I have been sent four essay questions by my teacher and I need help with the points I could write about, which all relate to Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
1) What methods does Steinbeck use to show the lives of ranch workers?
2) What methods does Steinbeck use to present the character of Lennie?
3) What methods does Steinbeck use to present the character of Curley's Wife?
4) What methods does Steinbeck use to present the setting at the end of the novella?
1. Methods of development of the lives of the ranch workers. Steinbeck employs motifs that assist with the development of the characters.
Isolation - George and Lennie step off the bus outside Soledad (the name connotes solitariness) and enter a clearing by a pond where they stay the night. When they arrive at the ranch, the other men are gone, except for the old swamper, Candy, who works by himself cleaning the bunkhouses.
Distrust and Antagonism - Steinbeck uses the methods of characterization (their speech, actions, thoughts) to convey the alienation of the men from one another and the distrust. For instance, when George and Lennie first arrive at the ranch, George checks thoroughly the bunk that he has been assigned and asks Candy about the spray for bed bugs; Candy replies, "This here blacksmith...was the kind of guy that would put that stuff around even if there wasn't no bugs--just to make sure, see?" Then, Candy adds details to prove how clean he was. Still, George asks why he quit, and Candy replies that he just quit, the way many do. Then, when Curley, the son of the boss, comes by, Candy tells the others that Curley always tries to prove that he is tough. George replies that Curley better not tangle with Lennie. After Candy leaves, George warns Lennie to not say anything to antagonize the pugnacious Curley, but if the man starts something, he can go ahead and "let 'im have it." Another character who is antagonistic is Carlson, who insists upon killing Candy's dog; at the end of the narrative, he hurriedly searches for his gun so that he can shoot Lennie.
When Curley's wife appears in the bunkhouse doorway, dressed provocatively, she asks if anyone has seen Curley. After she leaves, George warns Lennie not to get near her. "She's jail bait," he tells his friend.
Another distrustful character is Crooks, the black stable mate who is marginalized from the others by being made to stay in the barn. Since it is the 1930s, despite the setting being California, Crooks experiences racial bias in addition to the other issues of the men.
2. Methods of presenting Lennie. Steinbeck employs the traditional methods of characterization such as the following:
a) through a physical description
b)through the character's actions
c)through the character's thoughts, feelings, and speech
In the opening scene, Lennie lumbers along animal-like. His hand is described as a "big paw." He is child-like in wanting to catch and pet mice, and in loving to hear about their dream of owning a ranch. After he accidentally kills Curley's wife, Lennie hides where George has told him to go if he gets in trouble. In his imagination he hears his aunt who cared for him, scolding him,
"I tol' upi an' tol' you," she said. "I tol' you, 'Min' George because he's such a nice fella an' good to you.' But you don't never take no care. You do bad things."
And Lennie answered her, "I tried, Aunt Clara, ma'am. I tried and tried. I couldn' help it."
As he waits for George to rescue him, Aunt Clara continues to act as his conscience.
3) Methods of presenting the character of Curley's wife. Again Steinbeck employs traditional methods of characterization for Curley's wife. Interestingly, she has no name and is the only woman, a fact that sets her apart as an impediment to the development of the fraternity of men that Steinbeck felt would give them strength in combating their disenfranchisement.
Curley's wife acts as a temptress with her red lips and seductive moves:
She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernail were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers.
At other times, Curley's wife appears, saying she gets lonely on the ranch. Always the men are wary of talking to her for fear the jealous Curley will mistake their motives. In the final chapter, she appears in the barn while Lennie and Candy are there by the room of Crooks. When he is angered that she has entered his room, Curley's wife threatens him with "what I can do" and Crooks is reduced to the inferior she has intended to make him. Later, she toys with Lennie and has him touch her hair, but she becomes frightened by his strength and struggles. When she begins to scream, Lennie panics and inadvertently breaks her neck.
4) Methods of presenting the end of the novella. There is much description and character interaction after the news of Curley's wife's death. The men react violently and in herd fashion they charge after Lennie.
Ironically, the ranch hands unite in their taste for violence after they have burst into the barn and discovered the death.
Curley came suddenly to life. "I know who done it," he cried. "That big son-of-a-bitch done it. I know he done it....." He worked himself into a fury. "I'm gonna get him. I'm going for my shotgun...."
The reasonable Slim suggests to George that maybe what has happened is similar to that time in Weed. George asks, "Couldn' we maybe bring him in an' they'll lock him up? He's nuts, Slim. He never done this to be mean." Slim nods, but points out that Curley is determined to kill Lennie. Besides, he tells George, Lennie will be strapped down and "put...in a cage. That ain't no good George." George agrees. Just then, Carlson breaks in, saying that Lennie has stolen his gun, but it is George who has taken it. George, then, tries to convince Curley not to shoot Lennie.
"Son't shoot 'im?" Curley cried. "He got Carlson's Luger. 'Course we'll shoot 'im."
Slim tells old Candy to stay behind with the girl; Candy urges George to remain with him, but George leaves. In fact, he gets to Lennie before the others. Lennie who has heard a big rabbit talking with him is happy to see George. He asks George to tell him about their dream again, and George instructs him to look across the river as he does. He cannot shoot until he hears the crashing of heavy footsteps. Shaking, he pulls the trigger.
George throws the gun into a pile of ashes before the others reach him. Curley sees the wound in Lennie's head and Carlson asks George how he did it. "Did he have my gun?...Ah' you got it away...an' you killed him?" "Yeah. That's how," George replies.
Slim helps George up, telling him, "You hadda, George."