Of mice and men paper assignment
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“Of Mice and Men” paper assignment. OF MICE AND MEN LITERARY ANALYSIS There are several concepts we can explore as we consider how to analyze Of Mice and Men . Let’s look at some of these. OF MICE AND MEN. Potential themes in seminar questions Loneliness The importance of dreams

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Of mice and men paper assignment

“Of Mice and Men” paper assignment

OF MICE AND MEN

LITERARY ANALYSIS

There are several concepts we can explore as we consider how to analyze Of Mice and Men . Let’s look at some of these.


Of mice and men

OF MICE AND MEN

Potential themes in seminar questions

  • Loneliness

  • The importance of dreams

  • Discrimination

  • Friendship


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Let’s choose one of these themes to consider: loneliness

Who or what illustrates this theme in the novel?

Candy, after his dog is shot.

Curley’s wife, who is just looking for someone to talk to.

Crooks, who lives alone with little interaction with other people.

OF MICE AND MEN


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OF MICE AND MEN

Let’s expand these a little more:

Candy: He has only his dog as his one companion. Upon the dog’s death, he has no one, and therefore, attaches himself to George and Lennie’s dream. He does not want to end up an outcast and alone. Even after Lennie kills Curley’s wife, Candy clings to the dream out of desperate fear that he will end up alone.

Curley’s wife: She is so overwhelmed by her loneliness, she seeks friendship from the other men, including (as a last resort) Lennie, for none of the other men want anything to do with her. “Think I don’t like to talk to somebody ever’ once in a while?”

Crooks: He feels “a guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he with you.” Crooks would work for nothing, as long as he can communicate with others.


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OF MICE AND MEN

What we have done here is form a basis for a literary analysis of Of Mice and Men,concentrating on the theme of loneliness.

How would we begin this analysis? First, we have to come up with a thesis statement, or a “controlling purpose” regarding loneliness. We start by deciding what we know from our reading about loneliness:

  • It is a constant threat that George and Lennie fight: “Guys like us are the loneliest guys in the world … they don’t belong no place … They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.” Lennie fights this with, “But not us! … because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you…” (14).

  • At the ranch, loneliness is part of the workers’ lives and especially Candy’s, Crooks’, and Curley’s wife’s. They are so used to this loneliness, others on the ranch suspect something funny about the closeness of George and Lennie (for example, the boss thinks George is taking Lennie’s pay).

  • George knows that without Lennie’s companionship, he will be doomed to a terribly lonely and unfulfilling life.


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OF MICE AND MEN

So can we create a thesis statement out of that, reflecting the theme of loneliness? (Note: Theme is what a story reveals.)

Maybe it could look something like this:

“Loneliness is a harmful thing many characters in the book experience. The story shows that all humans need companionship, or else they get emotionally sick.”

That thesis statement could be the main part of our introduction. What else does an introduction need?


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OF MICE AND MEN

In addition to a thesis statement, an introduction ideally includes:

  • An attention-getting first sentence.

  • The name of the author and the title of the book.

  • A preview of points that will be used to support the theme.


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OF MICE AND MEN

Let’s think of an attention-getter, based on the theme of loneliness and how it can make us emotionally sick. How about a metaphor:

Loneliness is a virus that can devour the human spirit.


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OF MICE AND MEN

Now let’s add our other elements:

Loneliness is a virus that can devour the human spirit. This sickness devastates many of the emotionally malnourished characters in John Steinbeck’s heartbreaking novel, Of Mice and Men. Candy, the aged and disabled swamper, is consumed by the loss of his only companion, his dog. Curley’s wife, ignored by her husband and seen by the other ranch hands as a trouble-making tart, is starved for attention. Denied friendship, Crooks wastes away alone in his room – and shows more than any other character how loneliness eats away at the human soul.


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OF MICE AND MEN

We have accomplished our goals:

  • An attention getter

  • A clear thesis statement

  • Introduction of points

    As an added bonus, this paragraph has a theme: emotional starvation. Think of all the words or phrases that go with eating:

  • Devour

  • Malnourished

  • Consumed

  • Starved

  • eat away

  • wastes away (usually refers to losing weight due to illness)


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OF MICE AND MEN

What if we wanted to choose another theme or maybe something besides theme to write about?

Alternate theme: Dreams

Attention getter: Everyone has a dream that gives him or her something to live for.

Thesis statement: Dreams play an important role in John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, which includes characters who illustrate how dreams are often crucial to survival in a hostile and lonely world.

Points: This is demonstrated through George and Lennie’s dream to buy some land of their own; Candy’s dream to join George and Lennie so Candy won’t end up outcast and alone; and Curley’s wife’s dream to become a starlet.


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OF MICE AND MEN

What about something besides theme? Let’s try looking at the literary device of foreshadowing, as shown in this essay by a freshman last year:

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a heart-wrenching novel about two migrant workers living during the Great Depression, sharing the dream of owning a farm to call their own. Even before the ending, however, there are clues to show that this dream is not to be, including three important examples of foreshadowing: the dead mice, Lennie’s conversation with Crooks, and the death of Candy’s dog.


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Here’s another one about foreshadowing from a freshman:

The natural beauty of Western California serves as a setting of contrast to the lives of Depression-era ranch workers Lennie Small and George Milton, the protagonists in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Part of that beauty is George and Lennie’s dreams of the future, including owning their own farm. However, the ugly reality is that the dream is doomed. Steinbeck uses foreshadowing to give the reader a hint that the dream won’t happen, especially through animals. He uses dead mice, a dead puppy, and a heron and snake to show that George and Lennie’s dream is not meant to be.


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Of Mice and Men

Writing in present tense

  • Because literature is timeless, it is written about in present tense. For example, George and Lennie are on an endless quest for their dream because the story starts anew each time a new reader picks up the book. They are forever in the circumstances of the book. To a new reader, Lennieis mentally challenged, not was. Even after you finish reading the book, Slim still moves with the majesty of a master craftsman.


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Of Mice and Men

So let’s look at some samples of how the world in the book is caught in time. It never ends.

Original: When Lenniekilled the mice and puppy, when Carlson killed Candy’s dog, and when the heron ate the snake; this all foreshadowed what happened to Lennie at the end.


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Of Mice and Men

Notice how all of the verbs or action words are in the past tense: killed the mice; killed Candy’s dog; the heron ate the snake; all foreshadowed what happened to Lennie.

The solution: simply convert the verbs to present tense.

Revised: When Lenniekills the mice and puppy, when Carlson kills Candy’s dog, and when the heron eats the snake; this all foreshadows what happens to Lennie at the end.


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Of Mice and Men

Now you try one:

Original: George and Lennie had more than just a friendship; they were different than any other ranch workers.


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Your correction should look like this:

George and Lenniehave more than just a friendship; they are different than any other ranch workers.


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Of Mice and Men

OK, your next challenge: writing in third person. This simply means taking “I,” “we,” “us,” “my,” “mine,” and “our” out of your writing. Those are first-person words.

In this type of paper, you need to write in third person. Think of it as becoming a professional critic for this paper. You don’t need to say things like “I think.” It’s implied that you know. Does it make your opinion the only right one? No, but this is your reading of the book. When someone reads your paper, you become a source who knows what you are saying.


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Of Mice and Men

First-person example:

Friendship can teach us some strange but meaningful lessons.

Solution: Simply remove “us.”

Friendship can teach some strange but meaningful lessons.


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Of Mice and Men

Now you try changing one from first person to third person:

My final example is a little more vague. Just before the scene where George kills Lennie, a heron snatches a snake out of the water.


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Of Mice and Men

You could have done something like this:

Although not as obvious, the encounter between the heron and the snake provides a meaningful illustration of foreshadowing.


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Of Mice and Men

Putting the text to work

In this form of writing, it’s very effective (and in this assignment, required) to use passages from the book to help support your points. This not only provides “evidence” for your points, it also adds multiple voices to your writing (as long as you don’t overdo it).

Let’s see how this works. Let’s say we’re still writing our paper about Crooks.


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The effects of this isolation become clear when

Crooks confides in Lennie during a poignant moment in

Crooks’s room. Lennie’s mental retardation and short

memory span gives Crooks the confidence to bare his

soul without fear of getting in trouble. After painting a

terrifying picture for Lennie of life without George –

who Lennie travels with, idolizes, and loves – Crooks

turns his harsh words inward. He tells Lennie how

hard it is to be shunned by the other men, and how

lonely it gets in the barn with just books to keep Crooks company.


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Of Mice and Men

There’s nothing wrong with that paragraph. However, it becomes even more effective if we let Crooks do some of the talking, like this:

The effects of this isolation becomes clear when Crooks confides in Lennie during a poignant moment in Crooks’s room. Lennie’s mental retardation and short memory span give Crooks the confidence to bare his soul without fear of getting in trouble. After painting a terrifying picture for Lennie of life without George – whom Lennie travels with, idolizes, and loves – Crooks turns his harsh words inward, saying about his own lonely life that, “A guy needs somebody – to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody” (72).


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Of Mice and Men

We have used Crooks’s own words to help support our point. Because they are Crooks’ words, we put them in quotation marks. Notice that we put the page number, in parentheses, where the quote comes from. In this paper, we’re only using material from one source, so we do not need to identify the author with the page number; simply use the page number.

Because the quote is shorter than four typed lines, we can just include it in the same paragraph as the writing that comes before it.


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However, if we use quoted material that is five lines or longer, we make it a separate paragraph; we indent all lines on the left; we take away the quotation marks; and we leave it double-spaced, like this:

The effects of this isolation becomes clear when Crooks confides in Lennie during a poignant moment in Crooks’ room. Lennie’s mental retardation and short memory span gives Crooks the confidence to bare his soul without fear of getting in trouble. After painting a terrifying picture for Lennie of life without George – who Lennie travels with, idolizes, and loves – Crooks turns his harsh words inward on his own empty life:

S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunkhouse and play rummy ‘cause you was black. How’d you like that? S’pose you had to sit out here an’ read books. Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody – to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. (72-73)


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Now, one last step. We have to complete our point with a concluding thought after the quoted material. It would look something like this:

After painting a terrifying picture for Lennie of life without George – who Lennie travels with, idolizes, and loves – Crooks turns his harsh words inward on his own empty life:

S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunkhouse and play rummy ‘cause you was black. How’d you like that? S’pose you had to sit out here an’ read books. Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody – to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. (72-73)

It’s clear that Crooks is aware of the damage loneliness is doing to his soul and that he envies the relationship George and Lennie share. This prompts him to offer to work for free if he is allowed to join George and Lennie’s dream of owning their own place. Crooks is willing to work merely for room and board if it means having human companionship to stave off his devastating isolation.

A final note: Your follow-up discussion after the quote should be at least as long as the quote itself. Also, do not indent the follow-up paragraph.


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Of Mice and Men

Let’s all try one together as a warmup for the Socratic Seminar-related essay.

In your notebooks, draft an answer to this question:

Why is Lennie’s last name both ironic and symbolic?


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