Of Mice And Men Written Essay

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Discipline

Language Arts, History

Grade Level

7-12

Type of Activity

Small Group, Individual, Ongoing, Sharing Work, Brief Research, Writing

Objectives

  • Students will have ongoing practice writing short papers (150-200 words, in different styles) on a variety of Of Mice and Men topics.
  • Students will learn to share their writing with others.
  • Students will gain a deeper understanding of each section of Of Mice and Men.

Overview

Even though the Of Mice and Men unit may culminate with a major scholarly paper, short writing prompts (150-200 words) should be given throughout the unit. The prompts can be both broad and specific. Students should be made to feel comfortable with these prompts, even though (time permitting) some will read them out loud. The student audience will be encouraged to respond and take notes.

NOTE TO TEACHERS: Any of the writing topics in this section can be expanded into full-length essays (word length and completion time at the discretion of teachers). These short writing prompts can also be used as discussion topics , journal entries, or as advance organizers .

Types of essays can include:

  • Scholarly. (See Critical Analysis Essay) 
  • Compare/Contrast. (For example, students can compare/contrast the relationship between Lennie and George. Are they similar to brothers, parent/child, best friends, and so on?)
  • Descriptive. Students can emulate/evaluate Steinbeck’s descriptive writing. (See Sentence Fluency) 
  • Narrative. Under “Procedures,” see the topics in Ongoing (before or during the reading of the novel).
  • Argumentative. (For example, what is “mercy killing”?  Ask students to defend or condemn the practice, and argue reasons for their opinions.)
  • Evaluation. (For example, if Of Mice and Men took place today, not during the 1930s, how would life for Lennie have been different?)

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • Copies of Of Mice and Men.
  • Teachers should emphasize that each short prompt should be concise and contain specific examples from the novel.
  • Arrange time in the computer lab (if available), so students can start their assignments and teachers can assist students.
  • For unfinished assignments, students may email themselves the document or place it on a USB flash drive.

Estimated Time

Each short writing prompt can be assigned and completed in one or two homework assignments.

Procedures

Provide some ideas and ask students to write about some (as much as can be covered during the unit) of these topics:

Ongoing (before or during the reading of the novel):

  • What does friendship mean to you?
  • How important is it to have a place where you belong, where there are people who know you and love you?
  • What dreams do you have? How can these dreams fail? How can they succeed?
  • Who is your favorite character in this book so far? Give your reasons for choosing him or her.
  • Why does Steinbeck tend to start each new section with narrative description?
  • Define “responsibility.” Give some examples when you have been responsible and when you have not.
  • Write journal entries from the point of view of one of the characters in the novel.
  • Which characters can you identify with or with whom you can empathize/sympathize?
  • Do you know anyone who is mentally-challenged or otherwise disabled? If so, describe your relationship with that person.
  • Is violence ever justified?
  • Are you concerned about what others think of you?
  • Write about a major conflict (during any stage of the novel).
  • In which time period does the novel take place? How can you tell? Use specific examples. Consider:  vocabulary, scenery, attitudes.

Section 1 (pp.1-16):

  • Contrast/compare the relationship between Lennie and George. Are they similar to brothers, parent/child, best friends, and so on?
  • What does the mouse in the first section tell you about Lennie? Think about why Lennie insists on carrying it around with him.
  • Examine Lennie’s use of language and thinking. At what level is he functioning?
  • What figurative language does Steinbeck use in this section and why? See Literary Terms.
  • Why is setting important to Steinbeck? Consider why he usually starts each section of the novel with a description of the setting.
  • What are the motifs already established in Section 1?
  • Discuss, and provide examples of, the literary devices Steinbeck has introduced. 

Section 2 (pp. 17-37):

  • How does George try to prevent Lennie from getting into trouble?
  • Why is Curley so mean to Lennie and George upon first meeting them? What does he have against them?
  • Describe Curley’s personality. Why do you think he acts the way he does?
  • Why does George tell Lennie to remain silent when they first meet the ranch boss?
  • Why is the ranch boss so suspicious of George and Lennie?
  • Why do Curley and Curley’s wife pose a threat to George and Lennie? Why is George especially worried?

Section 3 (pp.38-65):

  • Why did Steinbeck include the scene about the killing of Candy’s dog?
  • Why does Lennie refuse to fight back when Curley attacks him?
  • Why does Curley agree to what Slim told him about how to explain his crushed hand?
  • How does Slim get George to honestly talk about his relationship with Lennie and what happened in Weed?
  • Describe Slim’s personality. Why is he so highly regarded?
  • What is Candy’s role in this section? Why is it so important that he is included?
  • What is the importance of Carlson in this section?
  • Why is Curley so quick to attack Lennie?

Section 4 (pp. 66-83):

  • On page 70, Crooks says to Lennie “‘I ain’t no southern negro…I was born right here in California.’” What does he mean by this? How was life different for African Americans in the south compared to those out west in California?
  • Possible follow-up: Do you think there is any difference today?
  • On page 70, recall the scene in Crooks’s quarters once Curley’s wife arrives (pages 76-83), focusing on what happens after the passage quoted above. What is Curley’s wife threatening to do to Crooks? How did Crooks react? Why did he react this way? What do you think about his reaction? Should he have reacted differently?
  • How did Candy react? What do you think about his reaction? Should he have reacted differently?
  • How would you have reacted if you were Crooks? If you were Candy?
  • When Lennie visits Crooks, why is Crooks so mean to Lennie? Think about why he told Lennie that George would leave him.
  • Explain what Crooks and Curley’s wife might have in common.
  • Explain why Crooks finally allowed Lennie into his segregated living quarters. Think about the role each play in the novel.

Section 5 (pp. 84-98):

  • Lennie’s puppy died. Have you ever had a pet that has died? Describe your emotional reaction.
  • Why is the death of Lennie’s puppy not described in “real time: (that is, it is described after the fact)?
  • Why does Lennie kill Curley’s wife? Do you consider this murder? Why or why not?
  • Explain what Lennie and Curley’s wife may have in common as they converse in the barn. Why would those two even talk to each other?
  • Is Curley’s wife partially responsible for her own death? Provide specific examples.

Section 6 (pp. 99-107):

  • Why does Steinbeck include the fantasy scenes of Aunt Clara and the giant rabbit at the end of the novel?
  • The novel ends where it begins. Why do you think Steinbeck did this? Would the novel be any different if Steinbeck had it end in a different place?
  • Discuss any alternatives George had to shooting Lennie. What would be the consequences? 
  • What foreshadowed Lennie’s death? Students may cite brief examples from the entire novel.
  • The novel ends with Carlson saying to Curley (about Slim and George), “‘Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?’” (Steinbeck 107). Explain what Carlson means.

After reading the novel:

  • What is “mercy killing”? Defend or condemn the practice, and give reasons for your opinion.
  • Who is the most important character in Of Mice and Men?
  • Write about a major theme in the novel. Why is it important? See Plot and Theme.
  • Write about some major symbols in the novel. See Symbolism.
  • Do you think Lennie understands what he does is wrong?
  • Is Lennie a violent person?
  • What is Slim’s role in the novel? Why is he so important?
  • If Of Mice and Men took place today, not during the 1930s, how would life for Lennie have been different?
  • Lynching is often referred to as “vigilante justice” or “taking the law into your own hands.” When, if ever, is this justified? Think outside of your own life. What about in other countries, other times, other conditions?
  • What can you learn about race relations during the 1930s from Of Mice and Men? Use specific examples.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

  • Takeaways
    • After finishing Of Mice and Men, students should write a brief (a paragraph) summary of each of their short writing prompts. This will reinforce what they have learned throughout the course of the novel.
  • Follow-up
    • Have students write an evaluation of the project and what they have learned.
    • Make sure students keep all returned and graded short writing assignments (either electronically and/or in notebooks).

Assessment

  • In small groups, students can meet and, based on their short papers, come with questions to be used for a final examination on the novel.
  • How thoroughly did the student respond to the writing prompt?  Were specific, and correct, examples from the novel used to support opinions?
  • Take into consideration the writing abilities of individual students when grading a writing assignment.

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
    • Craft and Structure: 4, 5, 6
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 9
    • Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: 10
  • Writing Standards 6-12
    • Text Types and Purposes: 1, 2, 3
    • Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5, 6
    • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 7, 9
    • Range of Writing: 10
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
    • Comprehension and Collaboration: 1
  • Language Standards 6-12
    • Conventions of Standard English: 1, 2
    • Knowledge of Language: 3
    • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 4, 5, 6
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2
    • Craft and Structure: 4, 5
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12
    • Text Types and Purposes: 1, 2
    • Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5
    • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 7

In the book Of Mice and Men, it is evident that the friendship between George and Lennie is strong. They have each other and that makes them different from all of other characters. They are not necessarily stuck in the circle of all ranchers; they have a chance to go onto bigger things. The story takes place during the Great Depression. Finding a job and remaining optimistic was hard back then. Lennie and George work through the though times together and remain happy with each other’s company. Through this, Steinbeck reveals the theme that hope and companionship is necessary to survive.

Candy shows that companionship and hope are necessary to survive. His best friend and lifelong companion were his sheep dog. He grew up with him herding sheep when he was young. That dog gave Candy reason to live. He didn’t have much hope because of his age, but because Candy had a friend, he could live happily. Unfortunately, not everybody was so tolerable to the “dragfooted sheep dog, gray of muzzle, and with pale, blind old eyes.” The dog smelled so Carlson shot it, taking away Candy’s companion. This left Candy without a friend and much hope. He was down in the dumps until he heard George and Lennie talk about the farm that they are going to own one day. This brings Candy’s hope up and he has something to live for once again. He spends all his time planning how their farm is going to be and the jobs they are all going to do. He can’t stop thinking about it. Unfortunately, his dream is crushed when Lennie does a bad thing. Candy is once again just a normal rancher without hope or a real friend. He will live the rest of his life unhappy. Candy shows that you can’t survive unless you have hope and a companion.

Crooks also proves that hope and companionship are needed to survive. He even says it himself; “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. I tell ya a guy gets too lonely and he gets sick.” This is something that Crooks would know, because he doesn’t have any friends. He is black and living during the Great Depression, and unfortunatley there was intolerance for black people back then. He is also crippled, which doesn’t help. Crooks would take any friend he could get, even someone as crazy as him. That’s why he lets Lennie in his room, then he at least has someone to talk to, even if they don’t make any sense. Just being around other people that treat him equal makes him feel good. When he hears about George, Lennie, and Candy’s plan to buy a farm and live of the fat of the land, he gains hope. He thinks that he can escape the world he is stuck in and becomes optimistic for a short while. Curly’s wife immediately gets rid of any hope he had by reducing him down to nothing. When she yelled at Crooks, he “drew into himself.” After she’s done yelling at him, everyone leaves and he is back to being alone without hope. Crooks shows that hope and companionship are necessary to survive.

The fact that companionship and hope are necessary to survive is well demonstrated by Lennie and George. They have each other, which separates them from the other men. The other ranchers don’t have anyone “that gives a hoot in hell” for them. Slim says, “Ain’t many guys travel around together. I don’t know why. Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” There is a lot of truth in this, because there was competition for jobs during the Great Depression. Most men were just trying to do the best they could for themselves, as it was hard to find work and earn money at the time. It was also their instinct to compete and be wary of others that could challenge for their job. George and Lennie teamed up instead of turning on one another. Lennie was big and strong, so he could do hard work. George was smaller, but he was smart, friendly, and crafty, which George lacked. These characteristics paired together enabled them to find a job together and stay out of trouble, for the most part. Their companionship gave them hope. Since had a job and were making money, they had a dream of one day buying a farm of their own. This dream helped to keep them working together; thinking that one day their fantasy might come true. They came very close to accomplishing their goal, but their hopes were destroyed by someone without hope or companionship, Curly’s wife. Because Lennie and George had a friendship and hope, they had a chance.

All of these examples show that you need a friend and hope to live happily. George and Lennie had each other, and just having that company gave them a chance to go onto bigger things. They also always had someone to talk to, which Crooks lacked. Crooks wasn’t happy because he didn’t have and real friends. He was also black, which didn’t give him much hope of going on to greater things. Curly had his dog, which gave him company, and then he took part in George and Lennie’s dream of owning a farm. Unfortunatley for him both of these things that made him happy were taken away and he could not live a good life any longer. Companionship and hope are needed to survive.

This academia was first published 11 Feb 2004 and last revised 13 Feb 2016.Adam Cap is a sometimes raconteur, rare dingus collector, and webmaster probably best known for SixPrizes (serving as “El Capitan”) and PkmnCards (read: fine art purveyor). He scrapbooks yonder every minute or three.

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