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Hello, I have my first English literature exam in a weeks time, i am doing the wjec english exam for of mice and men. I am currently revising for it and i did a past paper. I am currently struggling with the extract question 9 in the past paper. This example comes from the recent wjec summer 2015 Unit 1 exam, the question is:

How does John Steinbeck create mood and atmosphere here? Refer closely to the extract in your answer.

There is also an extract we had to write it based on:

They sat by the fire and filled their mouths with beans and chewed mightily. A few beans slipped
out of the side of Lennie’s mouth. George gestured with his spoon. ‘What you gonna say tomorrow
when the boss asks you questions?’
Lennie stopped chewing and swallowed. His face was concentrated. ‘I … I ain’t gonna … say a
‘Good boy! That’s fine, Lennie! Maybe you’re gettin’ better. When we get the coupla acres I can let
you tend the rabbits all right. ’Specially if you remember as good as that.’
Lennie choked with pride. ‘I can remember,’ he said.
George motioned with his spoon again. ‘Look, Lennie. I want you to look around here. You can
remember this place, can’t you? The ranch is about a quarter mile up that way. Just follow the river?’
‘Sure,’ said Lennie. ‘I can remember this. Di’n’t I remember about not gonna say a word?’
“Course you did. Well, look. Lennie – if you jus’ happen to get in trouble like you always done
before, I want you to come right here an’ hide in the brush.’
‘Hide in the brush,’ said Lennie slowly.
‘Hide in the brush till I come for you. Can you remember that?’
‘Sure I can, George. Hide in the brush till you come.’
‘But you ain’t gonna get in no trouble, because if you do, I won’t let you tend the rabbits.’ He threw
his empty bean can off into the brush.
‘I won’t get in no trouble, George. I ain’t gonna say a word.’
‘OK. Bring your bindle over here by the fire. It’s gonna be nice sleepin’ here. Lookin’ up, and the
leaves. Don’t build up no more fire. We’ll let her die down.’
They made their beds on the sand, and as the blaze dropped from the fire the sphere of light grew
smaller; the curling branches disappeared and only a faint glimmer showed where the tree trunks
were. From the darkness Lennie called, ‘George – you asleep?’
‘No. Whatta you want?’
‘Let’s have different color rabbits, George.’
‘Sure we will,’ George said sleepily. ‘Red and blue and green rabbits, Lennie. Millions of ’em.’
‘Furry ones, George, like I seen in the fair in Sacramento.’
‘Sure, furry ones.’
“Cause I can jus’ as well go away, George, an’ live in a cave.’
‘You can jus’ as well go to hell,’ said George. ‘Shut up now.’
The red light dimmed on the coals. Up the hill from the river a coyote yammered, and a dog
answered from the other side of the stream. The sycamore leaves whispered in a little night breeze.

Now this is my answer:

In this scene it shows Lennie and George eating their food. It has a hopeful and triumphant sense about it as Lennie “chewed mightily”. The word mightily is implying a form of confidence about Lennie. Despite this, it says “A few beans slipped out of the side of Lennie’s mouth”. This could be trying to show that not everything is hopeful and positive, it shows that the whole situation isn’t perfect and, Lennie in particular, could ruin the atmosphere.
The extract also shows an insight into George’s and Lennie’s relationship. The way “George gestured with his spoon” implies somewhat of an informal atmosphere, showing that Lennie’s and George’s relationship is good enough for them to behave in this manner. Despite this, George still understands that Lennie needs to be disciplined in a way. This is made apparent when George says “No. Whatta you want?” in somewhat of an aggressive nature. This shows that George and Lennie are comfortable enough to share ‘banter’ with each other, George still remains a father figure to Lennie.
In extract also gives a sense of isolation, a recurring theme throughout the novel. It says “Up the hill a coyote yammered”, implying there is a distance from the pair and other life. However, it says “a dog answered”, possibly implying that they aren’t completely alone, as in there is always the possibility of someone else being there, adding quite a sinister tone to the extract.
In the extract it also shows another side to Lennie, he is usually simple and made fun of by George. This is made apparent when George frequently calls him a “crazy *******” throughout the book. However, in the extract Lennie says “I can jus’ as well go away”. This could be Lennie understanding that George needs him, and in a way trying to manipulate George in Lennie’s favour. So even though the overall tone of the extract is triumphant and positive, it also shows somewhat of an awkward atmosphere between Lennie and George, as in Lennie is trying to get something out of George subliminally.

344 words.

I did this in exam conditions, in 20 minutes. Could you please mark and give it a grade. Please bear in mind im aiming for an A/A*

Thanks in advance.
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Report 4 years ago
I'm not entirely sure on a grade, however, I would suggest that you analyse John Steinbeck's use of literary devices to create mood and atmosphere.

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