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"OF MICE AND MEN" by John Steinbeck
Written by Cameron Duff (Year 10)
This essay forms part of Luke's GCSE coursework, and has not been altered in any way.

“Of Mice and Men” is a brief, intense novel which explores the world following the Great Depression.  Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California which is the setting of the novel.  The story is set in the 1930s and tells the story of two men who are affected by the conditions at the time.  There was a high rate of unemployment and jobs were hard to come by for unskilled people like George and Lennie.  The novel follows closely the lives of two itinerant workers.  Their tragic story is the central force of the narrative.  Therefore their relationship is very important.  This essay will explore how Steinbeck establishes and develops their relationship.

In the first scene Steinbeck immediately establishes to the reader an idea of the relationship between the two characters.  In the first scene they walked single file down the path and ‘one stayed behind the other’.  ‘The first man was small’ and ‘behind him walked his opposite’.  This clearly conveys that the first man is the leader.  ‘The first man stopped short in the clearing and the follower nearly ran him over’, suggests to the reader that the second man is the follower and indicates the second is dependent on his companion.

In the extract Steinbeck indicates how well the two characters know each other.  The writer portrays this to the reader by showing how both characters annoy one another.  In the extract Lennie tells George that he likes his beans ‘with ketchup’ knowing that they have none.  This makes George ‘explode with anger’.  George tells Lennie ‘If I was alone I could live so easy’ … ‘stay in a cat house’… ‘An’ what I got’.  George’s ouburst lacks conviction, and Lennie has heard it all before.  This suggests that the two characters know each other well.  Steinbeck future implies the reader how well the characters know each other by Lennie being able to manipulate George in a child-like manner [sic].  After George’s explosion of anger Lennie manipulates the argument.  Lennie tells George that he could ‘go away and leave you alone?’  George replies, ‘I been mean ain’t I?’, this is a sign that Lennie has successfully turned the argument in his favour.  Although George is clearly frustrated by Lennie, he feels guilty when he shouts in his role as a parent.  In summary therefore, the relationship is clearly a close one, though the role of the two individuals is very different.

Steinbeck clearly shows George’s importance to Lennie.  This is clearly indicated when they are sitting around the pool at the start of chapter one.  Lennie has been watching him closely and, ‘imitated George exactly’.  He looks up to him and models his behaviour on George’s actions.  Yet again the writer emphasizes the role of a parent and child.

Steinbeck suggests that the relationship is clearly not one-sided, however.  Because George cares about Lennie, he shows he does not want to hurt his feelings.  The author describes George as ‘anguished’, after his explosion of anger.  George praises Lennie when he has done well saying ‘good boy’.  He ‘puts his hand on Lennie’s shoulder’ to comfort him, which reveals the men’s closeness.

In the first section Steinbeck also suggests to the reader how simple minded Lennie is.  In the pool scene Lennie ‘wiggled his fingers so the water arose in little splashes’.  The author suggests to the reader how simple minded and child-like Lennie is by his reaction to this, ‘look George, look what I done’.  Lennie’s child like actions have amazed the simple minded man.  Steinbeck then conveys to the reader how important George is to Lennie, by Lennie shouting to George to see if he is also impressed by his actions.

Steinbeck uses the dialogue of the two men to introduce one of the main themes of the novel, namely isolation and loneliness.  ‘Guys like us are the loneliest guys in the world’, begins George.  Clearly, the two men understand why they need each other.  After George’s speech about ‘other guys’, Lennie breaks in saying ‘now tell how it is with us’.  This clearly indicates to the reader that Lennie is ‘delighted’ that he has a companion.  The writer uses personal pronouns inviting the reader to feel the contrast, ‘but not us’.  The relationship has mutual benefit and they both appreciate it.  Although the relationship’s unequal it offers a very positive companionship for both characters.

Also central to their relationship is their shared ‘dream’.  This however shows clearly the difference in each individual’s need.  For Lennie, the dream provides ‘rabbits’.  On the other hand, for George the dream offers, control, security and independence.  In the novel Steinbeck often refers back to the shared dream the two men have.  The shared dream shows the reader that the two men both have something to look for.  When George tells Lennie about ‘the dream’ Lennie often cuts in indicating that he is familiar with the story and enjoys it, like a favourite bedtime story.  From the shared dream George gets hope of a better life.  In summary the writer portrays that the two individuals are dependent on the dream and each other.

As the chapter closes the author indicates to the reader that George is the leader and is the responsible one.  While George is telling Lennie about the shared dream, George then becomes carried away.  George’s mood suddenly changes and he then has to become the responsible one.  George says ‘Nuts … I ain’t got time for no more’.  The writer portrays to the reader how George becomes the responsible one by George foreshadowing past events and stopping the dream speech.  Steinbeck is implying that George only sees the dream as a bedtime story for Lennie, on the other hand Lennie sees it as a dream that will one day become true.  George then tells Lennie to ‘hide in the brush’ if you get in any trouble, this is a sign that experience has taught George to plan ahead.  It is also a sign that George has taken the role of a leader.  In many ways Steinbeck created an unequal relationship with George always having to take responsibility, but the companionship Lennie offers him is very important, thus Steinbeck established the relationship firmly in chapter one, by only having these two men present.

This essay was part of Cameron’s course work for 2011 and has not been altered or amended in any way.