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