Hi, I'm doing AQA GCSE English lit. This is my part B answer to the question: How does Steinbeck present ideas about relationships in the novel? Any opinions are welcome!
Steinbeck presents a fundamental irony about relationshipson a ranch at the time the novel is set. In 1930s America, the itinerantworkers moved from one ranch to another in search of work, and this type oflifestyle meant that very few serious long term relationships were established.Steinbeck comments throughout the novel that the men on the ranch appear towant relationships, but at the same time shut themselves away. The fact thatthe novel itself is written entirely in the objective third person always putsus on the outside of the minds of characters and in the dark about how theyreally feel behind their generic catchphrases such as ‘has anybody seen Curley?’.To this end, Steinbeck enables the reader to explore the theme of relationshipsbecause the reader always knows as much or as little as the character does themselves.Even without commenting on characters, a feeling ofisolation is felt as we are introduced to the ranch and there is a table withcards set out for someone to play solitaire (a one-player game) in a room fullof people. This is a device which Steinbeck constantly repeats to demonstratethe fundamental social irony of the 1930s. In terms of relationships betweenworkers, Curley’s wife provides perhaps the most insightful analysis of the men’smentality as she comments that ‘they’re all scared of each other, scared therest is going to get something on you’ (referring to the fear of the practisecommon in 1930s America of Lynching – where ordinary people took the law intotheir own hands- if they discovered something they thought to be wrong). Thisview is repeated by Slim, who comments ‘I guess we’re all scared of each other’.The relationship between George and Lennie confuses almosteveryone on the ranch. Originally, the boss ‘squints one eye’ (suggesting thatthe fact that they travel together needed further scrutiny) and George evenfeels the need to lie and say that they are cousins in order to look credible.The boss comments that ‘he never seen one guy take so much care for another guy’.Curley responds with the comment ‘oh, so it’s like that’, inferring homosexualconnotations to a normal friendship, demonstrating just how cut off the ranchworkers have become from each other that any form of friendship must havesexual origins.This belief that friendship and relationships always ariseout of promiscuity or infatuation is what causes Curley’s wife to be shut away,as men fear lynching or even just judgment if they talk to her. Even her nameis indicative of her relationship with her controlling ‘pugnacious’ husband asshe is an object that belongs to him (‘Curley’s wife’) and we see herfrustration with him progress until she admits to Lennie that she doesn’t ‘actuallylike him’, but only married him because she became worth less as a bride as shelost her virginity to another man – a concept common in 1930s America. Thus,Steinbeck explores the concept of relationships being based solely on value –an issue we see raised again as we see that no one on the ranch understandswhat Candy sees in his lifelong companion (his dog). Perhaps the most tellingquote about relationships comes from Slim who describes a good friend assomeone who would ‘shoot [him] if [he] got ol’ and crippled’.l
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- 16-05-2015 09:58