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Of Mice and Men Essay Questions

Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

This lesson includes essay questions from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men that will allow students to show a deeper understanding of the novel. The questions are organized by theme.

Background

John Steinbeck's classic novella Of Mice and Men, first published in 1937, is a story of George and Lennie, two migrant workers during the Great Depression. They go from place to place in California, looking for new jobs and opportunities, so they can achieve their dream of owning their own land.

Based on Steinbeck's own experiences as a hobo during the 1920s, Of Mice and Men tells a story of hopes and dreams, relationships, loneliness, and oppression, among other themes, all the while employing some important literary devices. Even though it is a novella, it is filled with topics worth exploring in essays, as seen below.

Literary Considerations

  • Pay close attention to the descriptive passages in each section, and the sense of drama they create. Discuss how these passages make Of Mice and Men feel like a stage play. Talk about why Steinbeck may have chosen to write the book in such a manner, and whether or not it strengthens or weakens the work.
  • Analyze Steinbeck's use of nature in Of Mice and Men. Discuss how his descriptions of nature help, or hinder, symbolism in the book.
  • Consider the title of the novella, Of Mice and Men. Knowing that it is derived from the poem To A Mouse by Robert Burns, discuss its meaning and usefulness in the book. Compare and contrast Steinbeck's and Burns' works, in the context of the book.
  • Discuss the use of foreshadowing in Of Mice and Men. Consider the events that are foreshadowed in the book, and explore how their foreshadowing affects the tone and feel of the book as a whole.

Relationships

  • Explore the way Of Mice and Men deals with relationships between men. Consider the societal influences that shape those relationships, and discuss how the book would have been different if it was written today?
  • Analyze the relationship between Curley and Curley's wife. Discuss her behavior, and whether or not it is justified, given her situation at the ranch. Consider the fact that she is the only major character in the book without a name, and how other characters deal with her.

Loneliness

  • Consider the reasons why George stays with Lennie, despite Lennie constantly causing him trouble. Discuss how George's life would have been better if he had left Lennie behind the first time he caused trouble.
  • Talk about how Curley's wife's behavior possibly stems from the fact that she is the only female on a ranch full of men. Explore how loneliness, in its many forms, may be responsible for her behavior and more importantly, the change in her character as the book progresses.
  • Discuss loneliness as a theme in Of Mice and Men. Consider how the setting, near a town called Soledad, which means solitude in Spanish, reinforces this theme. Also consider the life of a migrant worker during the Great Depression, and how that plays into the theme of loneliness in the book.
  • Explore Candy's motivation and reasons for wanting to throw his lot in with George and Lennie, strangers he has only just met. Also consider the reasons why George accepts Candy's offer, and whether or not these reasons and motivations are similar.

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