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Of Mice and Men - Context Revision UPDATED 3/2014

Easy revision for AQA English Literature GCSE Unit 1
by

V Denman

on 7 May 2016

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Transcript of Of Mice and Men - Context Revision UPDATED 3/2014

YOUR ANALYSIS WILL BE
MUCH LONGER THAN YOUR
QUOTATIONS

Crooks is marginalised
sexism/women
idealised home-maker
The Great Depression
The reason why these men find it hard to find work
'Of Mice and Men' Context
Unit 1: Modern Texts - Task 2 (part B)
MIGRANT WORKERS
RACISM
SEXISM
RANCH LIFE
PREJUDICE &
MARGINALISATION
THE GREAT
DEPRESSION
THE AMERICAN
DREAM
WOMEN
nostalgic view of Lennie's past
opposite of other women in the novella
Aunt Clara 'baked cakes'
Susy runs a 'cat house'
highlights the need for prostitution as a means of escape from the loneliness of the itinerant lifestyle
prostitution is not presented as negative or unusual but as a natural and acceptable part of the men's life.
Curley's wife
no name of her own
just the possession of a man
her own dreams (perhaps unrealistic) of fame are quashed
sees marriage as an escape, but is sorely disappointed
is desperately lonely
is time rich - spends time on her appearance - why?
hangs around the bunkhouse, but is unwelcome
is the cause of friction between Curley and Slim
women are presented as homemaker or whore - Curley's
Wife is perched perilously between these binary opposites
unwelcome in Crooks' cabin she tries to pull rank by threatening him with lynching (showing how racial tension is ever-present)
Racism
not allowed to live in the bunkhouse, but has to live in a hut attached to to stables - dehumanised
not allowed to take part in recreational activities such as
cards, horseshoes or visit the cat house with the others
in a time of intense racial upheaval in America, he cares about his rights
unable to visit the cat house, arguably uses pornography
had a happy childhood - arguably unusual for his time
fiercely defensive of his privacy
ironically his marginalisation means that his life is more settled - he has more possessions and a space of his own
living with the horses means that the others say he smells
treated with prejudice
The sobriquet 'Crooks' alludes
to his broken back and demonstrates the lack of compassion with which he is treated
Crooks' position is little better than
that of a slave
meant that men had low expectations and
little ambition beyond finding work
a result of the Wall Street Crash in 1929
arguably the reason why the workers on the ranch put up with living in a squalid environment
meant that people had to leave their homes in order to find work in other parts of the country
the itinerant life Lennie and George live means that their hopes
for a happy settled life - their version of the American Dream -
are unlikely to ever be realised
The American
Dream/Aspiration
George and Lennie's version:
To "Live off the fatta the lan'"
Candy buys into this, offering his money
Crooks wants to join in, offering to 'work for nothing' - little more than a slave
Curley's Wife's version
- to be a 'film star' - the movie industry is just taking off, but her dream seems unrealistic and the reader concludes that she is a young woman who was easily flattered
- this also confirms her craving for attention
Ranch Life
The bunk room
horsehoes
playing cards
visiting brothels
loneliness
magazines
all are isolated from the world outside, but this is a microcosm of 1930s America
lack of privacy creates tension
in spite of the close proximity
of the other ranch workers all
suffer acutely from loneliness
dirty and cramped
demonstrates their low
expectations from life
simple way to pass the time - demonstrates their boredom and keenness to engage on a basic social level
like cards, a simple pleasure which
brings the men together - Crooks is good at this
so not allowed to join in
Crooks is excluded because
of his ethnicity
is accepted as a normal aspect of this lifestyle for those who are not marginalised...Crooks (black), Candy (too old). Lennie (child-like)
Candy's dog
Candy's only comfort, but is old and smells
and Carlson kills it (prefiguring Lennie's death)
Migrant workers
Lennie and George (and presumably the others) have no home
their possessions are pitiful
'Bindle Stiffs'
The Great Depression has rendered them with limited opportunities and little hope for the future
They must move to wherever they can find work
all the men are lonely - even George (who very quickly speaks intimately with Slim) and Lennie (who craves physical comfort ... mice, rabbits, puppy, girls' dresses and hair...)
There is no chance of meeting and forming a genuine relationship
with a woman, hence the reliance on prostitution
LINK THE CONTEXT INTO THE
MAJOR THEMES OF THE NOVELLA

TRY TO KEEP YOUR CONTEXTUAL
WRITING IN PART b OF YOUR ANSWER -
THIS WILL MAKE IT EASY
FOR YOUR
EXAMINER

Prejudice/
marginalisation
Lennie has been treated with cruelty by George in the past
George knows that they might be viewed with prejudice and suspicion if Lennie's low IQ is exposed on arrival
Crooks' name indicates the
lack of compassion with which
he is regarded; he is also excluded
from the bunkhouse and social
activities because of his
ethnicity
Curley's Wife is marginalised from
society, and excluded from the bunkhouse because of
her gender. She never actually does anything but is
called a 'tart' on account of her appearance.
Candy's feelings are disregarded - his dog is shot - because of his age. He is also given menial, low status work.
TO AN EXTENT ALL THE MEN (EXCEPT CURLEY WHO HAS A WIFE AND CAN EXPECT TO INHERIT THE RANCH) ARE LIVING A LIFE WHICH IS ON THE MARGINS OF SOCIETY
Bill Tanner's letter is published in this
However they prefer Susy's place to the other bordello run by Clara because the girls are 'clean' and you can 'set down' in a chair without any pressure to 'go upstairs'. So perhaps prostitution is an important means of relaxation, with resonances of 'home' and relaxation.
HIERARCHY
Hierarchy
Slim 'The Prince of the ranch' - everyone, even Curley, respects him and listens to what he has to say. People also admire his skill as a 'jerk-line skinner'.
The Boss
owns the ranch, but features little in the novella - symbolises the fact that his life and achievements are far beyond the reach of the ranch workers.
Curley
- Has power because of his relationship to The Boss, but has no respect, nor does he do anything to earn this. Candy is perhaps in awe of his physical capabilities 'He's handy'.
Carlson
has a gun and a loud mouth - with these he has some power - he takes away the little comfort Candy has - his dog.
Whit
- young and not yet broken down by life's hardships - his youth and lack of experience means he does not feature highly in the hierarchy.
George
- as a newcomer needs to establish his place in the pecking order of the ranch
Lennie - His physical strength is admired but his low intellect means that he has no significance in the world of the ranch. Only Curley's Wife has any interest in him, and only because she desires attention.
Candy - old 'stoop shouldered' and disabled. No longer able to work on the ranch, he is 'the swamper' low status menial work more appropriate for a black man or a woman.
Crooks
- 'stable buck' is dehumanising, his other epithet - 'the nigger' - demonstrates the prejudice with which he is treated. Black and disabled excluded from the bunkhouse. Lives with the horses. Interested in his 'rights' but not really afforded any. Bottom of the pile in the ranch hierarchy. Skilful at horseshoes so prevented from playing - rather than accept being beaten by a black man he is made an outcast thus demonstrating the plight of the African American in 1930s America. Offers to work for free on the dream farm.
Curley's Wife
- like Crooks is known only by a sobriquet, in her case showing how she is viewed by the men not as an individual, but as Curley's possession.
Crooks is not allowed because he is black; Candy because he is too old and Lennie, too, is excluded.
George, although he has said he will channel his earnings into the dream ranch still goes to the brothel, this raises a question mark over his commitment to the endeavour.
SO...
PART B REQUIRES
DETAILED
CONSIDERATION
OF CONTEXT

SUPPORTED BY
TEXTUAL
QUOTATION

GOOD
LUCK!

Violence & Death
Curley is 'handy' and readily challenges Lennie in order to assert his physical dominance
Curley's Wife says 'he ain't nice' - perhaps implying physical or emotional conflict
Carlson kills
Candy's dog
Death
Lennie kills
the mice
Lennie kills
the puppy
Lennie kills
Curley's wife
George kills
Lennie - a mercy killing
to spare him the agony
of lynching
The dream
dies
The Christmas 'entertainment' Candy recalls of the fight between Smitty and 'The nigger'
Curley says he'll
'kill him' not because he loves
his wife, but because her death deprives him of his possession
Lennie easily
crushes Curley's hand
VIOLENCE
DEATH
Full transcript