Of Mice and Men
Hopefully this brief breakdown of themes should help you with your revision….
Read the points and see if you can:
- extend them further
- turn them into P.E.E
- find a quote from the book to back up each idea
1. HOPES / DREAMS:
Repetition of farm dream makes it seem more real as novel progresses (until final events)
CHAPTER 1 – Used as sign of hope.
CHAPTER 6 – Used differently – used to comfort Lennie before George kills him. The last mention of the dream is very poignant as both the reader and George know that the dream will never be achieved.
CIRCULAR PLOT – used to emphasise that life will never change for these characters.
The dream is used by Steinbeck to show a different side to Candy and Crooks.
Dream is shattered in by Curley’s wife in two ways:
- Mocking Crooks ‘bindlebums’
- Getting killed by Lennie.
Curley’s wife had her own dreams of being in films.
We discover characters’ dreams through their conversations with Lennie – he is almost used like a journal by the other characters because they know that he doesn’t always understand what they are saying.
SETTINGS play big part in portraying isolation – ranch ‘Soledad’ = Spanish for ‘solitude’
Characters are discriminated against for different reasons. Although most of them suffer discrimination, the characters don’t have much in common and remain quite isolated throughout the book (dream brings them together):
- Crooks – Because he is black
- Curley’s wife – Because she is a woman and seen as ‘trouble’ and Curley’s possession.
- Candy – Because of his disability.
- Candy’s dog – old and smells.
Crooks is an important character when exploring isolation – he uses his own room as a retreat and rarely allows other people to enter his room – very protective over his small space. This shows that even though he doesn’t own much, he is a very proud character; This is also why he retreats back into his shell when challenged and mocked by Curley’s wife.
George ends up alone at the end – links to circular plot.
Contrasts between Chapter 1 and 6 – circular plot – isolation
Weed – foreshadowing
Barn – location for a lot of negative events
- Puppy dies
- Curley’s wife dies
- Curley’s hand crushed
Ranch = isolated –Soledad= solitude
Crooks’ room – books – shows intelligence / proud
Detailed descriptions of settings to reflect events and mood.
GEORGE AND LENNIE:
- Strength (physical – Lennie alongside Mental – George)
- Friends (George takes responsibility for Lennie)
- Father and Son (George – protective / Lennie – childlike)
- Pet and Master (Animal imagery)
MASTER AND PET:
- Lennie and Mice
- Lennie and Puppy
- Candy and Dog
- George and Lennie
CROOKS AND LENNIE / CURLEY’S WIFE AND LENNIE:
- Both characters open up to Lennie – reveals more to the reader (Lennie is almost used as a journal / diary).
CURLEY AND HIS WIFE:
- Not a loving relationship
- Wife treated as a possession – doesn’t even have a name in the book.
- Even at the end, Curley wants revenge for Lennie crushing his hand. This will shock the reader as he should want justice for his dead wife.
- Wife’s unhappiness shown throughout the novel – flirting with other men, lost dreams etc…
(Hints at what might happen later in the plot):
- Title of novel ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…’
- Woman in weed
- George’s constant warnings to Lennie to keep away from Curley’s wife
- Candy’s dog
- Repetition of ‘run to the brush’
- Dead animals
- Structure – uplifting events are quickly followed by something bad (this occurs throughout the novel)
- Lennie’s strength – dead animals – won’t let go of Curley’s hand
COMPARING CHAPTER 1 AND CHAPTER 6:
– Lennie – “like a bear drags his paws” “Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water…”
|CHAPTER 1||CHAPTER 6|
|Energetic wild animal||Lennie is like a hunted animal – “came as silently as a creeping bear moves”|
|Strong||Characteristics are more cautious|
|Clumsy||Reader’s sympathy grows towards him further|
Death of animals – Candy’s dog / Mice / Puppies: Hints (foreshadowing) that George’s ‘pet’ (Lennie) must die too?
Dignity and responsibility – Candy wishes he had shot his dog himself – Links to George taking responsibility for Lennie.
REPETITION OF FARM STORY:
Chapter 1 represents hope and dreams when Lennie and George are discussing the farm.
In Chapter 6, George uses the farm to comfort Lennie.
Very poignant and emotive – George and the reader know that the dream will never come true. The reader empathises with George’s situation and decision.
The sadness surrounding the death of Lennie and the dream is furthered because the reader is aware that the dream was about to come a reality with the help from Candy.
Novel starts and ends in the same setting – brush
This emphasises that no matter what dreams they have, the ranch workers are destined to just move round from ranch to ranch until they eventually die – Reader feels increasing sympathy for these helpless and isolated characters.
SETTING: HERON AND WILDLIFE
- Same setting in chapter 1 and 6 – chapter 6 is written with a more negative perspective:
- Lennie is in the middle of the setting in a vulnerable childlike position:
- “…he embraced his knees and laid his chin down on his knees…” – builds sympathy for character
Chapter 1 – Heron spares snake’s life
Reflected – George saves Lennie’s life by helping him escape Weed.
Chapter 6 – Heron stands motionless in the water then kills the snake
Shows smarter animal killing helpless animal – FORESHADOWING – George and Lennie
Circle of life / nature
Curley’s Wife – Love or Hate? SYMPATHYThe reader never likes her but as the novel progress they may feel some sympathy towards her.Could have had a better life (HOPE/DREAM) – “but my old woman wouldn’t let me…”Treated as a possession – no nameGets treated as ‘trouble’ (unfair?) She is assumed to be trouble from the outset.Opens up to Lennie – reader gets to find out more background information about the character: “Well, I ain’t told this nobody before…”Knowing her dreams makes the character seem more real/human.Visual description of her when dead is much more delicate: “she was pretty and simple and her face was sweet and young.”Comforts Lennie when he’s upset about the puppy.DISLIKEShe is the cause of the farm dream shatteringFlirts with other men : “leant against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward..”Visual description of when introducing her “nasal” voice…red – danger/lustGeorge warns Lennie that she is trouble. We as the reader, trust George because of the way he looks after Lennie.It is ultimately her fault that Lennie is dead
John Proctor is a very interesting character.
He is the main protagonist in the play.
He remains conflicted about his own morality throughout the four acts.
When we meet him first, we discover that he has had an affair with Abigail Williams.
This would have been considered a huge sin in Salem at the time.
It also gives the reader an immediately negative impression of him. This is somewhat improved when he defends Elizabeth
Over the course of the play, we witness Proctor’s struggles with his conscience.
He desperately wants to be a good man, and to do what is right, but he feels that his soul is irretrievable because of his actions with Abigail.
At the end, he tries to take the easy way and save his life by confessing, but he is unable to.
This can be seen in two ways:
Either he is too proud to be so publicly disgraced OR his conscience will not be a silenced a second time.
Abigail is essentially a selfish character.
She is an outgoing girl, who feels stifled and undervalued by the society in Salem.
This could be partly what leads to her affair with John Proctor.
Once she has fallen for him, she refuses to let go of the idea of being with him, no matter what she has to do to make it happen.
She is clingy and stubborn in the First Act.
She is also quite a threatening character, and a very passionate one.
It is her passion that makes her believable.
She threatens her friends when they want to own up to what they did in the woods.
This is foreshadowing, as it later becomes clear that she the main threat to everyone in Salem.
The other girls follow her lead. She is the first to accuse anyone of witchcraft, and is the ringleader in the trials.
She even, in Act Three, threatens Danforth. This shows that she is confident and sure of herself.
The act that really proves her selfishness is when she runs away, leaving John Proctor, the man she loves, to die.
When we first meet Elizabeth, she is desperate to please her husband.
This is rather ironic, as he is the one who has cheated.
We learn a lot about her from what other people say.
Both Abigail and John call her a cold woman, and John accuses her of being unable to forgive.
Elizabeth later confirms that this is the truth.
She is a good woman. She is honest, and very religious.
She refuses to confess to witchcraft and damn her soul. This also shows a great strength of character.
At the beginning of the play, she can seem like quite a harsh judgemental character, although she does have reason to be.
In the final act she is much softer.
She refuses to judge her husband for confessing.
She has realised that the world is not always as black and white as she previously believed.
She is now able to look past her husband’s one mistake and see that he is actually a good man in spite of it.
Hale is the character that undergoes the biggest transformation in The Crucible.
He starts off being very sure of himself, and declares that there is witchcraft in Salem.
By the middle of Act Two, he has begun to turn against the court.
He is familiarising himself with the people who have been named in court so that he can judge them for himself.
In Act Three he tries to help John and Giles Corey to enter evidence, and denounces the court when they are unsuccessful.
In Act Four, it becomes clear that he now believes that the imprisoned people are innocent.
Abigail Williams is obviously very jealous of Elizabeth Proctor.
This leads her to frame Elizabeth in an attempt to have her killed by the court.
It could be argued that the girls are jealous of the freedom Tituba has experienced in the past, and of her knowledge.
Elizabeth is also jealous of Abigail – we see this in Act Two.
Some of the more respected members of the Salem community have probably been accused out of jealousy.
This is a hugely important theme in the play.
It also links back to the idea of the Red Scare.
The accusations start off small, targeting people who are vulnerable, like Tituba and Sarah Good.
However, once the more respected members of the town begin to be accused, it becomes clear that no-one is safe.
Giles Corey is reluctant to name his witness, as he doesn’t want to get him into trouble.
Anyone who disagrees with the court in the slightest is arrested, which adds to the atmosphere of paranoia.
The Proctor Household
Rebecca and Francis Nurse
Martha and Giles Corey
The Parris Household
Reverend Samuel Parris
The Putnam Household
Ann Putnam (his wife)
Officials of the Court
Reverend John Hale
Herrick (the marshall)
Hopkins (a guard)
Characters and themes
Hale: Why, it is all simple. I come to do the Devil’s work. I come to counsel Christians they should belie themselves. (Pg. 113)
Act One –
Act Two –
Act Three –
Act Four –
It allows us to see a wider view of the community
It clearly signals that the play is progressing.
We see how badly the prisoners are being treated, and this creates empathy.
The prison is dark and bare, signifying the depression and lack of hope of all of the accused.
At least three main points and
AN INSPECTOR CALLS
Eva Smith/Daisy Renton’s lifestyle
Work together as a community
The characters’ involvement with Eva/Daisy
Inspector is a spokesman for the disadvantaged, but also tries to bring out the conscience of the Birlings and Gerald
Older characters hide behind a respectability which is not based on morals
Socialism vs. Capitalism
The belief of respectability does not stand up to scrutiny
Older characters are not fazed by what has happened
Each revelation should mean more is learned – but it is not
Mr. Birling – Businessman
Mrs. Birling – Chairwoman of Women’s Charity Organisation
Sheila – Powerful customer
Eric – No sense of it, drinks too much, forces himself on her
Gerald – Rescues her, gives into own personal pleasure and leaves her without worry
Sheila and Gerald do not really know each other
Birling wants to go up the social and economic ladder with his daughter’s marriage – what about his own to a socially superior woman? Loveless marriage?
Gerald and Eric with Daisy/Eva – no love, purely physical attraction
Daisy loved Gerald, but was with Eric out of need