Of Mice and Men

Revision cards for Of Mice and Men

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  • Created on: 15-05-12 16:26

Section One: Moving On

  • The setting of the Salinas River 'south of soledad' is introduced.
  • Lennie and George arrive by a pool, and Lennie drinks from the water 'like a horse'. He is a huge man and George is small.
  • Lennie has been carrying a dead mouse to 'pet', but George takes it from him and throws it away.
  • We find out that they have come from a town in the north, Weed, and are going to a ranch for work. George tells Lennie not to speak to the boss when they get there, or he'll know how 'crazy' Lennie is.
  • When Lennie comes back from collecting wood for the fire, he has retrieved the dead mouse, but George realises and takes i from him a second time
  • We find out more about George and how he looks after Lennie. We also learn the reason why they had to leave Weed - because Lennie touched a girl's dress and she screamed, thinking she was being attacked.
  • Lenie asks George to tell him about the farm they plan to have one day.
  • George makes Lennie promise that if there's any future touble he'll come back to the same pool and wait for George until he arrives.
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Section One: Moving On

Why is this section important?

  • It establishes the setting
  • We are introduced to the two main characters, Lennie and George.
  • Their relationship is made clear.
  • We find out what has happened previously in Weed (the reason they are here now), and are told where they are going next.
  • It provides initial clues about key ideas, themes and events which will come up again as the book progresses.
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Section Two: Rising Tensions

  • George and Lennie have arrived at the ranch and are shown the bunk house by the 'old swamper' (cleaner) Candy, who has an old dog.
  • George worries that the previous occupant oh his bunk had lice.
  • the boss is talked about 'a pretty nice fella' and the stable-hand Crooks. The boss meets George and Lennie.
  • Curley, the boss's son, comes into the bunk house, and picks on Lennie, seeming to want a fight. Curley is 'pretty handy. He done quite a bit in the ring'. He also 'hates big guys'.
  • Curley's wide visits the bunk house, and flirts with the men.
  • George becomes even more worries. Curley frightens George - 'I hate that kind of guy'.
  • George reminds Lennie he is to go to the pool if there's 'trouble'.
  • Slim, the 'jerk line skinner' and unofficial leader of the ranch hands, meets George and Lennie. He wins George's confidence with his natural authority and 'dignity'.
  • Slim offers to give Lennie one of the pips recently born to his dog.
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Section Two: Rising Tensions

Why is the section important?

  • It introduced us the bunk house, the home of the ranch hands and setting for much of the novel.
  • It introduced use to some of the main characters at the ranch.
  • Curley is clearly identified as a threat to Lennie and George, as is his wife.
  • We are given clear hints that there is trouble ahead
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Section Three: The dawn of Hope

  • Slim gives one of his puppies his dog has had to Lennie
  • Slim and George talk about Lennie, and George explains that he took over caring for Lennie when Lennie's Aunt Clara died - 'Got kinda used to each other after a while'.
  • George explains why they were 'run out' of Weed, reassures Slim that Lennie did not **** the girl and patiently makes Lennie put the pup back with its mother when he tries to smuggle is into the bunk house.
  • Carlson persuades a reluctant Candy to let him shoot Candy's old dog. He will use the Luger pistol he owns - 'The way i'd shoort him, he wouldn't feel nothing'.
  • Whit shoes Slim a letter written to a magazine of cowboy stories by hand who once worked on the ranch.
  • Whit asks George to join the other ranch hands in a visit the next night to the local town and brothel.
  • Curley bursts in, looking for his wide, and argues over her with Slim
  • George and Lennie discuss the dream - 'We could live offa the fatta the lan' - and Candy asks to buy himself in with the money he has saved.
  • Curley picks a fight with Lennie, who does not fight back until George orders Lennie to do so. Lennie crushes Curley's hand - 'Looks to me like ever' bone in his han' is bust'.
  • Slim protects Lennie from blame for the injury to Curley, and makes Curley say it was an accident with a machine that caused injury.
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Section Three: The Dawn of Hope

Why is this section important?

  • It makes us think for a brief moment that George and Lennie's dream might actually happen: Candy clearly does have the money necessary. Then the dream is shattered by Curley, showing that in real-life dreams rarely come true.
  • It explains in more detail the relationship between George and Lennie, and reinforced the important of loneliness in the novel.
  • The mention of the cowboy magazine the ranch hands pretend to scorn but secretly admire is introduced. It is another dream, like Lennie and George's - something unreal but something which helps make life bearable.
  • Lennie's pathetic plea to George after he has crushed Curley's hand - 'I din't mean no harm, George' - sums up Lennie.
  • The shooting of Candy's dog shows us the cruelty of the world portrayed in the novel. It prepares us for the shooting of Lennie.
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Section Four: Death on the Farm

  • Lennie wanders into the harness room where Crooks, the black stable hand - 'a proud, aloof man' - lives. George and the other hands are out on the town.
  • Crooks talks to Lennie.
  • Crooks teases Lennie that George might leave him, and is frightened by Lennie's response.
  • Candy joins them and Crooks finds himself half believing that the dream of the small farm might actually happen.
  • Curley's wife comes in, and when Crooks shows his anger at her she threatens to accuse him of **** and have him lynched.
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Section Four: Death on the Farm

Why is this section important?

  • The section is almost a rest period before the final climax. Many authors step down the tension a little before a major climax, almost as if to give the reader a break before a very demanding section.
  • The section introduces the issue of racial prejudice.
  • Lennie's anger at Crooks warns us again that Lennie can be dangerous.
  • The harsh injustice of the world is shown by the ease with which Curley's wide can humiliate Crooks.
  • Loneliness is again emphasised.
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Section Five: Murder by mistake

  • Lennie has killed the puppy slim gave him - 'Why do you got to get killed? You ain't so little as mice'.
  • He tries to bury it secretly in the barn.
  • Curley's wife enters and talks to Lennie about her dislike of Curley and he wish to become a movie star.
  • She invites Lennie to stroke her hair, but panics when she feels his strength.
  • Lennie panics, tries to quieten her and then gets angry and shakes her to death.
  • A manhunt is organised to find Lennie, who has fled.
  • George implies to Candy that the dream of a small farm is over - 'I think i knowed we'd never do her'.
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Section Five: Murder by Mistake

Why is this section important?

  • It seals Lennie's fate.
  • It shows the sad loneliness of Curley's wide, as well as her negative affect on others.
  • It suggests that the dream of the farm will die with Lennie.
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Section Six: The End of the Dream

  • Lennie waits for George in the clearing by the pool - 'Hide in the brush an' wait for George', he says to himself.
  • He sees a vision of his Aunt Clara, who reprimands him.
  • A vision of a giant rabbit tells Lennie that George will leave him.
  • George arrives and comforts Lennie, and then shoots him dead - 'I want you to stay with me here.'
  • Slim comforts George and tells him he had no choice.
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Section Six: The End of the Dream

Why is this section important?

  • It brings the novel to a dramatic climax
  • It finishes the novel back where it started.
  • It introduces for the first and last time two fantasy visions.
  • At the same time, it shows us Steinbeck's brilliance at natural description.
  • It shows us the tragic but perhaps inevitable ending to George and Lennie's relationship.
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Section One: The Setting: Still Life, Hot Night

The book opens with a varied and colourful description of the rural Californian setting, south of Soledad by the Salinas River, in particular a 'narrow pool' by which Lennie and George eventually make camp. Like a stage - set, the place seems to be waiting for their arrival, and Steinbeck uses vivid image to create the warm, dry evening.

The rabbits Steinbeck describes will come to have great significance as the novel progresses. The simile he uses to describe them as 'sculptured stones' adds to the mythic or timeless feel. Later Steinbeck uses the present tense, which further contributes to the timelessness, but also suggests that this is a real place that still survives today.

The detailed snapshot of nature tells us that many other men have stopped there, and could imply George and Lennie are small, unimportant figures in the world.

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Section Two: The Characters: Heroes and Villains

Steinbeck shows us real people, good and bad, and this mixture helps to persuade that the world he shows us in Of Mice and Men is also real. Steinbeck does not fall in to the trap of describing all those in power as evil. The Boss is a decent man, although he has a bad temper.

Steinbeck uses dialogue to create characterisation. Each character has their own way of speaking - look at sentence length, use of slang, repetition and accents. The characters are all ranch hands or work on the same farm, but immediately as we meet them we see how different they are, from the dignity of Slim to the anger of Curley.

Steinbeck can show us characters with serious weaknesses (Curley, Curley's wide)  and with great strengths (George, Slim), but his real interest is in people who are the oppressed and the weak, yearning and failing to take control of their lives: George, Lennie and Candy.

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Section Two: Loneliness

George and Lennie interest Slim because 'you guys travel around together', and this is clearly unusual. As the novel goes on we see more and more how lonely the life of the migrant, wandering worker is. Candy is desperately alone, except for his dog.

Are Curley and his wife lonely? There's certainly no friendship in their marriage. This sense of loneliness - summed up by Slim when he says 'Maybe ever'body in the whole damned world is scared of each other' - helps us realise how special the friendship is between George and Lennie.

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Section Three: The Wild West? Saturday Night Visit

The Wild West?

  • The ranch hands outwardly scorn the Wild West magazines that they buy, but secretly they enjoy the romantic, glamorous view that the magazines give of cowboys and, by association, of ranch hands.
  • The magazines show the workers how they would like to be. This is another dream, similar to that of George and Lennie. It will never be real, but it is necessary for surviving in the real world.

Saturday Night Visits

  • George and Wit talk about Susy's, a brothel where the men go on Saturday nights. Note how delicately Steinbeck handles the discussion. It could easily become coarse and obscene. In Steinbeck's hands it becomes natural, a normal part of a man's life. This is not to justify the exploitation of prostitutes, but it shows how Steinbeck refuses to impose a politically correct agenda onto his writing.
  • Steinbeck is concerned to reveal what the men think and feel, not to prove a point about what they ought to think. He tries to show life as it is, and as how it looks from inside the minds of his characters.
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Section Four: Crooks: Prejudice of Loneliness?

Crooks is a bitter, cynical person. Does his bitterness come from his being badly treated? Steinbeck draws the reader's attention to how few rights black people had. He reveals that Crooks could be lynched, without a trial, if Curley's wide so much as accuses him of trying to **** her.

Perhaps Crook's bitterness is also due to his being disabled - he is continually rubbing his injured back with liniment.

Above all, Crooks is shown to be a lovely man, isolated from the others by his race and his disability. Steinbeck seems at least as interested in loneliness as he is in racial prejudice. He is also interested in the effects of prejudice against those of different races or who have physical problems.

Crooks's room is important in the novel. He guards it fiercely, showing how isolated and alone black man is on a ranch where all the other people are white. His room is both a symbol of Crooks as someone different and isolated from the others, and a private place where he can be himself. It is also a working room, its contents showing some of the skills needed to 'work' a ranch at that time.

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Section Five: Portraying Men and Women

Some feminists argue that Steinbeck encourages old -fashioned stereotypical images of women. They argue that Steinbeck sees the use of prostitutes as a man's right, and that the only woman who appears in the novel is a passive victim, a threat to men and someone described simply in terms of her sexuality.

Yet the men in the novel are also frequently imperfect, and Steinbeck has sympathy for Curley's wide: she is portrayed as a pathetic figure, with her own unrealisable dream, married to a man she hates and with nothing to distract her from her unhappy marriage. In her own way, perhaps she is as much of a victim as Lennie.

In basing his novel largely round a group of men and what we might see nowadays as 'macho' views, Steinbeck is writing in firmly American tradition - the leading novelist of which is Ernest Hemingway. Steinbeck's concentration on male figures in Of Mice and Men allows him to examine a theme more closely studied in The Grapes Of Wrath: in the America of 1930s, men are in charge. Yet both novels show how little anyone, male or female, is actually in control of their lives.

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Section Five: Dreams and Reality

George seems to tell Candy that their deal to buy a small farm is over ' - I think i knowed we'd never do her.' In some way this has to mean that Lennie was as important in the dream as the money.

One answer is that George knew all along this was just a dream, an idea that brought comfort but which he knew would never happen.

It could also mean that George wanted the farm because it was the only way to find peace for Lennie, rather than something George wanted to do.

Most of all it shows that humans have a dream world where good things happen, and the real world which is brutal, lonely and unfair.

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Section Six: The Setting: Background to Death

The section opens with a description reminiscent of the opening of the novel. In the opening, there was a heron and a water snake. Now the heron kills the water snake preparing us for the death of Lennie.

Note the marvellous image of the sun blazing on the Gabilan mountains, and the contrast with the shade of the pool. Here, as before, Steinbeck makes use of light in his descriptions. In addition, 'tiny wind waves' on the water remind us of the waves caused be Lennie in the opening section.

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Section Six: The Visions

The Visions - of Aunt Clara and the giant rabbit - are poetic, and very different from Steinbeck's style in the rest of the novel.

They have been condemned as being unrealistic and totally beyond the ability of a limited mind such as Lennie's to generate. The giant rabbit in particular might appear ridiculous rather than poetic.

However, both visions provide a clear insight into Lennie's feelings at the lose of the novel. They show both his guilt and genuine inability to control himself - a giant with the mind of a baby. They also show how much Lennie suffers - both Auntie Clara and the rabbit hurt Lennie deeply by challenging him on how he rewards George for his care.

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Section Six: Dramatic Tension

There is significant dramatic tension in the last scene. We know that George is going to kill Lennie, but the reader has to wait while the two go over old ground, almost as if George is running over for the last time ever the words he has exchanged so often with Lennie. 

There is clear dramatic irony in the comparison between the opening and closing scenes of the novel 0 the same setting, once filled with hope, is now a scene of closing despair.

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Bethan Thomas


Thank you very much , i found them very useful.

Just me :)


Thanks much!

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