A+ Resources For Students
Higher and Standard Grade English Tips
Example Higher English Essay
‘Of Mice and Men’
Before We Start
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‘Choose a novel or short story in which there is an obvious climax or turning point. Show how the author arrives at the turning point and then discuss the consequences of it for the final outcome of the story. You may wish to mention techniques such as characterisation, structure, description or any other appropriate feature.’
The turning point of the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck is when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife. The novel is set in America at the time of the depression. Two migrant workers, George and Lennie join a ranch to work. Like the other misfits they meet in the novel, they work for low wages while dreaming of a better life. After this turning point their dreams are over and George shoots Lennie out of pity before he can be lynched.
Curley’s wife is lonely and not tolerated by the farm workers, who visit prostitutes rather than having real relationships with women. Her name is not given in the book, showing that people do not really know her. Like Crooks, who is a victim of racism, she is isolated. She seeks out Lennie for friendship, but due to his strength she dies. Therefore the book shows us that people who have a low position in society lead a lonely and short life. The death of Curley’s wife is the beginning of the end for Lennie and his dream of owning a ranch with George.
[The turning point / description]
The author’s use of description is vital to the turning point:
She jerked her head sideways and Lennie’s fingers closed on her hair and hung on … She struggled violently under his hands … And then she was still, for Lennie had broke her neck.
It is as though Lennie has no control over his own fingers – they are acting independently of him. Her death happens very quickly, suggesting that life is cheap in the world of the novel.
[The opening chapter /
the character of Lennie ]
At the start, the reader is given the impression that Lennie’s strength and low intelligence will lead to tragedy. The writer’s use of word choice helps portray Lennie as an overgrown child at the start of the novel:
Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers so that the water arose in little splashes … ‘Look George, look what I done.’
The fact that ripples in the water amuse Lennie and are seen by him as an achievement helps convey his immaturity to the reader. The use of the word ‘paw’ suggests that he is more like an animal than a man. He clearly loves animals and collects pet mice, but always ends up killing them with his great strength. This also shows his dependency on George, who is almost like a parent.
Animals are used in the novel in several ways. When he and George fantasise about having their own farm, he looks forward to keeping rabbits, showing his kind and gentle nature. Lennie is not the only farm worker who feels close to animals. The death of Candy’s dog makes him join Lennie and George’s scheme. The title ‘Of Mice and Men’ alludes the Robert Burns poem. Like the mouse in the poem, after the death of Curley’s wife, the men’s plan comes to nothing. After the turning point, the men’s ‘best laid schemes’ come to nothing.
[The fight with Curley]
The aspirations of ordinary people is the main theme of the novel and is shown in the scene where Curley attacks Lennie and has his hand crushed:
Curley stepped over to Lennie like a terrier. ‘What the hell you laughin’ at?’
Curley decides to pick a fight with Lennie as he hates people who are bigger than him. Curley is also compared to an animal – as though he is little better than a savage – but small - dog. He uses violence to make up for the fact none of the other workers respect him. He is a sad character like Crooks and Candy. This incident prepares us for the death of Curley’s wife in chapter five.
The outcome of the turning point is that George is forced to kill Lennie before the other farm workers get hold of him. The reader is left with a feeling of sadness because George is a friend to Lennie to the end, and does what he has to do. I felt pity for the poor farm workers who have no control over their lives.
In the tragic world of the novel ‘Of Mice And Men’ Steinbeck uses description and characterisation to prepare us for the turning point in the novel and its pessimistic ending. He uses the story of George and Lennie to make the reader think about the hopes and dreams of ordinary people at the bottom of society.
Here I explain the importance of this turning point and what it means to the theme of the novel. Whatever question I answer on the day, I will mention characters, theme and three different points of the story.
This paragraph covers several different points in the novel. This shows the marker I am thinking about the novel as a whole, although most of this essay concentrates on three points in the story. I can use a paragraph about animal imagery in an essay about character or an essay about theme.
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