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Loneliness In Of Mice And Men Essay Questions

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

  • You will be given a choice of two essay questions about Of Mice and Men in the exam; you need to choose one to answer. They will usually be about specific characters or themes in the text. The examiners are looking for you to demonstrate good knowledge of the whole book. You must have a clear idea about:

    • the plot
    • the themes
    • characters
    • language, form and structure
    • the context

    You should be able to use some key quotations from the text, which you have remembered (you will not be allowed a book in the exam). You should structure your answer logically, with a brief introduction and conclusion.

    Example question - foundation tier

    Choose a character who you think is a victim of loneliness because of the society in which he or she lives. Write about this character, explaining the reasons for your choice.

    Planning your answer

    Before you start writing your essay, you should spend five to ten minutes planning what you will write. Think about how you can break down your answer into logical paragraphs.

    1. Explain which character you have chosen. Give a brief summary of the reasons why they are lonely and lonelier than other characters on the ranch. For example, Curley’s wife because she is isolated from all of the men on the ranch due to her gender. Even her husband does not treat her with any respect.
    2. Give one main reason for the character you have chosen being so lonely. You will then elaborate on this reason. For example, Curley’s wife is the only woman on the ranch; the men do not view women as their equals. She is never even named, only referred to in terms of her relationship with Curley.
    3. Introduce your next main point, with elaboration. For example, Curley’s wife goes out of her way to get the attention of the men on the ranch but they are dismissive of her and just think of her as .
    4. Add a different main point, with elaboration. For example, Curley’s wife does not enjoy the company of her husband and they seem to have a bad relationship; this means that she has no one to turn to for comfort or affection, or even day-to-day interaction.
    5. Explain your final main point. For example, Curley’s wife can be unpleasant and cruel (such as to Crooks), but really all she is looking for is someone to talk to. She does not treat others with respect because she is never shown any respect herself, mainly as a result of being a woman.
    6. Sum up your ideas about the character and why they are so lonely. For example, Curley’s wife’s tragic death is the final stage of her loneliness; even when she has been killed, Candy blames her for ruining the dream that he shared with George and Lennie. The description of her when she dies shows that it was her life experiences that made her act badly, it wasn’t a natural part of her.

    Example question - higher tier

    To what extent do you agree with this statement?

    Planning your answer

    Before you start writing your essay, you should spend five to ten minutes planning what you will write. Think about how you can break down your answer into logical paragraphs.

    1. Loneliness affects all of the characters because of the harsh environment in which they live and work. Due to the conditions created by the Great Depression, none of the characters are able to change their lifestyles to form meaningful friendships and many of them lack sympathy for each other because of their own struggles.
    2. George and Lennie’s friendship stands out as being rare and unique in the book. They remind readers that most men like them are alone. The contrast between their relationship and the other characters’ isolation emphasises the importance of having a companion.
    3. The death of Candy’s dog demonstrates how cruel the workers’ lifestyle is. There is no room for sentimentality or affection in the world they live in. Candy’s desperation to join George and Lennie in their dream of owning a farm shows his need for company.
    4. Crooks is isolated on the farm because of his race, making him even lonelier than the other workers, because he does not even experience the basic human interaction that they get from living in the same building.
    5. Curley’s wife’s loneliness is also exacerbated because she is different to the others on the ranch. As the only woman, she is not given respect and does not even have her own identity as she is never named. Her need for attention actually makes the men treat her worse as they think of her as .
    6. The destruction of George and Lennie’s dream at the end of the book reveals the impossibility of escaping from the loneliness caused by the conditions of the world in which the men live.

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