is writing about the way in which we decieve ourselves.

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Themes - Loneliness

Unlike the other ranch hands, George and Lennie have each other for company.

Crooks lives in a separate barn and is isolated because of his race.

Curley's wife is the only woman on the ranch and is siolated in a loveless marriage.

When Candy's dog dies, he feels the despair of his loneliness as the oldest worker on the ranch.

The Novel opens near a place called 'Soledad' - a work which means 'solitude' in Spanish.

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Themes - Companionship

Companionship is shown through the friendship of George and Lennie.

There are few other meaningful relationships in the book.

THe other ranch hands find it hard to understand the relationship.

Lonely characters like Candy, Crooks and Curley's wife creace companionship but dont find it.

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Characters - George Milton

George is protective and feels responsible for Lennie after promising his aunt he'd look out for him.

He shares a dream with Lennie to buy their own piece of land and be self-sufficient.

He is sometimes frustrated by Lennie and has bursts of anger towards him, but quickly regrets it.

He is small and quick-witted, in direct contrasts to Lennie.

He shoots his friend to protect him from being tortured by Curley's men.

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Characters - Lennie Small

Lennis is a big man with a mental disability and relies on George's help.

He is innocent and sweet-natured and doesn't have the same prejudices as the other men.

He dreams of tending the rabbits at the house that George promises they'll own someday.

He likes soft things bu doesn't know his own strength and accidently kills small animals, and later, Curley's wife.

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Characters - Curley's wife

She is newly married to Curley but admits she doesn't like him.

She is never given a name, but always reffered to as Curley's property.

She is lonely on the ranch with no one to talk to - she is the only woman on the ranch.

She dreams of being a film star.

The other men are suspicious of her, calling her '********' as her husband is jealous and violent.

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Characters - Candy

Candy is the oldest ranch worker and has lost a hand in an accident.

He feels tha the is old and worthless.

Candy's dog is his only companion but he cannot stop him fro being shop because he, like Candy, in ols and worthless.

He asks to be a part of George and Lennie's dream to own some land.

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Characters - Curley

Curley is the boss's son.

He is a fighter and looks for opportunities to establish his authority.

He is possessive of his wife and doesn't like her talking to the other men.

He is little and seems to feel intimidated by Lennie's size.

He picks on Lennie, who crushes his hand.

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Form, Structure and Language - Form

Of Mice and Men is in the form of a novella.

It's writtn with an emphasis of dialogue and less description that normal prose - Steinbeck said he was trying to write it like a play.

The play form is also evident in the three sections of the book, like acts.

Each section begines with setting the scene, like stage directions.

The novella has a third person omniscient narrator, but they don't give us a lot of insight into characters' thoughts and feelings.

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Form, Structure and Language - Structure

The structure of the novella is cyclical.

The books begins and ends in the same place - by the Salinas River.

There are repeated actons which foreshadow later events in the book.

The death of the puppy foreshadows the death of Curley's wife and the shooting of Cnady's dog foreshadows Lenni's death.

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Form, Structure and Language - Language

There is a lot of dialogue in the novella, often written in colloquial language.

Steinbeck uses alot of animal imagery - Lennie is often linked to animals through similies and metaphors, eg when he walks he drags his feet 'like a bear drags his paws'.

The book is written in a very direct style - like the communications between the men in it.

Greater description is used for nature at the beginning - it is almost a sanctuary for Geroge and Lennie.

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Context - Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California and spent time working with farm labourers.

He wrote several novels about poeple who worked the land and dreamed of better lives.

Of Mice and Men ws first published in 1937.

The book's title comes from a poem by Scottish pet Robert Burns.

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Context - The Great Depression

The Great Depresson followed The Wall Street Crash of October 1929.

Firms and banks went bust and people lost their life savings.

Food was short, unemployment was at an all time high and many people suffered from hunger, poverty and disease.

Some white people asked for black people to be fired from their jobs to help unemployed white people.

Racial violence increased during the Great Depression.

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Context - Itinerant workers

A series of droughts across mid-west America dried up the land.

Many farmers were unable to make a living and had to sell their property.

Many workers migrated west to California thinking they would find land work there.

Too many people migrated and became refugees with nowhere to go, and some set up makeshift homes in the balleys.

George and Lennie's dream would give them safety and independence.

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