Part A of the Of Mice and Men question is testing how well you can select and analyse effective language choices used by Steinbeck. This short blog post aims to give you tips to help with a response. The very first thing that you should do is read the question to find out what you are being asked to look for:

How do the details in this passage add to your understanding of George and his relationship with Lennie?

With this in mind, you then read the extract and highlight the significant details. You can look for techniques (adverbs, imagery, dialect…) details in narrative and dialogue, and structure. Just remember to keep the focus of the question in mind.

Considering the question above, here’s the extract with some key details highlighted:

omam extract


After you have read the extract a few times, highlighting and mentally building a response, you may find it useful to create a quick plan. Your plan should focus on the details (language choices) and effects. The plan below is too detailed for the confines of exam time, but does offer an example of how to explore multiple interpretations:

omam extract plan

After you have made a short plan which zooms in on language details, you are ready to write up. You don’t need a lengthy introduction for this part – simply address the question straight away and then get stuck into the details! Here’s an example answer:

This extract is notable because is reveals a disconnect between George and Lennie who have ‘got each other’ but often prove to be intellectually mismatched. In this extract, both characters have different personal agendas as well as shallow conversations.

They are separated at the start by George who ‘almost automatically’ plays a ‘deliberate’ solitaire hand. The recurring theme of loneliness is presented here in the name of the game. It’s ironic that George understands ‘automatically’ that he will not be playing with Lennie, but alone. Through the use of the words ‘deliberate’ alongside ‘automatic’ Steinbeck suggests a monotony in George’s actions which could be symbolic of his own boring life or indeed the depression of other migrant workers at the time. Despite this though, he is still ‘thoughtful’ suggesting that his mind is elsewhere – but certainly not with Lennie.

However, Lennie disrupts George by asking ‘Why is both ends the same?’ regarding a playing card. His basic question alongside Steinbeck’s portrayal of Lennie through his dialect is convincing and effective. The inaccurate grammar could indicate Lennie’s learning difficulties or indeed the general speech patterns of American migrant workers at the time as many speak using ‘broken’ grammar rules. George dismisses the question ‘that’s just the way they make them’ like an impatient parent to a child and moves the question back onto the topic of his choice which reveals George to be the leader of the pair.

George’s line of inquiry leads him onto the topic of Curley’s Wife where he has more to say. To start with, he ‘sighed’ which could suggest that it’s something that concerns or frustrates him. This is proved further when he begins a lengthy rant about the dangers of women, during which he uses misogynistic terms such as ‘jailbait’, ‘whorehouse’ and ‘tart’. Steinbeck uses these terms to affirm derogatory attitudes to women but also foreshadow the trouble with Curley’s Wife. During George’s rant, Lennie ‘followed his words admiringly.’ Steinbeck positions Lennie as a passive audience to George’s speech, the adverb ‘admiringly’ shows how Lennie views George as a hero/father-like figure. Through these interactions, the reader is more aware of the significant differences in social and intellectual status of both characters where Lennie hangs on George’s every word. Although he doesn’t seem to fully understand them as he ‘moved his lips a little to keep up.’

However, by the end of the extract we see that Lennie’s interest is short-lived and he is soon onto his favourite subject. Steinbeck’s description of when Lennie ‘drummed on the table with his fingers’ portrays the image of a fidgety and impatient young child. He is desperate to talk about the farm again and asks George ‘how long’s it gonna be till we get that place and live of the fatta the lan’ – an rabbits?’ This diversion towards the farm is likely to engage both George and Lennie, as it is the dream they both share. Steinbeck’s addition of ‘-an rabbits?’ is a humorous and endearing depiction of Lennie who is almost synonymous with the creatures.