Of Mice and Men GCSE English Literature

Summary of Of Mice and Men



Symbolism of Names

  • Created by: Susie C
  • Created on: 03-12-12 19:09

Characters: George

  • George is an itinerant worker and friends with Lennie
  • His name 'George' means 'farmer' and Milton comes from the poet 'John Milton' who wrote a poem called Paradise Lost suggesting that their dream will not come true
  • George is 'small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features' - this suggests that he is intelligent but also unhappy as he is 'restless'
  • 'I aint nothing to scream about' -george is modest
  • George symbolises the itinerant worker - a decent man trapped in their jobs but haunted by lonliness. The dream of living 'off the fatta the lan'' makes his life bearable and also teh dream of hundreds of others.. Crooks -'Ever'body wants a little piece of lan''
  • 'If I was alone I could live so easy' - George yearns to have a 'normal' life without Lennie
  • George's companionship with Lennie starves off the lonliness but also gives him a role in life. This makes him different, and even gives him a status. 'We kinda look after each other'
  • George is full of compassion which makes him wish for a clean death for Lennie
  • George is a responsible person, he brought Lennie to the farm and so he takes responsibility for them. 'You hadda George, I swear you hadda'
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Characters: Lennie

  • Lennie Small - ironic name
  • 'He's jes' like a kid' 
  • Lennie is a simpleton, and his tragedy is that he has never learnt how to control his body
  • He is 'a huge man, shapless of face ... and he walked... the way a bear drags his paws. His arms... hung loosely'
  • '[Lennie] can put up more grain alone than most pairs can' strength is shown as an asset in their work
  • 'He was so scairt he couldn't let go of that dress. And he's so damn strong you 'know' shows Lennie uses his strength when he's scared
  • 'Me an' him goes ever' place together' Lennie is totally dependent on George 
  • Lennie is described in terms of an animal more than a child
  • Animals are innocent, in that they do not have to moral capacity to tell right from wrong. However, anumials can be dangerous as they have no morals and act on instinct
  • Lennie is compared to a bear 'the way a bear drags his paws' 
  • The only way he can cope is to be like a tame dog, tethered aways to his master, George. 
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Characters: Slim

  • Slim is a 'jerkline skinner' in control of a team of horses and is seen as the leading worker in the Bunk House
  • Slim meets George and Lennie in the bunk house
  • Slim gives a puppy to Lennie
  • Slim agrees to the Killing of Candy's Dog, must be right thing to do 'Slim's word was law'
  • He is 'godlike' and 'moved with majesty' 
  • He is 'understanding beyond thought' he realises instinctively how George and Lennie get along and why George had to kill Lennie
  • 'His hands, large and lean, we as delicate in their action as those of a temple dancer'
  • 'His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject.'
  • 'Maybe ever‟body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.'
  • Despite being charasmatic, prince-like, understanding and skilled at what he does, Steinbeck also implies that Slim is trapped by the life that he leads
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Characters: Candy

  • Candy lost his right hand in a farming accident
  • Candy is 'tall, stoop shouldered old man' - his physical weaknesses are emphasised from the start
  • Candy is also described through his dog 'a drag-footed sheep dog, grey of muzzle and with pale, blind old eyes' 
  • Candy's relationship with his dog is like George's relationship with Lennie. It is not something rational but an antidote to loneliness
  • When the dog dies, it is almost as if he has died himself. 
  • Candy and his dog represent was is undesirable on the farm. The dog is a reminder of what happens when you're not useful. Survival of the fittest
  • The only person Candy can stand up to is someone in a weaker position than himself
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Characters: Curley

  • Curley is the boss's son 
  • 'a thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and head of tightly curled hair'
  • 'He hates big guys. He's alla time picking scraps with the big guys. Kinf of like he's mad at 'em because he ain't a big guy' 
  • 'Curley says he's keeping that hand soft for his wife', 'glove fulla vaseline' - curley makes obsene allusions to his wife
  • Curley only sees the world thorugh his wife and is so supremely selfish. His inability to control or understand his wife brings around her deat.
  • Curleys power is a huge and a good example of social injustice and corruption
  • Curley is a main figure in revealing the injustice of the world the ranch hands live and work in
  • His hand represent his ability, strength and masculinity
  • Curley is antagonist in the novel. Whenever he is there, George and Lennie's dream is ruined
  • He is vindictive, angry and violent
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Characters: Curley's Wife

  • Only woman on the farm
  • Described in a limited and misgynistic way. - 'she had full, rouged lips and widespread eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages'
  • Also described as a 'tart'and seen as '*********' by the ranch hands
  • Curley's wife is very lonely, along with so many others in the novel and she is trapped in a loveless marriage
  • 'You know what I can do if you open your trap', 'I can get you strung up on a tree so quick it aint even funny' - she can be vindictive and she will use the power her status gives her, even if its unfair
  • 'He says he was going to put be in the movies' - Curley's Wife has her dreams destroyed to and this is a majot cause of her loneliness
  • 'She was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young' - Curley's wife was never really evil. Her punishment outweighs any crimes she may have commited.
  • Steinbeck described her in the 'Miss Luce' letter that she is essentially good and trusting person who grew up 'in an atmosphere of fighting and suspision'. She is not particually over sexed but has been forced to realise that her sexuality is the only thing she has
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Characters: Crooks

  • Crooks is the 'stable buck', the man who provides support for many of the horses and mules
  • He has a 'busted' spine and the characters refer to him as the '*****'
  • 'He reads a lot. Got books in his room' - Crooks is probably the most intelligent man on the farm
  • 'Crooks was a proud, aloof man... his eyes... seemed to glitter with intenisty... he had thin, pain tightened lips'
  • 'I ain't wanted in the bunk house', 'Cause I'm black' - Crooks is a victim of racial prejudice.
  • 'you got no rights comin' in a coloured man's room' - Crooks has enough pride and independance to stand up to Curley's Wife
  • 'There was no personality, no ego - nothing to arouse either like or dislike' - the futility of Crook's stant show how little real power a black person has in the world of this novel
  • The 'meager yellow light'  in his room is a symbol for how little hope he has
  • Scournful of the dream 'nobody ever gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land'
  • All he really wants is a sense of belonging and to be part of the fraternity with the other men.
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Themes: The American Dream/ The Depression

  • The Characters have dreams because their circumstances dictate that they feel unfufilled in their lives - this is a cause of the depression
  • The closer you become to the dream, the closer disappointment gets
  • In the same way, the depression will probably prevent their dreams from happening. The depression has cause the mens emasculation which has prompted their dreams
  • Bill Tenner - his posterity is ensured because of the magazine. Such a little thing - shows what the depression has done to the men. 'Got it right in the book'
  • They all want happiness. For the misfit man this is their own land and freedom. For a self-obsessed woman ths is fame
  • 'Beaten hard by tramps' - depression means loads of tramps
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Themes: Loneliness

  • George and Lennie starve of loneliness with their friendship
  • Loneliness embitters Candy and Crooks
  • It kills Curley's wife
  • Steinbeck see's loneliness as part of the human condition, something we are born with and either fight of succumb to
  • Steinbeck offers no answer to loneliness, just a moving and graphic portrayal of the problem
  • Loneliness is also felt by the marginalised on the farm
  • Steinbeck is implying loneliness from the beginning Soledad --> Solitude (spanish)
  • The men also play solitaire 
  • Only sympathy possible to feel for Curley's Wife comes from loneliness - 'I cant talk to nobody but Curley', 'I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely'
  • Crooks is very aware of his isolation and is aware of the effects it has. 'a guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody'
  • At the end, nobody can understand the loneliness George will fell. No concepts of what it is like to lose someone
  • Curley's wife gets a human aspect when she finally finds someone to talk to. 'Her words fumbled out in a passion of communication' 
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Themes: Fraternity/Marginalisation

  • The bunkhouse symbolises the fraternity of the men on the ranch. It isn't friendship but a more masculine, plutonic relationship
  • All play cards and work together. However the only friendshp is George and Lennie but they're not really "friends" - 'got kinda used to each other after a while'
  • Women are like evil to the fraternity; Curley's wife gets them into trouble with Curley and prostitutes take their hard earned money
  • because of the fraternity certain groups are marginalised . Candy is old and so has no spport when they shoot his dog
  • Crooks isnt even allowed into the bunkhouse 'this here's my room. Nobody got a right here but me'
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