Of Mice and Men – Chapter One Recap: by Nikita

Thank you to Nikita for writing up this comprehensive set of notes from our lesson revising chapter 1:

Description of the Brush- page 1

  • “path beaten hard by boys coming down from the ranches”
  • “limb is worn smooth by men who have sat on it”
  • “leaves lie deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among”

The brush only appears in Chapter 1&6 where George and Lennie are alone together. It’s a place where they feel safe. There are a lot of links and symbols of animals that Steinbeck presents in his cyclical novel.

The Two Protagonists- George and Lennie

George: “dark of face”, “restless eyes”, “sharp, strong features”, “small, quick”, “strong hands, thin”.

Lennie: “his opposite”, “huge man”, “large, pale eyes”, “wide sloping shoulders”, “dragging his feet, the way a bear drags his paws”.

Similarities with both: “denim trousers and denim coats with brass buttons”, “shapeless hats”, “carried tight blanket rolls slung over their shoulders”.

It is ironic how Lennie – who is the bigger person- isn’t as strong as we may think he is at first impression as his mental capability is the very opposite.

Their First Conversation

  • George leads, Lennie follows.
  • Their back story which is given in Chapter 1 foreshadows everything that is to come in the book.
  • In Weed “they run us outta Weed”– foreshadows trouble they’ve been in before.
  • Aunt Clara “Lady huh? That was your own aunt Clara” – foreshadows dangers with women.
  • The Bus “Bastard bus driver” – presents George’s angry nature and explicit language.
  • Mouse “What you want of a dead mouse anyways” – foreshadows the deaths.

Steinbeck from the very start of the book presents a naïve and vulnerable character for Lennie which makes the reader very fond of him so that even in the later part of the book, where he commits murders, we don’t despise his character. Every character in the book is a typical stereotype in this microcosmic world.

The Murders

  • Mouse dead Chapter 1
  • Dog dead Chapter 5
  • Curley’s wife dead Chapter 5

As the story continues each murder by Lennie (in size) gets bigger from mouse, dog, a human. The mouse is extremely small compared to Lennie however his mental capacity is the same as a mouse. Steinbeck may even be trying to show that Lennie kills things he loves therefore he is a real threat to everyone.

During the time the book was set everyone was suffering from the Great Depression so when they were eating the tin of beans it was very relieving as they wouldn’t know when the next time for them to eat would come.

Lennie and George’s Relationship

“If I was alone I could live so easily”– says George but as readers we know he doesn’t really mean this as he loves Lennie’s company even though he is hard work to put up with. If George didn’t have Lennie as his companion he would be as lonely and bitter as the other men on the ranch that we later learn about in the book.

However, Lennie isn’t as daft as we initially think he is as he quite cleverly says “George, you want I should go away and leave you alone?” – Lennie tries to manipulate George to make him feel guilty and realise that his life wouldn’t be the same without him. Lennie doesn’t manipulate him in a bad intention but in a rather child-like manner which reflects his persona on the whole too.

Towards the end on Chapter One George tells Lennie about what life is like for “Guys like us” as he is reassuring Lennie that they’re both doing things together and have each other’s back. It shows how sad and lonely life was like for ranch men and makes readers sympathise for them.

Chapter One’s Significance

  • Shows man’s place in nature and how everything around is really safe as we humans originate from nature too.
  • Animalism is a common theme in Chapter One when describing Lennie also.
  • Gives the reader background information of the two protagonists and that information foreshadows the coming events in the book.
  • Addresses George’s tentativeness with Lennie and the fear of him getting them both in trouble.

Of Mice and Men – Theme and Context quick revision

To get ready for the mocks, we spent a lesson revising the context and themes in Of Mice and Men. We started by considering the context, discussing the key ideas and issues as a class. Here is a brief outline of our notes:

A cruel world: hierarchies (levels of power) with discrimination of so-called ‘weak’ groups.

Several social prejudices: racism (Crooks), sexism (Curley’s Wife), ageism (Candy), and disability discrimination (Lennie).

Modern readers recognise change: but these discriminatory ideas still resonate and exist.

The Great Depression: a severe economic crisis which led to unemployment, homelessness and migrant workers.

The American Dream: a hopeful, motivational ideal that all Americans are born with the right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ and with hard work they will achieve it. Steinbeck is critical of it and shows the flaws of a dream in a world that is so harsh. All of the dreamers in the book meet tragic and desolate endings.

The American West landscape: Valleys and mountains could represent ups and downs in the plot. The vast open land may represents ideas about freedom and opportunity but also isolation and uncertainty. Animals feature to show the similarities between the animal world and mankind as well as mirroring animal behaviour in characters. Soledad = Spanish for loneliness.

After this initial work, we focused on key themes in the novella. We came up with five (dreams, isolation, power, violence, friendship). The first step was for us to come up with a range of quotations that could be used to demonstrate how the themes are explored in the novella:

After the initial group effort to source a vast range of quotations, we worked in pairs to explore quotations in greater depth and finished by independently writing analytical paragraphs.

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Many thanks to RIKESH for providing these useful documents :

RIKESH Of Mice and Men Literature Exam

RIKESH Themes and Context

Of Mice and Men: 10 Essential Revision Links

Our post on the 10 Essential Revision links for The Crucible has been so popular, that I thought I’d do one for Of Mice and Men.