Of Mice and Men Essay - Sample Essay Outlines

John Steinbeck

Sample Essay Outlines

The following analytical paper topics are designed to test your understanding of this novel as a whole and to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help you get started.

  • Topic #1
    Loneliness is a dominant theme in Of Mice and Men. Most of the characters are lonely and searching for someone who can serve as a companion or just as an audience. Discuss the examples of character loneliness, the efforts of the characters in search of companionship, and their varying degrees of success.

    Outline
    I. Thesis statement: In his novel Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck depicts the essential loneliness of California ranch life in the 1930s. He illustrates how people are driven to find companionship.

    II. Absence of character names
    A. The Boss
    B. Curley’s wife

    III. George and Lennie
    A. Consider each other family
    B. Lennie described as a kind of pet
    C. George’s philosophy about workers who travel alone
    D. The Godlike Slim as George’s audience

    IV. Candy
    A. Candy’s attachment to his dog
    B. The death of his dog
    C. His request to join George and Lennie
    D. His need to share his thoughts with Lennie

    V. Crooks
    A. Isolated by his skin color
    B. His eagerness for company
    C. His desire to share the dream of the farm

    VI. Curley’s wife
    A. Flirting with the workers
    B. Talking to Crooks, Candy, and Lennie in the barn
    C. Persuading Lennie to listen to her

    VII. The hope and power when people have companions
    A. George and Lennie
    B. Candy
    C. Crooks

    VIII. The misery of each when companionship is removed
    A. Crooks
    B. Candy
    C. George

  • Topic #2

    The novel Of Mice and Men is written using the same structure as a drama, and meets many of the criteria for a tragedy. Examine the novel as a play. What conventions of drama does it already have? Does it fit the definition of a tragedy?

    Outline
    I. Thesis statement: Steinbeck designed his novel Of Mice and Men as a drama, more specifically, a tragedy.

    II. The novel can be divided into three acts of two chapters (scenes)
    A. First act introduces characters and background
    B. Second act develops conflicts
    C. Third act brings resolution

    III. Settings are simple for staging

    IV. Most of the novel can be transferred into either dialogue or stage directions
    A. Each chapter opens with extensive detail to setting
    B. Characters are described primarily in physical terms

    V. The novel fits the definition of tragedy
    A. The protagonist is an extraordinary person who meets with misery
    B. The story celebrates courage in the face of defeat
    C. The plot ends in an unhappy catastrophe that could not be avoided

  • Topic #3

    There are many realistic and naturalistic details in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
    Discuss how Steinbeck is sympathetic and dispassionate about life through the presentation of realism and naturalism.

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: Steinbeck displays a sympathetic and a dispassionate attitude toward man’s and nature’s condition through the use of realistic and naturalistic details.

    II. Realism—things as they are
    A. Setting of chapter one
    1. Water
    2. Animals
    3. Plants
    4. People
    B. Description of the bunk house
    C. Dialect and slang of the characters
    D. Dress and habits of the characters
    E. Death as a natural part of life

    III. Naturalism—fate at work
    A. Animal imagery to describe people
    1. Lennie
    2. Curley’s wife
    B. Lower class characters
    C. Place names
    1. Soledad
    2. Weed
    D. Foreshadowing
    1. Light and dark
    2. Dead mouse and pup
    3. Lennie’s desire to leave the ranch
    4. Candy’s crippled dog
    5. Solitaire card game
    E. Symbolism in the last chapter
    1. Heron and snake
    2. Gust of wind
    3. Slim’s comment

  • Topic #4

    The story of George and Lennie lends itself to issues found in the question: Am I my brother’s keeper? Does man have an obligation to take care of his fellow man, and what is the price that must be paid if the answer is “yes” or if the answer is “no”?

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: Steinbeck shows that there is a great price to be paid for not being sensitive to the needs of others as well as for taking care of others.

    II. The vulnerable ones
    A. Lennie
    B. Candy
    C. Crooks

    III. The heartless ones
    A. The boss
    B. Curley
    C. Curley’s wife

    IV. The insensitive one—Carlson

    V. The sensitive ones
    A. Slim
    B. George

  • Topic #5

    The American Dream is for every man to have a place of his own, to work and earn a position of respect, to become whatever his will and determination and hard work can make him. In Of Mice and Men the land becomes a talisman, a hope of better things. Discuss the American Dream as presented in the novel.

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: For the characters in this novel, the American Dream remains an unfulfilled dream.

    II. The dream
    A. Owning a home
    B. Enjoying freedom to choose
    1. Activities
    2. Companions
    C. Living off the fat of the land
    D. Not having to work so hard
    E. Having security in old age or sickness

    III. The dream’s unrealistic aspects
    A. Too good to be true
    B. A pipe dream for bindle stiffs
    C. Lack of money

    IV. George and Lennie’s attitude toward the dream
    A. Was a comfort in time of trouble
    B. Did not really believe in the dream

    V. Crooks’s attitude toward the dream
    A. His belief
    B. His disappointment

    VI. Candy’s attitude toward the dream
    A. His belief
    B. His money
    C. His disappointment at the end