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of mice and men
Education Pack
To a Mouse by Robert Burns
Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous
That wee bit heap o' leaves an'
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
But house or hald,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
I'm truly sorry man's dominion,
An' cranreuch cauld!
Has broken nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
Which makes thee startle
In proving foresight may be vain;
At me, thy poor, earth-born
The best-laid schemes o' mice
an 'men
An' fellow-mortal!
Gang aft agley,
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Robert Burns,
the Scottish
Bard, is
world-wide for
his passionate
promotion of
poetry, human
rights and
social reform.
What then? poor beastie, thou maun
Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me
A daimen icker in a thrave
The present only toucheth thee:
'S a sma' request;
But, Och! I backward cast my e'e.
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
On prospects drear!
An' never miss't!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
I guess an' fear!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an'
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.
One of Burn's most celebrated poems was written
after he had disturbed a rodent's nest in the field
he was ploughing. Another farmer might have
looked with detachment or even irritation upon
the displaced pest. A different poet might have
produced unfeeling burlesque. Not the nature
loving Burns. Instead of comical vermin, he saw a
fellow creature with whose suffering he could
identify. He too knew what eviction meant. And
unlike the 'timorous beastie' in the newly turned
over furrow, he was conscious of past sorrow and
'prospects drear'. And of course, one poignant
text inspired another. John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice
and Men' took its title from the masterpiece
Robert Burns composed in November 1785.
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
Preface: "To A Mouse"
Introduction to the pack
The playwright, the play & its journey
- The playwright: John Steinbeck
- The characters
- A play summary
- Steinbeck's interpretation to the stage
- Novel to play to film
Teaching & Learning approaches for Drama/English
- Preparing GCSE Drama students for the play
- Improvisation and character interpretation
- Empathetic activity & homework
- Character role-plays
- Character creation/assignment guidance
- Differentiated cross-curricular extras/fillers/hws
- Set designing for the stage
The Novel - mainly for English Literature studies
- Introduction to the novel
- Themes
- Selected: "Loneliness & Friendship"
- Selected: "Christian, Classical & Natural Influences"
- Working with the Themes
- Motifs
- Symbols
- More questions & work ideas
- Conclusion
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
Welcome to our 2013 Education Pack, which has been designed once
again to support your visit to see the latest stage production from multi
award-winning FOURBLOKES Theatre Company.
Of Mice and Men
This time it's the iconic
, John Steinbeck's own
stage adaption of his famous novella.
The pack is flexible and both student and teacher friendly - with much
that will engage both drama and english teachers & students.
Responding once again to requests and suggestions from teachers who
have already discovered the many ways our packs can save time and
effort in developing appropriate teaching & learning resources, we've
continued to try fresh approaches to support and enhance your theatre
visit. Please continue to give us your feedback, as we do appreciate it
and it definitely shapes future FOURBLOKES projects.
We are now in our eighth year and are the proud winners of 6 NODA Best
Regional Play awards and 2 Derby Eagle awards, but it is our
commitment to providing local school, college and university students &
staff with best value, quality live theatre productions which still brings us
greatest satisfaction.
So thanks for your support, enjoy browsing through the pages of the
pack, and relish the benefits of having been part of the FOURBLOKES
Kind regards,
September 2013
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
The playwright, the play and its journey
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
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John Steinbeck
Playwright, Of Mice & Men
on February 27, 1902 in Salinas, California, the place
that would become the setting for some of his most
memorable writing. His early life was comfortable, and
as a boy he enjoyed exploring the mountains and valleys
around his home and seeing the workers and field hands
at work. In high school, Steinbeck did well in his classes
and edited the school yearbook. He worked at various
summer jobs, including as a ranch hand on local farms
— experience that would greatly influence the youngster
and become a theme in his novels and short stories.
AFTER HIGH SCHOOL, Steinbeck went to
Stanford University, and though he
remained there until 1925, he never
graduated. He did, however, continue to
write and work on farms. He immersed
himself in the agriculture of the time and
met many people who would be
represented in works such as Of Mice
and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. After
college, Steinbeck moved to New York
and spent five years working various
jobs, writing and drifting from city to
city. In 1929, he returned to California,
and published his first book, Cup of Gold,
just two months before the stock market
1935, with his novel Tortilla Flat, which
had been rejected five times before
being published in New York. He
received the Gold Medal of the
Commonwealth Club of San Francisco
as the writer of the year’s best novel
and earned almost $4,000 for the film
rights. Encouraged by this success,
Steinbeck continued to write and
produced a popular and critical success
in 1937 with Of Mice and Men.
Following the book’s production, he
created a play version which won the
New York Drama Critic Circle’s Award
and later led to 3 film versions.
WHEN OF MICE AND MEN was opening on Broadway, Steinbeck was already nearly
finishing his next masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath. In his research, he began
traveling around the country to observe first-hand the hardships of the people's
lives. Moved by the violence and injustice many Americans were facing at this time,
Steinbeck created his novel which quickly became a best seller, selling over half a
million copies. After WW2 things were progressing reasonably well for Steinbeck. In
1945, he wrote Cannery Row and in 1947, The Pearl, which was also filmed.
IN 1961, Steinbeck was invited to the inauguration of President Kennedy,
an event which would lead to a lasting friendship with the White House.
The next year, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his body of work
which shows “an unbiased instinct for what is genuinely American, be it
good or bad.” Steinbeck died in his apartment in New York in 1968. His
wife took him home to his beloved Salinas to be buried in a place
reminiscent of the many valleys and rivers that graced the pages of his
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
The characters
Lennie Small
Lennie is a large, strong, mentally challenged, migrant worker
who is travelling from farm to farm with his friend and
protector, George. Lennie is kind-hearted and loves small, soft
things, but must rely on George to keep him from
unintentionally causing harm to himself or others.
e st
R on
I an J
George Milton
George might appear hard and dour, but he deeply cares for
Lennie, as is evident in his constant protection and
companionship of the big man. George takes responsibility for
Lennie, even including his friend in his own dreams for a better
Candy is an ageing farmhand who no longer has the strength
to truly carry his weight on the ranch, but is being allowed to
stay because of a work accident that caused him to lose his
The Boss
The Boss is the Ranch Superintendent and Curley's father. He
is an authoritative presence, hard and apparently fair-minded
but there's more than a hint that he enjoys the power of his
intiminating manner.
Curley thinks himself second in command to his father, the
Boss, and often struggles to prove his status among the other
men. Curley is small in stature, and relies on boxing skills and
big talk to secure his position of power.
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
The characters (cont.)
Curley's Wife
Curley's wife married Curley with hopes of a better life, but now
finds herself the only woman on a ranch full of surly men.
She often struts and prances among the workers, causing
Curley immense jealousy in her pursuit of attention.
a Richte
Ch e
Slim is the quiet leader of the ranch, respected by the other men
even more than Curley or The Boss. Slim is just and
compassionate, and he alone seems to understand George and
Lennie’s unique situation.
Be n
Carlson is an impassive, insensitive, 'seen-it-all' ranch hand.
He owns a hand gun. He is clearly unafraid of anyone, including
Curley, but respects Slim’s authority.
To m
Crooks,the stable buck, lives alone in a small room adjacent
to the barn and he tends to the farm equipment. He is isolated
from the others, who are inclined to look down on him, because
he is black - sadly typical of the racism of the era.
Whit is a young, likeable farmhand who tries to keep the peace
in the bunkhouse and who enjoys reading and spending his
paycheck on the girls in town.
The characters in Of Mice and Men are interesting because they all represent a
certain “type” of person in society. In using these character types and giving
them short, descriptive names, Steinbeck shows us people that could be
anywhere, at any time. By giving us character types instead of going into any
great depth of description about the minor characters, Steinbeck can create a
universal message, one that is not specific only to this place or time.
! Think about each of the minor characters in this play. What do their names
say about them? What universal personality type might each represent? How
do these different types of people come to influence George and Lennie?
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
A play summary
JOHN STEINBECK’S heart-wrenching classic, Of Mice and Men, gives us a look into
the brutal struggle for 'the American dream' in the early 20th century. George, a
small, quick-witted man and Lennie, his large friend, are on their way to a job at a
new ranch after fleeing an unfortunate situation at their previous place of
employment. It becomes obvious through their discussion that George not only
travels with Lennie but looks after him too, and it's also soon apparent that Lennie is
mentally challenged. George finds that Lennie has been stroking a dead mouse in
his pocket and demands that he get rid of the rodent for it might be carrying
disease. Lennie, who loves small, soft things, does not wish to lose his treasure, but
George insists.
THE TWO OF THEM EAT and camp for the night by the river, which will also serve as
a secret meeting site if anything should happen causing them to flee as has often
been the case in the past. As they lay under the stars, George tells Lennie the
familiar story of their dream of having a farm of their own where they will work
together and Lennie will raise rabbits.
THE NEXT MORNING, George and Lennie reach the ranch where they will begin
work. In order to secure their jobs, George has instructed Lennie not to speak, so
when the two meet the Boss, George does all the talking for his friend. The Boss,
slightly suspicious of the new recruits, wonders why George will not allow Lennie to
speak for himself. George gives the explanation that Lennie is his cousin who was
kicked in the head by a mule when he was young. As George points out Lennie’s
harmless nature and clear physical abilities, the Boss accepts the story and assigns
the two to begin work after dinner with Slim’s team.
AFTER THE BOSS LEAVES, George and Lennie chat to Candy, an old farm hand who
has lost his hand in an accident, and also meet Curley, the Boss’s son, who is small
and aggressive, and with a permanent chip on his shoulder. George immediately
recognizes that Curley could be trouble, and instructs Lennie to keep away from
him. Once George and Lennie are alone in the bunkhouse, Curley’s wife appears,
flirting with the new men. Lennie thinks she looks “purty” but remembering their
past troubles, George demands that Lennie put her out of his mind. Soon the
workers return from the field for lunch and we are introduced to Slim and Carlson.
Slim questions George and Lennie about their relationship and seems to approve.
Carlson enters, asking Slim about the new pups his dog had that morning. This
blunt, plain speaking man suggests that Slim give a puppy to Candy so they can
shoot Candy’s ancient, "good-for-nothing" dog. At the mention of puppies, Lennie
looks at George excitedly, and his friend agrees to ask Slim if Lennie can have a
puppy as well.
THAT EVENING after dinner, George and Slim find themselves alone in the
bunkhouse while the other men play horseshoes. After Slim compliments Lennie on
his work that day, George feels comfortable enough to confide in Slim that he and
Lennie are not truly cousins and about their unfortunate past. After their game is
over, the rest of the men, including Lennie and his new puppy, come in to the bunk.
George sends Lennie to the barn with the pup as Carlson begins to badger Candy
about his decrepit old dog. Whit tries to come to Candy’s defence as Carlson insists
the dog should be killed. After plenty of discussion, Slim agrees the dog should be
put out of its misery and offers Candy one of his new pups.
AS CARLSON LEAVES with his gun and the dog, Slim also goes outside to the barn
to do some work. Curley enters, frantically searching for his wife and after the
others insist they haven’t seen her, he heads to the barn to confront Slim. Coming
back inside, Lennie again wants to hear the story of their dream farm, and as
George begins to tell him the two suddenly realize that Candy is still in the room. As
Candy questions the two about their farm, we realize that George knows of a piece
of land that he could buy. Candy offers his savings as a quicker means of purchase,
as long as the two will allow him to come along. He doesn’t want to end up like his
poor dog, disposed of when his usefulness comes to an end.
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
A play summary (cont.)
AFTER BEING BERATED by Slim for his accusations concerning his wife, Curley returns
to the bunkhouse looking for an easy target on which to vent his frustrations.
Inevitably Curley picks on Lennie, who resists until he gets George’s approval to fight
back. Lennie crushes the man’s hand, and Slim warns Curley that if he tries to get
George and Lennie fired, he will be the laughing stock of the town.
THE NEXT EVENING, most of the men have gone into town to the local brothel. Lennie
is left alone and so decides to first play with his puppy, then, in Crooks' room, he talks
to Crooks and Candy about the dream. Curley’s wife enters and begins toying with the
men. She questions them about what happened to her Curley’s hand, and noticing the
cuts on Lennie’s face, becomes suspicious. In the barn, the next day, Lennie strokes
the puppy he has accidentally killed. Curley’s wife enters and tries to console Lennie
even letting him feel her soft hair. When Lennie becomes too excited, she screams
and Lennie, trying to muffle her screams, kills her. Realizing what he has done, he
runs away to the river to wait for George to rescue him.
BACK AT THE RANCH, the woman’s body has been discovered and the men are
forming a lynching party. As the men search for Lennie, George knows where to find
his friend. Slim understands what George may be planning and makes it easy for him
to go to the meeting place. Much to his surprise, Lennie discovers that George is not
angry with him. George calms Lennie by talking about the farm and rabbits they will
raise together.
As George hears the sounds of the lynch party grow louder in the distance, he is faced
with a painful decision about how to save his friend...
George and Lennie
Curley; society; the cruel, predatory nature of human life
The climax occurs when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife.
Of Mice and Men ends tragically. George feels compelled to save Lennie, his
friend and companion, from a brutal death. The end for Lennie also marks
the death for their beautiful dream.
Sentimental, tragic, doomed, fatalistic, rustic, moralistic, comic
The dominant mood of the story is that of expectation. This is developed
through the dreams of the major characters. Another prevailing mood is the
foreshadowing of impending doom. Other moods are evoked through the
actions of the characters reflecting sorrow, pity, and brutality. The tale ends
tragically with a mood of depression and frustration.
The corrupting power of female sexuality; strength and weakness; loneliness
and companionship
The predatory nature of human existence; the importance of fraternity and
idealized relationships between men; the impossibility of the American
Dream; the destructive imbalance of social power structures in American
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
Steinbeck’s interpretation to the stage
Of Mice and Men was Steinbeck's first attempt at writing in the form of a
novel-play, termed a "play-novelette". Structured in three acts of two
chapters each, it is intended to be both a novella and a script for a play. He
wanted to write a novel that could be played from its lines, or a play that
could be read like a novel.
This later made his adaptation from the novella to a play possible, given the
shared structure across the mediums. The main action of the story is also
driven by dialogue, which helps maintain its message and artistic integrity in
its translation to the stage by the author.
Steinbeck originally titled his novella "Something That Happened"
(referring to the action of the book as 'something that happened', because
no single character can be truly blamed for the tragedy that unfolds in the
story), and it started out as a children's story.
However, he changed the title after reading Robert Burns’ poem, “To a
Mouse”. Burns’ poem tells of the regret the narrator feels for having
destroyed the home of a mouse while plowing his field. (The poem is shown
at the beginning of this pack.)
Below are some of Steinbeck’s personal thoughts on the story and characters
in Of Mice and Men:
" I was a bindlestiff (a tramp/hobo that carries their possessions in
a bindle or bedroll) myself for quite a spell. I worked in the same
country that the story is laid in. The characters are composites to a
certain extent. Lennie was a real person. He's in an insane asylum in
California right now. I worked alongside him for many weeks. He
didn't kill a girl. He killed a ranch foreman. Got sore because the
boss had fired his pal and stuck a pitchfork right through his
stomach. I hate to tell you how many times I saw him do it. We
couldn't stop him until it was too late.”
(Taken from an interview with the New York Times in 1937)
"In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base
theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other
you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never
leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are
shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting
social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in
celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to
understand each other." (Steinbeck’s journal entry, 1938)
Q. What's a 'bindlestiff'?
A. A hobo, especially one
who carries a bedroll.
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
Steinbeck's interpretation to the stage (cont.)
Steinbeck was really conducting a literary experiment. Unlike the adaption of many
novels to the stage, he wrote his own theatrical version of Of Mice and Men. He
hoped to create a new literary form, one that has since come to be called the
“play-novelette.” He had this idea through his view of the novel, saying, "Now if it
is true, and I believe it is, that the preoccupation of the modern novelist lies
in these themes which are most poignantly understood by a group, that
novelist limits the possibility of being understood by making it impossible
for groups to be exposed to his work. In the reading of a novel there are
involved only the author, the novel, and the reader; but in the seeing of a
play there are the author, the play, the players, and the whole audience, and
each one of these contributes a vital part to the whole effect."
His idea was to combine these forms and create a new one that would serve both
original formats while bringing something to each. In his mind, “To read an
objective novel is to see a little play in your head. All right, why not make it
so you can see it on a stage?” It was not that all novels should be written this
way. This new format was intended to allow people to “see the novel” when they
might not be able to afford a book or have the skills to read it. Steinbeck thought this
would enhance both because, "the novel form would integrate tone and play in
one entity, would allow the reader, whether actor, director or lay reader, a
sense of the whole much more complete than he can get from the present
play form… But the novel itself would be interfered with by such a method in
only one way, and that is that it would be short. Actually the discipline, the
necessity of sticking to the theme… the brevity and necessity of holding an
audience could influence the novel only for the better."
He also believed, "A play written in the physical technique of the novel would
have a number of advantages. Being more persuasive than the play form, it
would go a great way toward making the play easy to read for people who
cannot and will not learn to absorb the play symbols… In the second place
the novel’s ability to describe scene and people in detail would not only
make for a better visual picture to the reader, but would be of value to
director, stage designer, and actor, for these latter would know more about
the set and characters."
Interestingly, Steinbeck considered his “experiment” (though not the novel) a failure.
The play was produced in 1937 in San Francisco directly from the book but he said,
"it wouldn’t play; and it wouldn’t play because I had not sufficient
experience and knowledge in stagecraft.” That problem was solved by director/
writer George S. Kaufman who directed the play’s Broadway debut later that year
and who Steinbeck allowed to alter the format to make it stageworthy. The Broadway
version played 207 performances and won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
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Education Pack
Novel to play to film
Steinbeck worked on the story through to May 1936, when his new puppy Toby took
a shine to the manuscript and, as he later told his publisher, “made confetti” of about
half of it. He estimated that it would be two months’ work to redo it. During that time
he and his first wife Carol moved to a new house fifty miles north of Monterey,
California, where Steinbeck was very happy and worked well in his new study.
It was not plain sailing however and Steinbeck spoke of problems to be resolved and
searching to “find the beauty to put into it”. Steinbeck worried that his telling of
George and Lennie's story might be too simple.
Nevertheless he finished the book in the second week of August 1936 and sent it off
to his publisher. Their reaction was mixed and, while Steinbeck could not detect any
great enthusiasm, Of Mice and Men was eventually published in the winter of 1937
and given a considerable boost when, in January 1938, it was chosen as a main
selection by the Book of the Month Club; it was soon selling 100,000 copies a month.
Critical reviews tended to be respectful and sometimes complimentary, but Time
Magazine called it a “fairy tale” and negative responses were not uncommon.
However, the New York Times called it “completely disarming” and another critic
nominated it as “the finest bit of prose fiction of this decade”.
Steinbeck had always considered Of Mice and Men a “playable novel”, and it was not
long before Broadway playwright and director, George S Kaufmann, asked Steinbeck
to create a working play from his story. He had suggestions too, worth quoting in full,
as Steinbeck took his advice: “It is only the second act that seems to me to
need fresh invention. You have the two natural scenes for it - bunkhouse
and the negro’s room, but I think the girl should come into both these
scenes, and that the fight between Lennie and Curley must be over the girl. I
think the girl should have a scene with Lennie before the scene in which he
kills her. The girl, I think, should be drawn more fully: she is the motivating
force of the whole thing and should loom larger.”
Steinbeck trusted Kaufmann and, after handing him the script, did not wish to be
involved in rehearsals. Kaufmann was surprised and a little hurt, as he was by
Steinbeck’s refusal to attend the opening night or to see the New York production at
all. Steinbeck was never comfortable with his own celebrity, but sent Kaufmann a
friendly congratulatory letter, saying: “ have done a great job. I knew you
would. It seems that for two hours you made your play far more real than its
audience and only the play existed.”
Of Mice and Men opened on Broadway on 23 November 1937. The New York Times
said: “Of Mice and Men is the quintessence of commercial theatre and it is
also a masterpiece.” It ran for 207 performances.
When the play was staged in London in April 1939, John Mills played George and
what might have been a potentially difficult transition of a wholly American world to
the British stage was a great success. One review of the time said: “The
production, with its superb timing and pregnant silences (helped by a fine
economy of dialogue), lifts the whole significance of the drama far beyond
the narrow confines of its setting.”
Of Mice and Men was also filmed for the first time in 1939, directed by Lewis
Milestone. Despite being endlessly parodied in Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons
("Which way did he, go George? Which way did he go?") Of Mice and Men retains its
raw dramatic power. On its initial release, however, it proved a bit too powerful for
many filmgoers, and it lost money. Acclaimed American composer Aaron Copland
wrote the musical score. The 1981 TV remake, starring Robert Blake and Randy
Quaid, was a virtual scene-for-scene remake of the 1939 version. The 1993 theatrical
remake, starring Gary Sinise (who also directed) and John Malkovich, is perhaps
closer to the source than its predecessors, but only time will tell if it attains the
classic status of the Lewis Milestone version.
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
Teaching & Learning
approaches for Drama/English
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
Preparing GCSE Drama students for the play
AQA GCSE DRAMA 3.1.3 Section C: Study of a live theatre production seen
"Candidates are expected to have studied, as part of their course, a
production of live professional or non-professional theatre. It is helpful for
candidates to follow theatre visits with practical workshop study. In the
Written Paper candidates will be given an opportunity to show their
knowledge and understanding of how plays are constructed and realised.
There will be opportunities for those with particular interests in performance,
design or technical aspects of production to answer on those elements.
Productions must be of scripted plays. Candidates must have studied the
play from a practical point of view and should be able to show their
knowledge and understanding of the way in which the text was realised in the
Candidates are required to produce a personal response to various aspects
of ‘live’ theatre productions seen during the course. Candidates must study
the play before and after the theatre visit with practical workshops, whether
their main interest is performance or design or technical skills.
Candidates should be able to demonstrate their understanding of
performance or design or technical skills as well as their knowledge and
understanding of the chosen live production from a performance perspective
(AO1), and they should be able to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of
their ideas and skills and those of others (AO3).
Candidates should be able to demonstrate:
• a clear understanding of how plays are constructed and realised
• informed knowledge and understanding of the acting performances and
the skills involved
• informed knowledge and understanding of the technical and design
elements and the skills involved
• informed knowledge and understanding of the social, historical and
cultural context of the live theatre production
• the ability to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of the skills
the ability to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of the production
as a whole.
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of mice and men
Education Pack
Improvisation and character interpretation
Lesson Outline:
• Having read the play/novel as a whole group, break into groups of 4. Each
student should choose a different character.
• Write 4 lists of quotes for chosen character:
1) Facts relating to their character
2) What the character says about him/herself
3) What the character says about others
4) What other characters say about his/her character
• In the groups of 4 use these lists as a trigger for discussion about each
character. (Thus ensuring interpretation is rooted in text - plus evidence.)
• Sharing with whole group. (Mechanics of this left to teacher preference.)
• Hot-seat selected individual students.
• Ensemble review – teasing out more background information, re character
Lesson Outline:
• Recap last lesson then: Define/review status
• Divide into groups of 10. Each individual given a number at random from a
scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest rank.
• Then groups, in turn, are tasked to improvise scenes ouside the context of the
• Those watching then tried to work out which actors had been given which
• Review discussion to explore how clearly and specifically status was effectively
• Next, the exercise is developed with each person having two numbers: their
external status that they present to the world, and their internal status – how
they actually see themselves.
(Working in this way enables the teaching group to share a shorthand when
talking about character and story.)
• In groups of 5, select a still image from any point in the story – and thought
track characters.
Lesson Outline:
Write the words “Angel” and “Devil” on the board. Ask students if George had an
“angel” voice in his head giving him advice about what to do with Lennie, what
would it say?
• Who in George’s world represents each of these angel voices? What if George had
a “devil” voice in his head giving him advice about Lennie, what would the devil
voice say? Who in George’s world represents each of these devil voices?
• Transition: "Now that we have a better idea of the pressures George is
experiencing, we're going to bring these people to life and hear what they have to
say to George."
• Pair students and invite them to sit back to back. George has a phone call with
someone in his life (who can either represent the angel or devil viewpoint). One
student plays George the other student plays someone in his life (this can be a
character in the book, or another character the student invents. ie: George’s
doctor, his mother, etc…). All students have their phone calls at the same time.
Pause all the calls at certain points to listen in on one pair of students.
• Reflection: What did you learn about George by becoming him?
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Empathetic activity/homework
(Could also be used as a Drama focused activity for KS4 English)
How would each character reply?
Pick two situations from the list below. Prepare an empathetic response to the
question or scenario. Write down what you think the character would say.
1. Curley
Are you happily married? Is your life what you wanted and expected? Are you good
to your wife?
2. Curley
What did you think of Lennie the first time you saw him? Why did you later pick a
fight with him?
3. Curley’s Wife
Are you happily married? Is life on the ranch what you expected and wanted? Is
Curley good to you?
4. Curley’s Wife
What made you go into the barn that afternoon when Lennie was in there alone? Why
are you drawn toward Lennie?
5. Candy
How did you feel the night your dog was shot? What do you regret most about how it
was done?
6. George
Why do you travel with Lennie? Wouldn’t it be much simpler to be alone?
7. George
Why did you kill your best friend? Can you justify what you did?
8. Curley
How did you feel as you set out to find Lennie? Was your strongest feeling sadness at
the loss of your wife, or a desire for personal revenge? What did you want to do to
9. Slim
Do you know how Lennie really died? How do you feel about George? Did he do ‘the
right thing’?
10. Slim
Of all the people you’ve met in the last month who do you feel the most sorry for?
Curley’s wife? George? Lennie?
Mik Horvath as Slim
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Character role-plays
Role-play can be a good way of getting inside the characters in a novel, finding out more about their
lives and motivations and delving into the text for evidence about them and about the way they
speak and act.
Here are some different possible role-plays to try out, to help start the analysis of some of the
characters in Of Mice and Men.
The characters in the world of the novel
1. Choose from this list. Imagine that:
a. George talks to Lennie’s aunt about Lennie, just before her death.
b. George asks Lennie what happened in Weed and decides that they should go on the run.
c. Curley talks to a friend about the two new men who have arrived on the ranch.
d. Carlson and Candy talk, after the final events of the novel, about their thoughts on George
and Lennie and what happened.
e. Slim ends up marrying. He tells his wife about George and Lennie and what he thinks about
them and what happened.
f. Looking back at the events and the history of the period in which they happened, George
tells his grandchildren about this time in his life.
2. When role-plays have been practised, students can take it in turns to perform them, either to the
whole class or in small groups, using the instructions below:
• Before the performances of the role-plays, share out the characters to track carefully. Each
time you watch a role-play with the character you are concentrating on, fill in an observation
sheet to explore how well the ‘actor’ has got inside the character.
• Feed back to that person individually, or listen to some of the feedback as a whole group,
focusing your comments on the aspects that people did especially well and on the insights
that were gained.
Role-Play Observation Sheet:
Shade area to
show how far
the person
achieved this
Comment and
in role
Sounded like the
character sounds
in the dialogue in
the novel
Drew on aspects of
the novel : events,
episodes etc
Gave some new
insight into character
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Character creation/assignment guidance
Student instructions:
"Look at each element of character separately.
Personality = The way your particular character behaves that makes him or her
unique. Is she optimistic or gloomy? Does he have a tendency to exaggerate? Is she
polite, weak-willed, dominant, gullible, trustworthy, forgetful or easily upset?
Past = What has happened to your character in the recent and distant past? How do
these past experiences effect her attitude towards other people, places and objects?
Have these experiences effected her personality in any way? Is she snobbish
because she was brought up that way or has she just been influenced by people she
has met or seen in later life?
Motivation = Why does your character do what she does in the scene? Why does
she say what she says? Motivations are just the reasons for saying or doing things.
These elements of character can be revealed to the audience in three main ways:
a) What she says to others and the way in which she says it.
b) What others say about her.
c) What she does (including her use of gestures and movements).
Remember that your character will not simply spring into life the moment that s/he
says her first words. Part of your task might be to suggest a past existence for her/
him. You don't have to invent every detail about her/his life since birth but there
should be some awareness of past deeds, influences and upbringing."
Helpful background:
Steinbeck's approach to character "My earliest memories", The 22-year-old Steinbeck wrote to a college friend in
1924, "are of my mother's telling me how men could become bright shining
creatures with great white wings and all through the chanting of simple
While the mature Steinbeck focused his writing firmly in the world of social realism,
residual strains of that early romanticism coupled with an almost religious fervour
remain. So that by the time he came to write Of Mice & Men he had discovered a
voice for his unflinching faith in human potential and a voice for his extraordinary
compassion for the human condition.
His portrayal of his characters, both heroes and villains suggest that they are all
common victims of the harshness of both the natural world and of the times and
circumstances in which they lived.
"It ain't bad people that raises hell. It's dumb ones." says George.
• Decide which you think is each character's greatest
• Do the other characters in the story recognise the same
strengths and weaknesses? Find reasons in the text or
dialogue to support your opinions and decisions.
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Differentiated cross curricular extras/fillers/hws
(Use as appropriate.)
Cast a new film version of the play:
Assume that another feature film version of the story is being made and that
you have been given the job of finding a cast for it.
What well known actors would you choose to play the roles of the major
characters?To justify your casting choices, you should refer to other similar
roles handled by each of the actors.
Create a Web site to introduce Of Mice and Men to other readers. Design pages
to intrigue and inform your audience, and invite other readers to post their
thoughts and responses to their reading of the novella.
Discussion suggestions re. Of Mice and Men's relevance today:
• The original novella dates from 1937 - does it still have anything to say
to us today? Who are the “loneliest guys in the world” in our world of
2013? Are we more or less able to realize our dreams than the
characters in this story?
• Discuss the idea that it is a vision of life at the bottom of a society
preoccupied with rising to the top - a tragedy whose fatal flaw is not
found in an individual but in a culture too unforgiving to care for its
• What is society’s responsibility today to help others reach their
PSHE/English - discursive writing or whole group discussion:
Using the evidence in the novella, describe the lifestyle and possessions of the
ranch-hands. Compare what they lack to what you have.
Media Studies/English - adapting:
Take an episode from the novella and adapt it as a narrative of a different kind such as a script or storyboard for a dramatic treatment, on stage, screen or
Drama/English - Trial Scene:
What might have happened to Lennie if he had been arrested at the end of the
play? Would he have been put on trial? For what crime? What role does his
mental disability play in the death of Curley’s wife? Should this be accounted
for in his punishment? What should his punishment be? Keep in mind this play
was set in the late 1930’s. Were the laws regarding murder different at this
time? How so? What should happen to George at the end of the play? Should
he be put on trial, be held accountable for Lennie’s death? Who is more guilty
of murder – Lennie or George? Why?
• With students selected as various members of the Court, put both George
and Lennie on trial.
• Twelve students will act as jury members, two students will be Prosecutors
(one for George, one for Lennie) and two students will be Defence (again, one
for George, one for Lennie). The other students will take on the other roles in
the play and be called as witnesses in the trial.
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Set designing for the stage
Setting & Mood
This play is always a challenge to set designers! Why, do you think this is? Talk
about the issues.
What were your first impressions of the set?
What did the set design, stage dressing and props contribute to the overall
effect of the play?
How did the director utilize the set to make it multi-functional?
Identify when and how sound, music and lighting effects were used effectively
during the performance. (In other words, what specific moods, atmosphere or
effects did the use of sound, music and lighting help to create at various times
in the performance?)
Stage Design Task
• Working on the descriptions given in either the play or
the novel, try to design the sets for the different
locations in the story.
• Is it possible to do without a set altogether?
• What are the essential pieces required in order to tell
the story?
• How can you incorporate all the sets required into one
production, considering the practicalities of scene
Depicted above is an early set conception during the FOURBLOKES
production planning process. This also needed to address the many
limitations of The Derby Guildhall theatre stage. What might they be?
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The novel
- mainly for English Literature studies
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Introduction to the novel
Written in 1936, in the height of the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men is a
novel that portrays the way in which, despite being systematically crushed as a
consequence of depressed circumstances, human spirit still survives. The novel
contains both optimistic and pessimistic features, and Steinbeck illustrates how
people, with the help of companionships and dreams, can prevail in the face of
all forms of adversity, be it unemployment, isolation, or even death.
The plot of the story is derived from an ideal – the American Dream. This is the
dream of a land with limitless opportunities which are the same for everyone,
regardless of class or wealth, stemmed from the 1776 Declaration of
Independence, whereby “all men are created equal” and endowed with
“unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness.” This sense of community and united society began to diminish from
the early 20th Century, as a lack of equality and opportunity cut a hole through
the major principles of the Dream. American society had become polarised, and
the old ideals had degenerated into something unattainable.
Of Mice and Men is set in this time, where the American Dream had ceased to
exist for a nation, but was found within individuals like Lennie and George, who
kept the belief that they were 'gonna have a little house' and 'live off the fatta
the lan'. Their goal is to own their own piece of land and be able to support
themselves without outside intervention. The novel is full of itinerant workers
all doing seasonal work on very low wages, and this fact that work is temporary
and hard to come by is a sign that the American Dream has lost direction. The
whole novel demonstrates how dreams of characters like George and Lennie are
just flimsy, whimsical fantasies that will never be attainable – they are doomed
to fail.
Being nomadic workers with no real job security, the characters are part of a
harsh America
portrayed by
during the
Depression –
they are lonely
workers with
failed dreams and
relationships. This
reality is
acknowledged by the
'Guys like us are the
loneliest guys in
the world'. This
isolation is one of
the most pessimistic
aspects of the novel – the underpaid workers are secluded on a remote ranch in
Middle-America, living the monotonous and dreary life of short-term
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Themes in novels are never one word, they are an idea. Below are some
themes evident in the novel:
the fragility of people's dreams
friendship and loneliness
the predatory nature of human existence
the impossibility of the American Dream
The fragility of people's dreams
• This particular theme is even hinted at in the title. Burns shows how the
plans of men are no more secure than those of the mouse, and this is the
point of Steinbeck's title.
• The trigger of the characters' dreams is their discontent with their
• Steinbeck shows how poor their lifestyle is. They have few possessions,
fewer comforts, no chance of marriage or family life and no place of their
• George's and Lennie's dream is at first a whim, but becomes clearer. The
unexpected opportunity offered by Candy's money means it is no longer a
fantasy, but the threat to the fulfilment of this dream, ever-present in
Lennie's behaviour finally destroys it, just as it has become possible.
• Candy and Crooks both try to share in this dream. Candy is desperate
and, so, ready to trust his fortune to a near stranger.
• Crooks is most cynical about the dream of owning land: “Nobody never
gets to heaven and nobody never gets no land”, even though every ranchhand, he says, has “land in his head”. Yet even he, recalling happy times in
his childhood, hopes, briefly, for a share in George's and Lennie's dream.
• Curley's wife indulges a different fantasy, far less likely of fulfilment. As
many young women do, she aspires to stardom in films. She knows she is
pretty, and, believing too readily the man who says she is “a natural”,
thinks her talent is merely waiting for an opportunity and that her mother
has stolen the letter which represents her chance for fame. Steinbeck
describes precisely “the small grand gesture” (an oxymoron or
'contradiction in terms') with which she demonstrates to Lennie her
supposed talent.
• The end of the novella seems to confirm Crooks's pessimistic view. None
of the characters does achieve his or her dream. But this seems more to do
with a lack of opportunity and the way society is organized, than to
anything else.
Jeff Foster, as Lennie
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Selected theme: "Loneliness & Friendship"
To the people on the ranch, even the broad-minded Slim, George's and
Lennie's partnership is very unusual. It is clear that most of them are lonely.
Some, like Whit, feel the loneliness and remember wished-for friends
with affection. Others learn to be self-sufficient emotionally, or just plain
Crooks insists on his right to be alone even though he dislikes it, while
Carlson seems incapable of actually sympathizing with anyone else's
Curley can only communicate through aggression. He marries to impress
the men with his sexual prowess and to boast to his wife about how he
will give “the ol' one-two” to his opponents.
Slim enjoys respect and a friendly manner, if not actual friendship, from
the others on the ranch. He is welcoming and sympathetic to George and
Lennie, and forces Carlson to consider Candy's feelings: he allows the
dog to be shot, but Carlson must bury it; Candy should not have to do
Candy is desperate for companionship, and readily discusses the
proposed ranch with Lennie (“I been figurin' how we can make on them
rabbits”) without any sense that Lennie is too simple to follow his
Crooks astutely notes that Lennie cannot remember what he is saying,
but points out that most people in conversation do this, that being with
another is what counts; and so he talks freely to Lennie, who has the
same effect on Curley's wife.
She cannot speak to her husband but pours out her troubles to Lennie.
It is ironic that the retarded man should be taken into the confidence of
these supposedly normal characters.
The detailed references to the two brothels in Soledad remind us both of
the lack of opportunity for the ranch-hands to have a lasting sexual
relationship, and the absence of opportunities for women to work in
respectable jobs.
It is unfortunate that the rare relationship of friends should be ended by
one of them; in killing Lennie, George
knows (and tells Candy) he is
condemning himself to the life of
working for a month, then blowing his
pay in the pool-room and “lousy cathouse”.
Adam Guest, as
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Selected Theme: "Christian, Classical & Natural Influences"
Many have compared Of Mice and Men to influences from John Milton's Paradise
Lost and the Bible. Many of the events of Steinbeck's novel parallel Bible stories.
Of particular relevance to Of Mice and Men is the question posed in the bible story
of Cain and Abel: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' Also relevant is the story of Adam
and Eve and their being cast out of Eden. Although a bible story, this story is also
the basis of John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, which describes Satan's fall
from heaven and the creation of hell, as well as Adam and Eve's fall from grace.
Steinbeck was also influenced by Arthurian legends, and the fellowship embodied
in these tales is also relevant to Of Mice and Men. The loyalty and companionship,
the love and trust shown between George and Lennie, are similar to the
comradeship of the knights of the Arthurian tales. The knight's pledge to help
those who are less fortunate and to defend the poor and powerless is also a motif
apparent in Of Mice and Men. Additionally, the idea that nothing endures forever
— especially perfection — reflects an Arthurian influence.
Steinbeck uses nature to reflect the mood of the scenes and provide locations that
reinforce themes. Steinbeck was a lover of nature, particularly the California
countryside, and he uses it as both a place of sanctuary and also a reflection of
Loss of Paradise
There are parallels too with Adam and Eve. Of particular interest are the nature of
imperfect humans, the presence of temptation, and the consequences of doing a
"bad thing."
Adam and Eve's fall from grace is a tale of how even our "best laid plans" go
astray because of man's imperfection. Though created in God's image, man's
reaction to temptation causes him to lose his way. Just as man is imperfect, so
Lennie represents the flawed human appetite that makes 'paradise' impossible.
His desire to touch soft things and his inability to foresee the results of his actions
put him on a collision course with other people. While he sometimes realizes he
has "done a bad thing," he often loses his way because of temptation. The girl in
Weed and Curley's wife are both temptations.
Curley's wife also has a part to play, as the serpent in the garden. She is
temptation — a manipulator of men in order to get her way. She could also be
compared to Eve. In the Garden of Eden, Eve is curious about the forbidden tree.
She tempts Adam and manipulates him in order to get her way. Like Eve, Curley's
wife is curious about Lennie. From the moment she realizes he is the "machine"
that hurt her husband, she is attracted to his strength. When they talk in the
barn, she invites him to touch her soft hair, not realizing the consequences. Her
actions are innocent, but the consequences are huge. Just as Eve caused mankind
to be sent out of the perfect place, Curley's wife's actions tempt Lennie, whose
subsequent actions cause him and the others to lose their dream of a little farm.
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Selected Theme: "Christian, Classical & Natural Influences" (cont.)
Also, because Adam and Eve were thrown out of Eden for disobeying God,
mankind is forced to live a pattern of loneliness and wandering, having thrown
away existence in Eden. Steinbeck reinforces this idea when George asks
about the worker who used to inhabit his bunk and is told by Candy that he
just left, saying, "'gimme my time' one night like any guy would." George
takes his spot, bringing Lennie along, an action causing suspicion in the minds
of others on the ranch. Guys don't travel together. Even Slim comments on
their unusual companionship. In the end, with Lennie's death, George is once
again sentenced to wander alone and to reflect on the loss of Lennie in his life.
My Brother's Keeper
In the story of Cain and his brother Abel, Cain, an imperfect human and son of
Adam and Eve, slew his brother out of jealousy. When God asked Cain where
his brother was, Cain replied, "Am I my brother's keeper?" God knew Cain
murdered his brother and sentenced Cain to walk the earth as a wanderer.
When the loneliness was too much for Cain to bear, he begged God to kill him
and put an end to it, but God forbade anyone to kill Cain because he must be
punished for breaking God's law.
This story has many parallels in Of Mice and Men. The first parallel is the
question of Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Steinbeck essentially asks this
same question in his other works such as The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden
when he wonders if mankind should go alone in the world or be responsible
and helpful to others who are less fortunate. In the character of George, the
answer seems to be the latter. George takes responsibility for Lennie, and
Lennie depends on him. Furthermore, the noble characters — such as Slim —
are those that recognize and respect this responsibility.
When George kills Lennie, he is sentenced to be like the other migrant hands:
no companion, no roots, no future.
Steinbeck also uses nature images to reinforce his themes and to set the mood.
Before Lennie and George get to the ranch, George decides they will stay at the
pond overnight. This pool is a place of primeval innocence, a sanctuary away
from the world of humans. If Lennie gets in trouble, it is the place to which he
should return. In this scene, nature is a place of safety, a haven from the
troubles of the world.
When Lennie returns to the pond in the last scene, nature is not so tranquil. The
sun has left the valley, and a heron captures and swallows a water snake "while
its tail waved frantically." The wind now rushes and drives through the trees in
gusts, and the dry leaves fall from the sycamore. Instead of a place of happiness,
dream retelling, and fellowship — as it was at the beginning — the pond is now a
place of loneliness, fear, and death. Here, nature reflects the mood of the human
world. Steinbeck's thoughts on man's relationship to the land is a motif
throughout his writing.
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Working with the themes
An example of how literature students might organise their responses to
themes in the novel follows here:
The Predatory Nature of Human Existence
Throughout the course of your reading, keep a log of quotations that support
the following statements. Using the bullet points as sub-headings, list the
quotations on paper, noting which page each is from, and under which subheading (statement) it belongs. Aim for 30 entries by the end of the novel – at
least one in each category.
Of Mice and Men teaches a grim lesson about the nature of human
Nearly all of the characters, including George, Lennie, Candy, Crooks, and
Curley’s wife, admit, at one time or another, to having a profound sense of
loneliness and isolation.
Each desires the comfort of a friend, but will settle for the attentive ear of a
Curley’s wife admits to Candy, Crooks, and Lennie that she is unhappily
Crooks tells Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times
of confusion and need.
The characters are rendered helpless by their isolation, and yet, even at their
weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they.
Example: Perhaps the most powerful example of this particular cruel tendency
is when Crooks criticizes Lennie’s dream of the farm and his dependence on George.
Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities - he is a black man with a crooked back
who longs for companionship - Crooks zeroes in on Lennie’s own weaknesses.
In scenes like this, with Crooks taunting Lennie, Steinbeck records a profound human
truth: oppression does not come only from the hands of the strong or the powerful.
Crooks seems at his strongest when he has nearly reduced Lennie to tears for fear
that something bad has happened to George
Crooks' taunting...
"I said suppose George go into
town tonight and you never heard
of him no more... what you do then?
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Motifs are repeated structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to
develop and inform the text’s major themes. They are similar to themes but
whereas a theme of ‘Of Mice and Men' could be 'loneliness'; a motif from the
book would be ‘'the corrupting power of women'. It sits at a lower level than
the theme.
A motif is also similar to a symbol, but more specifically, a motif is a
recurring... anything - imagery, action, feeling - that is used throughout a
whole book to support a theme.
Here are some examples from the novel:
The Corrupting Power of Women
The portrayal of women in Of Mice and Men is limited and unflattering. We
learn early on that Lennie and George are on the run from the previous ranch
where they worked, due to encountering trouble there with a woman.
Misunderstanding Lennie’s love of soft things, a woman accused him of rape
for touching her dress. George berates Lennie for his behavior, but is
convinced that women are always the cause of such trouble. Their enticing
sexuality, he believes, tempts men to behave in ways they would otherwise
A visit to the “flophouse” (a cheap hotel, or brothel) is enough of women for
George, and he has no desire for a female companion or wife. Curley’s wife,
the only woman to appear in Of Mice and Men, seems initially to support
George’s view of marriage. Dissatisfied with her marriage to a brutish man and
bored with life on the ranch, she is constantly looking for excitement or
trouble. In one of her more revealing moments, she threatens to have the
black stable-hand lynched if he complains about her to the boss. Her insistence
on flirting with Lennie seals her unfortunate fate. Although Steinbeck does,
finally, offer a sympathetic view of Curley’s wife by allowing her to voice her
unhappiness and her own dream for a better life, women have no place in the
author’s idealized vision of a world structured around the brotherly bonds of
The only female character in the story, Curley's
wife, is not given a name and is only referred to
in reference to her husband. The men on the
farm refer to her as a "tramp" , a "Tart", "looloo"
and "jail bait". Dressed in fancy, red shoes, she
represents the tempation of female sexuality in
an all male world. She is a victim, though, rather
than a villain. Like most of the characters, she is
desperately lonely and has dreams of her own of
becoming an actress and living in Hollywood.
She is married to an angry, nasty posessive
man, living in a place without friends, and
viewed as a trouble maker by everyone.
FOURBLOKES newcomer:
Chelsea Richter
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Motifs cont.
Strength and Weakness
Steinbeck explores different types of strength and weakness throughout the
novella. The first, and most obvious, is physical strength. As the story opens,
Steinbeck shows how Lennie possesses physical strength beyond his control,
as when he cannot help killing the mice. Great physical strength is, like
money, quite valuable to men in George and Lennie’s circumstances. Curley,
as a symbol of authority on the ranch and a champion boxer, makes this clear
immediately by using his brutish strength and violent temper to intimidate the
men and his wife.
Physical strength is not the only force that oppresses the men in the book. It is
the rigid, predatory human tendencies, not Curley, that defeat Lennie and
George in the end. Lennie’s physical size and strength prove powerless; in the
face of these universal laws, he is utterly defenseless and therefore disposable.
FOURBLOKES actors, Jeff Foster (Lennie) & Chelsea Richter (Curley's wife),
rehearse the barn scene.
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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract
ideas or concepts.
George & Lennie's Farm
! The farm that George constantly describes to Lennie - those few acres
of land on which they will grow their own food and tend their own livestock
- is one of the most powerful symbols in the book. It seduces not only the
other characters but also the reader, who, like the men, wants to believe
in the possibility of the free, idyllic life it promises.
! Candy is immediately drawn in by the dream, and even the cynical Crooks
hopes that Lennie and George will let him live there too.
• A paradise for men who want to be masters of their own lives, the farm
represents the possibility of freedom, self-reliance, and protection from the
cruelties of the world.
Lennie's Puppy
! Lennie’s puppy is one of several symbols that represent the victory of the
strong over the weak.
! Lennie kills the puppy accidentally, as he has killed many mice before, by
virtue of his failure to recognize his own strength.
! Although no other character can match Lennie’s physical strength, the
huge Lennie will soon meet a fate similar to that of his small puppy.
• Like an innocent animal, Lennie is unaware of the vicious, predatory
powers that surround him.
Candy's Dog
! In the world Of Mice and Men describes, Candy’s dog represents the fate
awaiting anyone who has outlived his or her purpose.
! Once a fine sheepdog, useful on the ranch, Candy’s mutt is now debilitated
by age.
! Candy’s sentimental attachment to the animal—his plea that Carlson let
the dog live for no other reason than that Candy raised it from a puppy—
means nothing at all on the ranch.
! Although Carlson promises to kill the dog painlessly, his insistence that the
old animal must die supports a cruel natural law that the strong will
dispose of the weak.
• Candy internalizes this lesson, for he fears that he himself is nearing an
age when he will no longer be useful at the ranch, and therefore no longer
Using a graphic organiser, students could be asked to
make a chronological list of a motif or symbol's
appearance, context, and meaning throughout the
course of the novella.
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
Symbols (cont.)
George's Card Game
Steinbeck is often described by critics as a believer in a "non-teleological
world." This is a world where chance plays a major role. It is chance, for
instance, that Slim happens to be in the barn when Curley comes into the
bunkhouse looking for his wife. It is also chance that George is absent from
the barn when Lennie is burying his pup and Curley's wife comes in. Steinbeck
tries to show that man cannot understand everything that happens, nor can he
control the world around him. For this reason, events often appear to be
George's Solitaire game in the bunkhouse is exactly that. It symbolizes the
random appearance of events just as cards are drawn out at random from the
deck. All is a matter of chance in Solitaire, and the same is true of the events
in the book that Steinbeck thought about titling "Something That Happened."
The isolation of the ranch and the interplay of personalities in the bunkhouse
also contribute to the idea of chance. The world is unpredictable, and in this
setting, plans often "go awry."
Hands are also used symbolically throughout the novel. The men on the ranch
are called "hands," indicating that each has a job to do to make the ranch work
as a whole. This takes away their humanity and individual personalities. They
are workers, not men. Lennie's hands, or paws, are symbols of trouble.
Whenever he uses them — as he does on Curley — trouble ensues. Candy's
missing hand is a symbol of his helplessness in the face of advancing old age
and his fear that he will be deemed useless and fired when only one hand is
not enough. George's hands are small and strong, the hands of a doer and
planner. Curley's hands are mean and cruel and one, of course, is crushed in
the machine that is Lennie; Curley's hand that he keeps soft for his wife is a
symbol of his impotence and inability to satisfy his wife sexually. Crooks' hands
are pink, and Curley's wife's hands have red nails. Slim has large, skillful
hands like those of "a temple dancer." The hand images represent the essence
of each person.
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
of mice and men
Education Pack
More questions and ideas
(aimed primarily at English students, but easily adaptable for other
disciplines & contexts)
Using pictures, create a collage that you feel is representative
of this story. Include characters, place and concepts from the
play. When you are finished, give your collage a title that you
feel best represents its overall theme.
Students might design a film poster that conveys
theme, plot, tone, and character of "Of Mice and Men"
through the use of both graphics and textual quotation.
(They might look at to see examples.)
How does the blues music of the 1930s, used in the
FOUBLOKES production, express ideas that are raised in the
novella? (Look particularly at the work of Woody Guthrie.)
Students choose a particular moment in their chosen
character's timeline, that's of particular plot siginificance,
then write a journal, diary entries, or letter in the voice
of that character.
Students could create a mock Facebook page for "Of Mice and
Men". Using Powerpoint or similar, create 'fake' Facebook status
updates for at least five characters from the novella, in
chronological order of the plot narrative.
Students could write their own songs, poems or short
stories inspired by Steinbeck's story. These might be
songs of freedom, (links to contemporary social issues
in the UK) or an elegy to Lennie Small, or a sequel
story telling of George's life after Lennie.
© FOURBLOKES Theatre Company 2013
So that's it! Lots to look at, and dip into, whatever your teaching
discipline - lots more to further research for deeper intent or
more specific purpose, but if this pack supports and enhances
your teaching approaches then we're content.
Please let us have any feedback through our website and feel
free to spread the word about the FOURBLOKES experience!
Thanks again for your interest and support, and for all the many
requests, advice, raw ideas and positive comments we receive
continually from colleagues in the education world.
Look out for next year's FOURBLOKES production!