Of Mice and Men.
Studying the text
There are many ways in which one can write about a literary text, but among those most commonly encountered at Key Stages 3 and 4 would be to study character, theme and technique. These terms are explained below, and some pointers given as to how to study them in Of Mice and Men.
We can study what characters (note the spelling!) are like in themselves, but we see them best in their relations with other people and the wider society of which they are (or fail to be) a part.
Any statement about what characters are like should be backed up by evidence: quote what they say, or explain what they do (or both). Do not, however, merely retell narrative (the story) without comment. Statements of opinion should be followed by reference to events or use of quotation; quotation should be followed by explanation (if needed) and comment. This is rather mechanical, but if you do it, you will not go far wrong.
In this guide, general comments will often be made without supporting evidence (to save time). As you study or revise you should find and list this evidence. If you cannot find any, ask a teacher who knows this text. You should certainly, in any case, be making your own revision guides, and marking your copy of the book. If you are preparing this text for an examination, you may be allowed to underline key passages or to use bookmarks.
In Of Mice and Men the characters are clearly drawn and memorable. Some could be the subject of a whole essay, while others would not. Of course a question on a theme (see below) might require you to write about characters, anyway: for example, to discuss loneliness, you write about lonely people.
George and Lennie
The principal characters are George Milton and Lennie Small (whose name is the subject of a feeble joke: “He ain't small”. Who says this?). Lennie is enormously strong. He is simple (has a learning difficulty) though he is physically well co-ordinated and capable of doing repetitive manual jobs (bucking barley or driving a cultivator) with skill.
Lennie has a man's body, but a child's outlook: he gains pleasure from “pettin' ” soft things, even dead mice, and loves puppies and rabbits. He is dependent, emotionally, on George, who organizes his life and reassures him about their future. Lennie can be easily controlled by firm but calm instructions, as Slim finds out. But panic in others makes Lennie panic: this happened when he tried to “pet” a girl's dress, in Weed, and happens again twice in the narrative: first, when he is attacked by Curley, and second, when Lennie strokes the hair of Curley's wife.
Lennie's deficiencies enable him to be accepted by other defective characters: Candy, Crooks and Curley's wife. He poses no threat, and seems to listen patiently (because he has learned the need to pay close…