Studyit

Feedback on Of Mice And Men essay please. What grade would I get for this?

Q4 2020
Describe an important setting from the text.
Explain how the setting helped you understand one or more key ideas.

Clearing from the start/end
Calm, peaceful, place of sanctuary at the start. Used by men and nature for shelter and water.
At the end of the book, it is a place of broken dreams and death. Heron eats the water snake. Lennie hears the dream for the last time before George has to put him down. As Lennie dies so does the dream.
Quotes -

Essay

The setting in a novel can be very significant in helping us to understand key ideas in the text. Nowhere is this more starkly obvious than in John Steinbeck’s 1937 novella, Of Mice And Men. While the story is set on a ranch near Soledad in California during the Great Depression, the novella opens and closes in the setting of the clearing by the river. This setting plays a key role in helping us understand the ideas of the human need for sanctuary and comfort, the tragedy of broken dreams and the circle of life and death.

In 1930’s society, the need for sanctuary and comfort were important to people. The Great Depression, and the associated devastating effects of the Dust Bowl, led to many people losing their homes and having to move to find work. As a result, there were many migrant workers, like George and Lennie, constantly on the move and lacking a place of security. At the beginning of the text, we see Lennie and George establish a safe place in the clearing - “on the evening of a hot day” they decide to “jungle up there” for the night. They decide to stay there instead of going to the ranch on the first night as they want to relax at their new place of sanctuary. Steinbeck describes the setting in peaceful and pleasant terms - it is quiet, apart from the “soft skittering” of a lizard in the leaves; there is cool, clean water to drink which Lennie snorts up “like a horse’. It is a place to refresh themselves after a long, dusty walk. Little rabbits sit “as quietly as grey, sculptured stones”. The sun is setting over the “golden slopes of the Gabilan mountains”. As night falls after they eat, “a dove’s wings whistle” over the water. It is in this relaxing space that Lennie asks George to tell him their dream again. It is like a soothing bedtime story for a child. Later, George also tells Lennie - “ I want you to look around here… remember this place…. If you just happen to get in trouble, I want you to come right here and hide in the brush.”

The clearing also features at the end of the book, when Lennie has had to run after accidentally killing Curley’s wife. Yet the description of the clearing now is subtly different. We know it is meant to be a place of safety but it is not as peaceful as before. A gust of wind “drove through the tree tops like a wave”. There is a water snake “ gliding smoothly up the pool” until it comes to the legs of a heron. The heron picks up the snake and eats it, foreshadowing Lennie’s death and how the clearing is no longer a place of safety. After Lennie has a vision of his Aunt Clara, he says “ I might jus’ as well go away . George ain’t gonna let me tend no rabbits now.” Even Lennie now fears that the dream is no longer achievable. When George enters the clearing, “ only the topmost ridges were in the sun” and “ the shadow of the valley was blue and soft.” This use of pathetic fallacy in the setting’s description, cues us as readers into a sadder, darker state of mind. George is not mad at Lennie, because he knows this is the end of the road for him. George wants to tell Lennie the dream one more time as if it is still possible, and afterwards shoots and kills Lennie. After Lennie is killed George is clearly sad as he needed Lennie to fulfil the dream. The “ darkening slopes of the Gabilan” represents Lennie and George’s dream as it begins to fade away - it encapsulates the tragedy that has befallen these men.

Because the clearing features at the start and finish of the book, it helps us understand the circle of life and death. The clearing at the start of the book is a place of life. “There is a path through the willows and along the sycamores, a path beaten hard by boys coming down from the ranches to swim in the deep pool. There are rabbits, lizards, a watersnake and a heron, and then George and Lennie enter as well. At the start, the clearing is bubbling with life, but at the end, the clearing seems eerie and unsafe. “the sycamore leaves turned up their silver sides”.
“As quickly as it had come, the wind died, and the clearing was quiet again.” Lennie grabs a drink and “ a little bird skitters over dry leaves behind him. “The shadow in the valley was blue and soft”. We have done a full circle and Lennie has found himself right where the journey started. George knows that this time there is no hiding and he must put Lennie down for his greater good.

This essay has demonstrated how Steinbeck’s masterful description of the clearing setting has played a key role in helping us understand important themes behind the text. Sadly, it is true, as Robbie Burns famously wrote, that “the best-laid plans of mice and men/ aft gang agley.”

Kiā ora and welcome to Studyit
Well done in intro setting up both parts of the question so very clearly.
Evidence you give is well chosen, to strengthen the essay you could think about integrating some comment on the wider picture.
Eg. They need a place of sanctuary, peace. In the time of the depression where there was no stability in life particularly as they were constantly moving around we see the need for all of us to have a place we can stop and gather our senses and thoughts before going back into the chaos. The stress of constantly being on the move would have a really negative impact on anyone and such a place would be regarded as incredibly special.
You have structured the response well with the two time settings and then bringing them together with the discussion of the circular nature of life.
M6 - To strengthen think of the wider implications.
Hope this helps
:grinning: