Of Mice and Men Edexcel English Literature Revision Guide
Of Mice and Men
Unit 1: Section B
3) Exam structure
4) John Steinbeck
5) Background information on the title.
6 – 8) The American Dream
9 – 10) The Wall street Crash
11 – 13) The Dust Bowl
14 –16) The Great Depression
17) The Migrant Worker
18 – 21) Racism
22 – 25) The role of women in 1930s society
26 – 31) June 2013 past paper and mark scheme
32 – 34) June 2013 exemplar response
You will always be given a choice of two questions. You only need to answer one!
There are 46 marks available, so you need to spend 50 minutes on this question. 10 minutes
planning your response and then 40 minutes writing it.
You are tested on the following Assessment Objectives:
A04: 24 MARKS
Relate texts to their social, cultural and historical contexts; explain how texts have been
influential and significant to self and other readers in different contexts and at different times.
A01: 16 MARKS
Repond to texts critically and imaginatively; select and evaluate relevant textual detail to
illustrate and support interpretations.
You are also marked out of 6 for SPAG
When answering your chosen question, you will need to consider the whole novel, include well-
chosen quotations to support your answer, interpret the writer’s ideas and attitudes and make a
relevant link to context.
He wrote the book ‘Of Mice and Men’ in 1936
He came from Salinas, California
Like ‘Of Mice and Men’ many of his books deal with the lives and problems of working
Many of his characters in his books are immigrants who went to California looking for
work or a better life.
Steinbeck worked on a ranch when he was 19, and used his experiences in ‘Of Mice
The living conditions for the farm workers were very poor.
Often men travelled alone but sometimes whole families had to move and all live in
Steinbeck's novels can all be classified as social novels dealing with the economic
problems of rural labour. They tend to focus on trials and tribulations people
experience and often make the reader root for the underdog.
In 1962, Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature for his “realistic and imaginative
writing, combining as it does sympathetic humour and keen social perception.” Both
The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men won Pulitzer Prizes. They both focused on
the plights of poor migrant workers searching for hope and the American Dream.
Why the title Of
Mice and Men?
John Steinbeck takes the title of this novel from the poem "To a Mouse [on turning her up in her
nest with the plough]," written by Scottish poetRobert Burns in 1785.
In the poem, the speaker has accidentally turned up a mouse's nest with his plough. He pauses for a
little rumination about how men and animals might seem different, but in the end they're all
mortal. No matter how different "thinking men" and "unthinking animals" seem, everybody suffers
and dies in the end:
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [alone]
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley, [often go awry]
An' lea'e us nought [leave us nothing] but grief an' pain,
For promised joy.
But there is one difference. Mice and men might both die, but only the men are aware of it. In the
last verse of the poem, Burns's speaker says that the mouse is "blest":
Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But, och! I backward cast my e'e [eye]
On prospects drear! [dreary]
An' forward, tho' I canna [cannot] see
I guess an' fear!
In other words, the mouse can't think about the past or the future. Does this remind you of anyone?
It seems like Steinbeck is thinking of Lennie as the mouse, and George as the man who turns up its
nest: life messes them both up, but at least Lennie doesn't have to remember any of it. Whatever
happens to Lennie is over. He doesn't regret anything and he doesn't anticipate anything—not even
his death.But not George. George will have to live with what he's done for the rest of his life.
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States in
which freedom includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity
‘The American Dream’ has been a concept since the 17
century. Immigrants dreamed of a better life
in America. They dreamed of making their fortunes in the goldfields.
The American Dream was coined by James Truslow Adams in his book The Epic of America, which was
written in 1931. He stated that the American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be
better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or
achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too
many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high
wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain
to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they
are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." (p.214-215)
The Irish Potato Famine and other problems in Europe encouraged mass immigration to America.
People fled the problems at home in order to prosper from the freedom and financial security that
they had heard existed in America. For people familiar with agriculture, California was a popular
choice. The novella is set in California; the Salinas Valley where John Steinbeck was born.
As the 20th
Century drew closer, the Dream became that of industry and capitalism, with men such as
John D Rockerfeller beginning life in humble conditions, but going on to control vast corporations and
the fortunes that resulted.Successes such as these suggested that talent, intelligence and a willingness
to work hard were all that was needed to achieve the dream.
America has always been perceived as a place where the streets are paved with gold; consequently,
there are more legal immigrants to the US per annum than any other country in the world. They were
(and still are) drawn to work in the major cities such as New York, Chicago and Detroit.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the Depression was a cause of major hardship and seemed to be a
reverse of the Dream which people had held dear for so long.
Some say that that the American Dream is misleading. It is impossible for everyone to gain prosperity
simply through hard work and determination. The consequence of this is that those who do not
achieve success believe that it is entirely their fault.
In addition, the poor are penalised as their poverty is seen as proof of their laziness.
The American Dream does not take account of the fact that the family and wealth that one is born
into, as well as traits such as natural intelligence, have a bearing on potential success in life.
The Wall Street Crash (Saturday 19
October 1929) - selling shares at a high price to get the
maximum amount of profit), leading to fall in share prices and more panic selling on Sunday 20
as people start to worry they will lose money
Those who can afford it buy shares as the price drops (often borrowing money to do so) and this
means prices rise on Monday / Tuesday as demand grows again.
1929: again there is mass selling at the very end of the day (shares are only
bought and sold during defined period of hours) followed by panic on Thursday 24
trying to sell but there are no buyers.
To try and stop the panic the banks try to support the share market by using their money (i.e. the
money belonging to their customers) to buy shares and keep the price up on Friday 25th
1929: more massive selling again and the banks don’t step in to buy. This continues
on Tuesday 29
1929, but there are no buyers so prices fall and then fall further AND the buying
/ selling technology collapses preventing many even trying to sell shares which are now
This leaves many speculators (those who bought hoping to make a quick profit) ruined as they
borrowed money to buy shares expecting them to rise in value. The shares are worth nothing
and they can’t repay what they borrowed.
The banks that lent them the money can’t get it back and start to go broke. Many American
companies are now worthless.
The Dust Bowl
Severe drought hits the midwestern and southern plains. As the crops die, the 'black blizzards" begin.
Dust from the over-plowed and over-grazed land begins to blow.
The number of dust storms is increasing. Fourteen are reported this year; next year there will be 38.
March: When Franklin Roosevelt takes office, the country is in desperate straits. He took quick steps to
declare a four-day bank holiday, during which time Congress came up with the Emergency Banking Act of
1933, which stabilized the banking industry and restored people's faith in the banking system by putting
the federal government behind it.
May: The Emergency Farm Mortgage Act allots $200 million for refinancing mortgages to help farmers
facing foreclosure. The Farm Credit Act of 1933 established a local bank and set up local credit
September: Over 6 million young pigs are slaughtered to stabilize prices With most of the meat going to
waste, public outcry led to the creation, in October, of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation. The FSRC
diverted agricultural commodities to relief organizations. Apples, beans, canned beef, flour and pork
products were distributed through local relief channels. Cotton goods were eventually included to clothe
the needy as well.
October: In California's San Joaquin Valley, where many farmers fleeing the plains have gone, seeking
migrant farm work, the largest agricultural strike in America's history begins. More than 18,000 cotton
workers with the Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union (CAWIU) went on strike for 24 days.
During the strike, two men and one woman were killed and hundreds injured. In the settlement, the
union was recognized by growers, and workers were given a 25 percent raise.
May: Great dust storms spread from the Dust Bowl area. The drought is the worst ever in U.S. history,
covering more than 75 percent of the country and affecting 27 states severely.
June: The Frazier-Lemke Farm Bankruptcy Act is approved. This act restricted the ability of banks to
dispossess farmers in times of distress. Originally effective until 1938, the act was renewed four times
until 1947, when it expired. Roosevelt signs the Taylor Grazing Act, which allows him to take up to 140
million acres of federally-owned land out of the public domain and establish grazing districts that will be
carefully monitored. One of many New Deal efforts to reverse the damage done to the land by overuse,
the program was able to arrest the deterioration, but couldn't undo the historical damage.
December: The "Yearbook of Agriculture" for 1934 announces, "Approximately 35 million acres of
formerly cultivated land have essentially been destroyed for crop production. . . . 100 million acres now in
crops have lost all or most of the topsoil; 125 million acres of land now in crops are rapidly losing topsoil.
. . "
January 15: The federal government forms a Drought Relief Service to coordinate relief activities. The DRS
bought cattle in counties that were designated emergency areas, for $14 to $20 a head. Those unfit for
human consumption - more than 50 percent at the beginning of the program - were destroyed. The
remaining cattle were given to the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation to be used in food distribution to
families nationwide. Although it was difficult for farmers to give up their herds, the cattle slaughter
program helped many of them avoid bankruptcy. "The government cattle buying program was a God-
send to many farmers, as they could not afford to keep their cattle, and the government paid a better
price than they could obtain in local markets."
April 8: FDR approves the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, which provides $525 million for drought
relief, and authorizes creation of the Works Progress Administration, which would employ 8.5 million
April 14: Black Sunday. The worst "black blizzard" of the Dust Bowl occurs, causing extensive damage.
April 27: Congress declares soil erosion "a national menace" in an act establishing the Soil Conservation
Service in the Department of Agriculture (formerly the Soil Erosion Service in the U.S. Department of
Interior). Under the direction of Hugh H. Bennett, the SCS developed extensive conservation programs
that retained topsoil and prevented irreparable damage to the land. Farming techniques such as strip
cropping, terracing, crop rotation, contour ploughing, and cover crops were advocated. Farmers were
paid to practice soil-conserving farming techniques.
December: At a meeting in Pueblo, Colorado, experts estimate that 850,000,000 tons of topsoil has
blown off the Southern Plains during the course of the year, and that if the drought continued, the total
area affected would increase from 4,350,000 acres to 5,350,000 acres in the spring of 1936. C.H. Wilson
of the Resettlement Administration proposes buying up 2,250,000 acres and retiring it from cultivation.
February: Los Angeles Police Chief James E. Davis sends 125 policemen to patrol the borders of Arizona
and Oregon to keep "undesirables" out. As a result, the American Civil Liberties Union sues the city.
May: The SCS publishes a soil conservation district law, which, if passed by the states, allows farmers to
set up their own districts to enforce soil conservation practices for five-year periods. One of the few
grassroots organizations set up by the New Deal still in operation, the soil conservation district program
recognized that new farming methods needed to be accepted and enforced by the farmers on the land
rather than bureaucrats in Washington.
March: Roosevelt addresses the nation in his second inaugural address, stating, "I see one-third of the
nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished . . . the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the
abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
FDR's Shelterbelt Project begins. The project called for large-scale planting of trees across the Great
Plains, stretching in a 100-mile wide zone from Canada to northern Texas, to protect the land from
erosion. Native trees, such as red cedar and green ash, were planted along fence rows separating
properties, and farmers were paid to plant and cultivate them. The project was estimated to cost 75
million dollars over a period of 12 years. When disputes arose over funding sources (the project was
considered to be a long-term strategy, and therefore ineligible for emergency relief funds), FDR
transferred the program to the WPA, where the project had limited success.
The extensive work re-plowing the land into furrows, planting trees in shelterbelts, and other
conservation methods has resulted in a 65 percent reduction in the amount of soil blowing. However, the
In the fall, the rain comes, finally bringing an end to the drought. During the next few years, with the
coming of World War II, the country is pulled out of the Depression and the plains once again become
golden with wheat.
The 1930s: the Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade
preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in
most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s.
It was the longest, most widespread, and deepest depression of the 20th century. The
depression originated in the United States, starting with the Wall Street Crash. The stock
markets collapsed on October 29, 1929 (now known as Black Tuesday), but quickly
spread to almost every country in the world.
The 1930s were years of mass unemployment, particularly in agriculture (with small
farmers suffering particularly badly and losing their land when they were unable to
repay the money they borrowed to buy it), and the traditional ‘heavy’ industries of coal,
iron and steel.
The Great Depression was the worst economic disaster the US have ever faced in the
history of the country. At one point 1/3 of male Americans were out of work
Many businesses, including several thousand banks, go bust. There is a cycle of
depression: as one company goes bust and its workers become unemployed, it causes
other businesses - that relied on that company or its workers for its income - to go bust.
When banks go bust those who have deposited their savings in that bank lose them.
This starts another cycle as savers in other banks try to withdraw their savings, causing
those banks to collapse.
There is nothing like unemployment benefit or housing benefit, and no free national
health system (some people had private health insurance, which increased during the
1930s). If you lose your job, you often lose your home and the whole family ends up on
the streets. Many such families ended up living in cardboard shantytowns which
become known as ‘Hoovervilles’, named after Herbert Hoover the then Republican
In 1930 the first of the drought years begins in the south and mid-west of the USA,
adding to farmers’ problems.
In 1934 following a long period of drought (exceptionally dry weather) the mid-West
(especially Oklahoma and Arkansas) are hit by dust clouds as the thin, dry soil is blown
away: these areas become known as ‘The Dust Bowl’. Many farmers were forced to
abandon their land, with approximately 350,000 – 400,000 passing over the Rocky
Mountain ranges to the west, especially California by the Salinas river, to seek work.
Popular song during The Great Depression in America
Brother can you spare a dime
Once I built a railroad, made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it's done
Brother, can you spare me a dime?
Once I built a tower to the sun
Brick and rivet and lime
Once I built a tower, now it's done
Buddy, can you spare me a dime?
Once in khaki suits, boy, we looked swell
Full of that Yankee-Doodle-dum
Then half a million boots went truckin’ off to Hell
I was the kid with the drum
Say, don't you remember, you called me "Al"
It was "Al" all the time
Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal
Buddy, can you spare me a dime?
Once in khaki suits, boy, we looked swell
Full of that Yankee-Doodle-dum
Then half a million boots went truckin’ off to Hell
I was the kid with the drum
Say, don't you remember, you called me "Al"
Then, it was "Al" all the time
Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal
Buddy, can you spare me a dime?
Oh, buddy, can you spare me a dime?
Yeah, buddy, can you spare me a dime?
Added to the man-made financial problems were natural ones. A series of droughts in southern mid-
western states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas led to failed harvests and dried-up land. Farmers were
forced to move off their land: they couldn't repay the bank-loans which had helped buy the farms and had
to sell what they owned to pay their debts.
Many economic migrants headed west to 'Golden' California, thinking there would be land going spare, but
the Californians turned many back, fearing they would be over-run. The refuges had nowhere to go back
to, so they set up home in huge camps in the California valleys - living in shacks of cardboard and old metal
- and sought work as casual farmhands.
These workers would earn $2.50 or $3.00 a day, plus food and shelter.
During the 1930s, the unemployment rate was high in the U.S., and with so
many men searching for work, agencies were set up to send farm workers to
where they were needed.
In the novel, George and Lennie (the two main characters) were given work
cards from Murray and Ready’s, which was one of the farm work agencies.
Why was there so much racial inequality in the USA between 1929 and 1945?
The situation of black people in the 1930s
Segregation and the Jim Crow laws
The USA constitution and federal law declared that everyone was equal. The southern states passed
the Jim Crow Laws which related to segregation. This meant that white people and black people had to
live separately. The areas of society affected by segregation included churches, hospitals, theatres and
Black people had the worst jobs and the poorest standard of education. Black people also found it
difficult to register to vote because of the following:
Poll Tax – A tax had to be paid in order to be able to vote, and most black people were too poor to pay
Literacy Tests (reading) – In order to be able to vote, people had to prove that they could read difficult
extracts. If black people passed these tests, they would then be threatened and attacked so that they
would not vote.
A large number of black people were illiterate during this period, as a result of poor education.
The Ku Klux Klan
The KKK was active in the southern states. Most of its members were White Anglo-Saxon Protestants
(WASPs) and they wanted to show that they were better and more powerful than black people,
immigrants, Jews, Roman Catholics, communists and socialists.
The KKK became known for the following:
Holding night time meetings and marching in white clothing with masks over their heads
Beating up black people
Throwing tar and feathers
Lynching – mob killings. In the state of Georgia in 1924-25, 135 people were lynched.
KKK members standing in a square formation at a rally in West Virginia, 1924.
Members of the KKK were seldom punished because most of the members were policemen, judges
and governors. By 1924 there were about 5 million members. The number of members fell when the
leader of the KKK, D C Stephenson, was found guilty of kidnapping and raping a young girl in 1925.
The Response of the NAACP
The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) was established in 1909 to
try to ensure a better life for black people.
The objectives of the NAACP:
To get rid of segregation
To get voting rights for black people
To get equal education for black people.
In the 1920s the NAACP campaigned and protested to pass a bill against lynching, but a number of
black people were still afraid to vote because of the KKK. By the 1930s and 1940s, the NAACP tried to
challenge discrimination and segregation in the courts. Political parties started to realise that winning
the vote of the black people was important, especially in the north. Roosevelt formed a 'Black Cabinet'
within his government in order to deal with the needs of black people.
The impact of the Depression and the New Deal (1930s)
It was black people who suffered the most during the Depression. By mid 1934 over half the black
people in the north were dependent on government support. President Roosevelt's New Deal helped
black people a little – over a million received support and found jobs. However, the New Deal
discriminated against certain groups and did not help everybody. In 1936 many black people voted for
the Democrats and, as a result, there was an increase in the number of black people elected to
national and local government. By 1940 there were 100 black people working for the country’s
Black people and the Second World War (1940s)
By the end of 1944 almost 2 million black people were working in factories. But some white people
were opposed to this, eg in Detroit in 1943 a riot happened to protest against it - 30 people died.
The NAACP's membership increased from 50,000 to 450,000 during the war. The lives of black people
had improved during the Second World War. They didn't want this improvement to end and they
hoped that their lives would continue to improve. This gave black people the confidence to start
campaigning in order to secure their rights.
Segregation was the norm in the army, with white soldiers and black soldiers fighting separately. The
the black soldiers were called the Jim Crow Army. This led to passing the Select Service Act in 1940
which prohibited segregation in selecting and training black soldiers.
As many as 1.5 million USA soldiers stayed in Britain where there was no segregation. Black people
could go to the same pubs as white people, where black men could meet white women. This in some
cases led to white soldiers attacking black soldiers.
The impact of the war on the civil rights issue
At the end of the war a number of African and Asian countries gained independence and the United
Nations (UN) was created. The result was that the rest of the world became aware of the rights of
black people in America.
President Truman gave this a great deal of attention. As part of his Fair Deal policy, he established a
committee in 1946 to attempt to write a law against lynching and to remove the need to pay a tax to
vote. Despite his efforts, the American congress rejected his plans, but Truman succeeded in ending
segregation in the army.
Jim Crow Laws
After the American Civil War most states in the South passed anti-African American
legislation. These became known as Jim Crow laws. This included laws that
discriminated against African Americans with concern to attendance in public schools
and the use of facilities such as restaurants, theatres, hotels, cinemas and public baths.
Trains and buses were also segregated and in many states marriage between whites
and African American people.
Jim Crow laws were tested in 1896 by Homer Plessey when convicted in Louisiana for
riding in a white only railway car. Plessey took his case to the Supreme Court but the
justices voted in favour of the Louisiana Court. William B. Brown established the legality
of segregation as long as facilities were kept "separate but equal". Only one of the
justices, John Harlan, disagreed with this decision.
In the early 1950s the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People
concentrated on bringing an end to segregation on buses and trains. In 1952
segregation on inter-state railways was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
This was followed in 1954 by a similar judgment concerning inter-state buses. However,
states in the Deep South continued their own policy of transport segregation. This
usually involved whites sitting in the front and blacks sitting nearest to the front had to
give up their seats to any whites that were standing.
African American people who disobeyed the state's transport segregation policies were
arrested and fined. In 1956 African Americans, led by Martin Luther King and Rosa
Parks, organised the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Transport segregation continued in some parts of the Deep South, so in 1961, a civil
rights group, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) began to organize Freedom Rides.
After three days of training in non-violent techniques, black and white volunteers sat next
to each other as they travelled through the Deep South. On their journeys they also
campaigned against other forms of racial discrimination. They sat together, in
segregated restaurants, lunch counters and hotels. This was especially effective when it
concerned large companies who, fearing boycotts in the North, began to desegregate
In 1964, President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, managed to persuade Congress to pass
the Civil Rights Act. This made racial discrimination in public places, such as theatres,
restaurants and hotels, illegal. It also required employers to provide equal employment
opportunities. Projects involving federal funds could now be cut off if there was evidence
of discriminated based on colour, race or national origin.
During the 1930s, women had already gained rights that they had not previously had, but they still did not
have the same rights as men. For example, in 1920, the 19th Amendment of the Constitution was put in
place which stated, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by
the United States or by any State on account of sex” (National Archives). In other words, women now had
the right to vote, which gained them political equality. However, there were many other areas in which
women did not have equal rights, such as the work force and in the home.
Many jobs were unequal, and most men had better jobs than women. For instance, “instead of glamorous
professions, 36% of working wives entered domestic and personal services, while another 20% were in
apparel and canning factories" (Moran par. 26). Even if women did not have equal jobs, they were still
“viewed… as un-American money-grubbers, stealing jobs from men who needed them to support their
families” (Moran par. 3). They were not trusted to have the jobs they did, and were disrespected because
they were “stealing” money from the men who needed it to support their families.
Unfortunately for men, women had a higher chance of getting jobs because they were able to work for a
lower wage. For example, “in 1939, the median salary of a male teacher was $1,953 a year, while female
teachers received only $1,394” (Moran par. 26). Consequently, it was more likely that women were in the
work field, while men were fired. Furthermore, for the first time in history, most women were now the
main supporters of their families because there were more women in the workforce. In fact, “the number
of married women in the workforce actually increased by 50% between 1930 and 1940” (Moran par. 26).
For some women, these jobs “increased their status and power in the home, gaining them a new voice in
domestic decisions” (Ibis Communications par. 3). They now had gained equality in the house, and their
ideas and thoughts were listened to, and were not neglected. However, some men were so ashamed of
their non-existent jobs that they left their families. In fact, a 1940 survey revealed that “1.5 million
women had been abandoned by their husbands” (Ibis Communications par. 3). Nevertheless, women
persisted, and supported their families all on their own, showing new strengths that never before had
been presented by women before.
Women during the 1930s were not often featured in the headlines of papers, but they were the stars
behind closed doors. “The women, the wives, and mothers were the inspiration of the homes, the
persons for whom the men really work” (Ware 14). They worked constantly, their lives often “revolved
around their homes” (Ware 4). They took care of demanding children with little to no money because of
the economic downturn, and had very little help from husbands who disdained ‘women’s work’, but could
not get a real job themselves.
Living the life of a woman during the depression was no easy feat, even if one did not account for the
stereotypes she faced. Women were assumed by the man-run society around them to be emotional,
scatter-brained, and weak. They were told they “were subject to personal appeals more than reason,
weak before the blandishments of fashion” (Cooney 68). However, they were also taken to be “the
guardians and transmitters of culture and beauty, appreciators of genuine ‘style’” (Cooney 68). And above
all, they were expected to look their best at all times, especially when times were hard and money was
tight (Gourley 13). This unattainable standard was an incessant buzzing in every woman’s ear that she
wasn't good enough and never could be. However, a wise author once said, “A woman can take more. I
always said she could take more pain” (Beyond Suffrage, 16).
Unlike their male counterparts, they often put love, aspirations, and dreams on the back burner to put
their families first because of the Depression. These young women were “part of a family economy in
which their labor helped the family survive, but gained them no cash” (Cott 447). “Rural women often had
triple responsibilities: the household, child bearing and raising, and actual farm work” and because of
their busy schedule, they had no time for themselves (Ware 9). Some women were so dedicated to their
families that they “postponed marriage to stay home to help their families make ends meet” (Gourley,
13). They worked hard, but only gained the ability to watch as their family survived, and a very
honourable sacrifice that usually went unnoticed.
During the 1930s, women daily faced immense pressure from the exaggerated social stereotypes to be
beautiful, well mannered, well dressed, good mothers, and dutiful wives, all “under $1,000 a year”. They
needed a source of solace, a comfort from the long days of being an unnoticed strong woman. They often
found this solace in social situations with other women with the same mental fatigue such as church
groups, garden and sewing clubs, even in something as simple as trading recipes. Women had very little
time for socializing, however, as the hard times called for desperate measure on their part. Many women
attempted to get jobs, however difficult those were to come by. Even if the mother had a job, being able
to take care of their families properly was nearly impossible, especially when it came to health care. More
often than not, children and their parents went without dental care such as braces or regular check-ups.
Although the lives of these brave women of the 1930s were rather tumultuous, they made do with what
they had, and found a small sliver of comfort in each other’s company.
To Claire Luce
Los Gatos 
Dear Miss Luce:
Annie Laurie says you are worried about your playing of the part of Curley’s wife although from the
reviews it appears that you are playing it marvelously. I am deeply grateful to you and to the others
in the cast for your feeling about the play. You have surely made it much more than it was by such a
About the girl—I don’t know of course what you think about her, but perhaps if I should tell you a
little about her as I know her, it might clear your feeling about her.
She grew up in an atmosphere of fighting and suspicion. Quite early she learned that she must never
trust any one but she was never able to carry out what she learned. A natural trustfulness broke
through constantly and every time it did, she got her. her moral training was most rigid. She was told
over and over that she must remain a virgin because that was the only way she could get a husband.
This was harped on so often that it became a fixation. It would have been impossible to seduce her.
She had only that one thing to sell and she knew it.
Now, she was trained by threat not only at home but by other kids. And any show of fear or
weakness brought an instant persecution. She learned to be hard to cover her fright. And
automatically she became hardest when she was most frightened. She is a night, kind girl, not a
floozy. No man has ever considered her as anything except a girl to try to make. She has never talked
to a man except in the sexual fencing conversation. she is not highly sexed particularly but knows
instinctively that if she is to be noticed at all, it will be because some one finds her sexually desirable.
As to her actual sexual life—she has had none except with Curley and there has probably been no
consummation there since Curley would not consider her gratification and would probably be
suspicious if she had any. Consequently she is a little starved. She knows utterly nothing about sex
except the mass misinformation girls tell one another. If anyone—a man or woman—ever gave her a
break—treated her like a person—she would be a slave to that person. Her craving for contact is
immense but she, with her background, is incapable of conceiving any contact without some sexual
context. With all this—if you knew her, if you could ever break down a thousand little defenses she
has built up, you would find a nice person, an honest person, and you would end up by loving her.
But such a thing could never happen.
I hope you won’t think I’m preaching. I’ve known this girl and I’m just trying to tell you what she is
like. She is afraid of everyone in the world. You’ve known girls like that, haven’t you? You can see
them in Central Park on a hot night. They travel in groups for protection. They pretend to be wise
and hard and voluptuous.
I have a feeling that you know all this and that you are doing all this. Please forgive me if I seem to
intrude on your job. I don’t intend to and I am only writing this because Annie Laurie said you
wondered about the girl. It’s a devil of a hard part. I am very happy that you have it.
Questions & Mark
50 MINS ON THIS SECTION
What has appeared in the exam to date:
Jun 2013: Significance of George
June 2013: Significant of animals
Jan 2013: Significance of Curley’s Wife
Jan 2013: Significance of settings
June 2012: Significance of Curley
June 2012: Significance of dreams
Jan 2012: Significance of Lennie
Jan 2012: Significance of anger
Jun 2011: Significance of friendship
Jun 2011: Treatment of Crooks
For the full range of exam papers, you can find them on the English
You can also find more exemplar responses on the
This candidate wrote around 3 and a quarter pages in their answer booklet.
Firstly, animals are a very significant part in the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’.
One way animals are significant in the novel is show through mice. For example, at the
beginning of the novel, Lennie has ‘a dead mouse’ in his pocket and likes to ‘pet it’ with ‘his
thumb’. This shows how Lennie likes the feel of the mouse as if it is a bit of security of
companionship. Therefore, the mouse is very significant as the 1930s was a very depressing
time as it was the period of ‘The Great Depression’ so the mouse could be seen to represent
comfort in a time where comfort was completely lacking. However, the mouse could also be
seen as a sign of bad to come as ‘the best laid plans of Mice and Men gang aft agley’. This
shows that the mice could foreshadow something worse to come – even though the mouse
is small, the impact is one of a large consequence.
One other way animals are significant in the novel is shown through Candy’s dog. For
example, in Chapter three, the dog is described as ‘ancient’ and Carlson wants him dead as
he is ‘stinky’. This is very significant as the dog is Candy’s friend and is the only one who is
nice to him. Therefore, this relates to the context of the novel and suggests that the dog
plays the part of companionship in the novel and emphasises now nice it is to have
someone in such hard times, so the dog is significant as his death could imply that
eventually all things come to an end thus like the depression, the dog emphasised that the
hope dies for many in such a cruel time.
Similarly, another way in which animals are significant in the novel is shown through Slim’s
pups. For example, Lennie says ‘I was jus’ playin’ with him…..and’ I done it. An’ then he was
dead.’ This shows that the animals in the novel never seem to end up with good fates which
could suggest that the progression in animal’s deaths could signify an event even worse.
Furthermore, the dead puppy when contrasted to Candy’s old dog could suggest there is a
theme of love, yet the love is still not as strong as the theme of death which seems to be the
cause of many people’s destruction.
However, one hopeful aspect of the way animals are significant in the novel is shown by
rabbits. For example, George and Lennie have a dream to ‘live off the fatta the lan’’ and
‘have rabbits’. This shows that the rabbits are a beacon of hope throughout the midst of the
dark depression. Therefore, this symbolises that even though such times of loneliness and
hardship, the rabbits represent prosperity and hope for people, and could be seen as a tool
to allow people to dream of a better life in a better tomorrow.
Lastly, the one other way animals are significant in the novel is that they are used constantly
to describe Lennie. For example at the end of Chapter six. ‘Lennie appeared out of the
brush, and he came as silently as a creeping bear moves’. This is very significant and slightly
ironic because he is very similar to a bear in this situation as, like a bear, he too is being
hunted. Therefore, the use of this simile shows that the bear represents that Lennie’s time is
soon to be over as he is being preyed upon. The writer could have used this to show how
Lennie is dangerous even if not intending to be and therefore, like dangerous animals being
hunted, the inevitable outcome must be that Lennie is killed for the safety of himself and
Overall, the animals are very significant part of the novel as they represent the different
themes in the novel whilst also representing specific characters. They also seem to carry an
aura of death around them because even though everything appears to be fine when they
are around love, companionship and trust flourishes around them, the end result all seems
to end up the same way. Similarly, the pessimistic themes relates to the 1930s depression as
‘depression’ is what seems to occur constantly throughout the novel. It is as if the writer is
trying to give the reader the overall message that nothing good came out of the ‘Great
Depression’ and ended badly for all involved.