Mark my English Literature essay (Of Mice and Men)

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Hey there guys! I would really appreciate it if someone could give me a grade on my essay for Of Mice and Men and suggest any feedback or comment on what I could do to improve my grade! Thanks a lot!

The Essay


Question - Explain the significance of dreams in the novel 'Of Mice and Men'




My answer:

Dreams play a pivotal role in John Steinbeck's OMAM. Throughout the whole novel, numerous references are made to the character's dreams and how they risk everything in the faint hope that one day that they will be able to accomplish their dreams. Almost every character is shown to have their own personal dream, something that keeps them going through the mind numbingly tedious hours of ranch work and gives meaning to their otherwise monotonous lives.

One important recurring dream that springs to mind is the one that is shown to us at the very beginning of the book, the dream of George and Lennie to someday get their own plot of land and "live off the fatta the lan" Lennie uses this dream as a kind of antidote for depression, asking George to repeat it to him and even finishing off his sentences despite his limited mental capabilities, showing how much he cares about this drean. During the novella, this dream spreads infectiously to characters such as Candy and the otherwise cynical Crooks, who are desperately searching for a way to make their own dreams come true. Even Crooks, who recognizes the futility of this dream ("Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land") gets dragged into their foolhardy attempt to finally break free from the constraints of ranch work.

In addition to this, dreams are used as a plot advancing device to express character's feelings and their pasts. For example, in Curley's wife claims that she met a man who was "gonna put me in the movies...says I was a natural". This, of course, never came to fruition. Curley's wife suspects that her "ol' lady stole it". The letter symbolizes broken dreams. Curley's wife literally has nobody to talk to and failed in her dream of becoming successful and gaining materialistic wealth.
Ironically her flirting with Lennie is going to lead to the broken dreams of others, explaining why she is referred to as 'jailbait' at time throughout the book.

Finally, the idea of broken dreams also intensifies the effect of loneliness and isolation throughout the book. Notice than during the events of OMAM, none of the dreams of the characters are fulfilled. Steinbeck presents dreams as a hollow and meaningless ideal, destined to only exist in the minds of the characters and ultimately only leading to more sorrow. The inevitability of this is shown when George is forced to kill Lennie to spare him of the punishment that he would otherwise have recieved, and Slim comments "You hadda' George". I think the effect of this is to show the inescapable nature of isolation and the pessimistic view that true happiness is impossible to achieve.

In conclusion, I think that the main purpose of the use of dreams in OMAM is to remain tantalizingly out of reach and provide a goal for the characters to work for, just like the very nature of the American Dream which is itself unobtainable in the novella.
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(Original post by AlphaNick)
- Try to link your points to context a lot more. The main two types of context we are given in OMAM is The American Dream and The Great Depression. So if you come up with the idea that dreams motivate Lennie/George, suggest at the end something like [I]"Indeed in the 1930s in America, living conditions were so poor and workers idolised the idea of living in self-sufficiency on their own land. This common trait is demonstrated by George and Lennie's drive shown by the consistent theme of Lennie being able to 'tend the rabbits'."
Thanks for the help, the context part in particular is what I knew would let me down because we haven't really gone over it much in class (my teacher preferred to focus on analysis and evaluation instead), so I've resorted to learning it at home and I'm not quite done yet, so I couldn't throw in quite as many historical reference as I wanted to

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JAIYEKO
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(Original post by AlphaNick)
I don't think I can mark it but I will list some points which I think you could find useful:

- Keep the introductory paragraph succinct, but at the same time don't make it too general. It doesn't need to be overly impressive because no marks are awarded for it. If you're going to say 'many characters...' you should probably name-drop examples. I would just say something like "The theme of dreams plays a significant role in the novel 'Of Mice and Men'. Characters such as Lennie and George appear to be driven through the harsh climate of the Great Depression by the motivation derived from the American Dream. However Steinbeck also explores certain aspects of society including discrimination through the interpreted dreams from Curley's Wife, Candy and Crooks."


- The way I structure a PEC paragraph is like this:
1) Introductory point
2) Embedded example from passage/book
3) 3x comments about the quote
4) Link to context

This is a model PEC paragraph I wrote on Slim which got 27/30 marked by my teacher:

Spoiler:
Show
In the given passage, Steinbeck presents Slim as a character who stands out from the surroundings with superiority and is clearly defined as one of the main figures on the ranch. This is emphasised by the use of complimentary vocabulary such as “he moved with majesty”. This part of the passage expresses the idea that his actions are all viewed upon as sophisticated and glamorous. Beyond this, the use of ‘majesty’ suggests that he is more than just a well-rounded worker, but that he actually is the one, solitary figure who has everyone’s attention on the ranch. This idea is also supported by the use of “prince of the ranch” which further emphasises the fact that he is the perfect worker; that he is beyond everyone else and that he is respected the most in the most difficult era to economically sustain oneself.

Beyond his immediately radiant, glamorous appearance, Slim is also shown to be intellectually sophisticated and is a carefully calculating man. This is shown by the phrase “understanding beyond thought”. In this quotation, Slim is referred to in a very distinct way which almost seems philosophical. This gives us the impression that aside from this character’s physical superiority, he is also one of the smartest members of the ranch and is engaged in deep thought. The use of ‘understanding’ could also suggest that he is also highly sympathetic of the situation of others, and has a strong emotional attachment to the rest of the members of the ranch – which grants him social status in the novel. He is also implied to be a “master craftsman” which further illustrates the idea that he is well-rounded and highly calculating in his actions. This implies that to add to the myriad of attributes this character has, he is also talented and serves a sophisticated purpose on the ranch.

In addition to being smart and sophisticated, Steinbeck also presents Slim as fairly relaxed and colloquial. This is highlighted in the line “You guys every bucked any barley?” This quotation shows that Slim is very well integrated within the society of 1930s America, and fluently passes every day with ease. The use of ‘bucked’ shows that this character is accustomed to the idiolect of the average worker from this era, and the colloquial tone in which he says it suggests that he is certainly an accepted member of the ranch – and has some form of authority. The succinct manner in which he refers to George and Lennie with ‘you guys’ shows that he has confidence in himself to learn about the new workers. In addition to this, he is also shown to be very supportive and friendly towards some members of the ranch through the use of “Hope you get on my team”. The way in which his voice is described then to be ‘very gentle’ shows that he is compassionate, which implies that the respect he has earned may be due to his supporting attitude and the fact that he fits in with everyone else, rather than being physically intimidating like Curley.


Most of them attempt to follow this structure. Try to say as much as possible about each quotation - by giving at least 2/3 different interpretations. If you are stuck, focus on the effect of single, solitary words and the impression they give.

If you are also stuck, find a complementary quotation which gives the same impression. But to be honest as long as it vaguely reinforces your point you can use it providing you can argue it.


- I would personally avoid statements like "the obvious recurring..." with "one important recurring".

- Try to link your points to context a lot more. The main two types of context we are given in OMAM is The American Dream and The Great Depression. So if you come up with the idea that dreams motivate Lennie/George, suggest at the end something like "Indeed in the 1930s in America, living conditions were so poor and workers idolised the idea of living in self-sufficiency on their own land. This common trait is demonstrated by George and Lennie's drive shown by the consistent theme of Lennie being able to 'tend the rabbits'."

- Where possible, try to comment more on language devices. This doesn't mean finding metaphors or alliteration, this just means analysing the use of specific words. For example, you could comment on how the repetition of 'fatta in the lan'/'tend the rabbits', especially towards the end of the novel, represents how memorising the idea of the American Dream is to these migrant workers.




If you need more help, I will upload both parts to an exam question I did. This got 27/30 and it includes both parts of the question.

Spoiler:
Show
English Literature – Of Mice and Men Essay
In this passage, how does Steinbeck present Slim?
From an early point in the book ‘Of Mice and Men’, the character Slim is quickly presented to be radiant of his status in the workplace, and it is blatantly apparent that he is indeed the ‘prince of the ranch’.

In the given passage, Steinbeck presents Slim as a character who stands out from the surroundings with superiority and is clearly defined as one of the main figures on the ranch. This is emphasised by the use of complimentary vocabulary such as “he moved with majesty”. This part of the passage expresses the idea that his actions are all viewed upon as sophisticated and glamorous. Beyond this, the use of ‘majesty’ suggests that he is more than just a well-rounded worker, but that he actually is the one, solitary figure who has everyone’s attention on the ranch. This idea is also supported by the use of “prince of the ranch” which further emphasises the fact that he is the perfect worker; that he is beyond everyone else and that he is respected the most in the most difficult era to economically sustain oneself.

Beyond his immediately radiant, glamorous appearance, Slim is also shown to be intellectually sophisticated and is a carefully calculating man. This is shown by the phrase “understanding beyond thought”. In this quotation, Slim is referred to in a very distinct way which almost seems philosophical. This gives us the impression that aside from this character’s physical superiority, he is also one of the smartest members of the ranch and is engaged in deep thought. The use of ‘understanding’ could also suggest that he is also highly sympathetic of the situation of others, and has a strong emotional attachment to the rest of the members of the ranch – which grants him social status in the novel. He is also implied to be a “master craftsman” which further illustrates the idea that he is well-rounded and highly calculating in his actions. This implies that to add to the myriad of attributes this character has, he is also talented and serves a sophisticated purpose on the ranch.

In addition to being smart and sophisticated, Steinbeck also presents Slim as fairly relaxed and colloquial. This is highlighted in the line “You guys every bucked any barley?” This quotation shows that Slim is very well integrated within the society of 1930s America, and fluently passes every day with ease. The use of ‘bucked’ shows that this character is accustomed to the idiolect of the average worker from this era, and the colloquial tone in which he says it suggests that he is certainly an accepted member of the ranch – and has some form of authority. The succinct manner in which he refers to George and Lennie with ‘you guys’ shows that he has confidence in himself to learn about the new workers. In addition to this, he is also shown to be very supportive and friendly towards some members of the ranch through the use of “Hope you get on my team”. The way in which his voice is described then to be ‘very gentle’ shows that he is compassionate, which implies that the respect he has earned may be due to his supporting attitude and the fact that he fits in with everyone else, rather than being physically intimidating like Curley.









In the rest of the novel, how does Steinbeck show that some people on the ranch are considered to be more important than others? How does this reflect the society in which the novel is set?
In the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’, John Steinbeck presents the social hierarchy and the idea that some members are more important than others in a variety of ways.

Steinbeck presents Slim to be more important than Candy, as he is shown to have a more respected and domineering opinion. This presentation is shown in the line “Candy looked helplessly at him, for Slim’s opinions were law” as Slim’s take on what Candy should do with his old dog is more valid than his own. The way in which his remark is described as ‘law’ shows that Slim blatantly has an overwhelming level of importance than Candy – that his status as a young, intellectual and popular man gives him a greater amount of power over less well-off characters. The way in which Candy is shown to ‘look helplessly’ sounds animalistic, as if he himself were contrasted with the old dog which he was being pressured to kill. This contrast shows that Candy is indeed less important than Slim, which could be representative of society in the 1930s in American, when only the most capable young men could live calmly through The Depression. Slim is shown to be more independent and to have confidence and resolve in his judgement – showing that he is one of these more capable workers.

Later in the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’, the character Curley is presented to be more important than his wife. This is highlighted by the tone of Curley’s statement in the line “Anyone seen a girl around here?” – as in this line he refers plainly to his wife without a significant remark. The way in which he emphasises his wife as simply a ‘girl’ shows that he considers himself to be more important than her, and rather than retaining her own personal identity, Curley’s Wife is simply seen as the property of Curley. Therefore, this character has a significantly less important role in society, and simply fulfils her role as a part of Curley’s life. But the context of the statement shows that Curley hasn’t actually got full control over his wife – and that despite her lack of importance on the ranch, she still longs for status. This could be seen as discrimination by Curley towards his wife, which could be representative of the society in the 1930s in America, when women had a lesser role in the workforce and didn’t quite retain the same rights as men. Curley’s Wife is a clear indicator for this issue during this era, and Curley’s negligence of her could be symbolic of the importance of women in the time when this novel was set.

In addition to these conventions, Crooks is shown to be a far less important member of the ranch – and lacks the basic rights which the other ranch workers aimlessly retain. This lack of importance is shown by the adjective ‘mauled’ in the line “mauled copy of the California Civil Code”, as his property alone is shown to be neglected and to be symbolic of Crooks’ own lack of authority. The way in which his property is described to be ‘mauled’ shows that he clearly is only given second hand, damaged equipment – which implies that the workers on the ranch and those who supplied his belongings would have designated him to be less important than the white workers such as Slim. This presentation of Crooks being treated with disrespect by giving him poorer quality equipment could be symbolic of the American society in the 1930s, where black people when often discriminated against through racism. Therefore, the presentation of Crooks to lack importance and for the other workers seem more important through various methods is a reflection of this context.


If I had to mark it, I would say low A or high B. But don't worry, it doesn't take much to improve at this. You just need to make sure you comment effectively on context and select good quotes.
Agree with Alpha, Intro and Conclusion only add structure to your essay and you're not given a lot of marks for it.

For EngLit, I'm focusing on Character questions not Themes so I can't give a grade but Intro should be something like this.

OMAM is a novella written by John Steinbeck. The character of Curley's Wife portrays significance and prominence which relates to the thoughts and feelings of Steinbeck at the time in which the novella was written - mid 1930's. The reader's impression of the setting 'Soledad' conveys certain interpretation of Steinbeck's intentions including the themes of Loneliness. As such, the character of Curleys Wife appears very frequently as opposed to the other key fictional characters, which could suggest how Steinbeck wanted to portray the theme of Sexism.
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(Original post by JAIYEKO)
Agree with Alpha, Intro and Conclusion only add structure to your essay and you're not given a lot of marks for it.

For EngLit, I'm focusing on Character questions not Themes so I can't give a grade but Intro should be something like this.

OMAM is a novella written by John Steinbeck. The character of Curley's Wife portrays significance and prominence which relates to the thoughts and feelings of Steinbeck at the time in which the novella was written - mid 1930's. The reader's impression of the setting 'Soledad' conveys certain interpretation of Steinbeck's intentions including the themes of Loneliness. As such, the character of Curleys Wife appears very frequently as opposed to the other key fictional characters, which could suggest how Steinbeck wanted to portray the theme of Sexism.
Hmm, my teacher always said that a strong intro and conclusion were essential and you have to set yourself apart from everyone else in the first few lines - that's why I always take care to make my intro sound a bit different and put a bit of work into it

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