Friday, 22 February 2013

Help for Josh and Josh

Sorry for delay guys if you've been looking for this post.  There have been problems with the server.


Make the most of it and I'll see you in the new half-term.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Discussing Symbolism

Discuss one of the methods that Steinbeck uses to explore his ideas

 

Some of the ideas you could cover are:

Nature
Death
Companionship/Friendship
Cruelty
The World
Frailty
 

Another interesting lesson with Charlie today who was looking into how nature is presented by Steinbeck.  At the opening of the novel we see a perfect place, a beautiful and tranquil setting in which a heron is described exploding into the air and flying off down stream.  We talked about how the heron, for a bird, is a large and graceful, in some ways like Lennie, though graceful may be stretching it: it as least a powerful bird.  Our first introduction to it is quite simple.
 
In the final chapter the heron is described once more, this time Steinbeck writes that its "head and beak lanced down and plucked [the water snake] out by the head."  Charlie suggested that if the heron is Lennie then the water snake could be symbolic of Curley's wife, after all she is killed by Lennie, but furthermore snakes are symbolic of deceitfulness and malevolence, as well as distrust, just as Curley's wife is in the novel.  She is arguably as dangerous as the snake, her words are poisonous after all - remember how she speaks to Crooks when he stands up to her.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Henry and Charlie

Some thoughts from Henry and Charlie on Slim, America and the Dream



Charlie and Henry popped along after school today for some advice.  Charlie was late, but he has returned my Banksy book after 18 months so all is forgiven.

The boys were talking about Slim and there were some thoughts based on him that really got me excited.  Think of Slim and how the author presents him, a "master craftsmen", "princely" and wise.  Now remember what he says about himself were he in the position of the dog.  He tells Candy that he wishes someone would shoot him if he grew old and useless (ironic in some ways as he is telling Candy this who IS old and arguably useless, especially with his hand in the condition it is); he has decided that his life is free of aspiration.  It is interesting that such a 'perfect' character would not buy into the Dream that pervades the lives of Lennie, George, Candy and, for a time, Crooks.

Charlie began to question why Slim wouldn't, if he is so perfect.  What Charlie is suggesting is that Slim, because he is wise, sees that he should be comfortable with what he has and that to Dream is useless.  In many ways he represents the reality of the situation in America at the time.  He IS wise not to dream because at least then he cannot be hurt as Candy, Crooks and George are.

Henry agreed with this and said Charlie was tank.


Essentially the boys are also saying the Dream is foolish.  To Dream of a life beyond the clutches of the world and essentially reality was foolish: there was no escape for anyone at this time and they are all trapped.  Remember that the ranch is a microcosm, meaning it is meant to represent the rest of the immediate world at that time.  Arguably Lennie is the only one who attains his dream as he is happiest when George is telling it him "like you done before"...he dies imagining the dream, which is as close as anyone can come.

Monday, 7 January 2013

PEE Structure Recap


How does Curley’s wife present herself?



Curley’s wife presents herself as a ‘tart’ in the eyes of George and the other men.  When George and Lennie first meet her Lennie looks at her body, ‘Lennie’s eyes moved down over her body’.  The use of the word ‘body’ makes her seem a bit like an object or piece of meat, which she is not, but unfortunately this is the impression she creates because of the way she presents herself with ‘rouged lips’ and ‘red’ finger nails.  She dresses herself up as a sex object and so arguably deserve to be thought of as a ‘tart’.


Black = Point I'm trying to prove

Blue = Evidence used to support point

Green = Explanation of quotation against the ideas of the author, or intention

Red = Extension of explanation shows some deeper exploration


Key language:

Presented/Presents
Impression
Arguably

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Don't forget the significance of Racism




"Of Mice and Men" explores such a range of issues in America during the 1930s that it's hard to keep track of them all; it's amazing that Steinbeck was able to pack so much in to such a small novel.

Racism really is a key gripe for Steinbeck.  If we look at this idea we can easily group it alongside intolerance, or perhaps this is better as an umbrella term covering Racism, Disability, Ageism and Sexism.

Intolerance is rife in "Of Mice and Men", which is ironic as the title, remember, comes from Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse".  In this poem Burns 'voice' makes the point that man and nature chould be living alongside each other and actually should be tolerant of each other, whether one is a mouse or a man - we are all part of the bigger picture and no one, or thing, has more of a right than another.  Don't forget the value of alluding to this in your essay if you have the opportunity as it can demonstrate your ability to deepen your understanding and exploration of the novel.

Crooks, effectively, has an entire chapter dedicated to him.  Out of all the characters the extent that Steinbeck goes to to describe his living conditions, his belongings and the man's personality ('proud, 'aloof') is extraordinary.  After all, Lennie and George are the focus of the story, yet neither have the level of attention from teh author in one go that Crooks has.

Think about what Crooks has:  he has nothing.  He may own a few valued posessions and even 'gold-rimmed' glasses, but what good is that when he is treated the way he is by wider society.  Candy, Lennie and George (Slim too) are pleasant enough to Crooks, but it's not enough for him.  Curley's wife knows his place and reminds him of it, again this is an irony: one inferior individual reminding another inferior individual of their inferiority.  She wants to be accepted for what she is yet cannot accept the tone Crooks takes with her - is it her racism that comes out in response to this or her wounded humanity?  Is she purely spiteful, or can she be forgiven considering the circumstances and context?

The most obvious reference to racism is the use of the word 'nigger', this is how Crooks is first referred to, and repeatedly too.  It embeds the idea that this is how he is first viewed, before his name, much like Curley's wife, or perhaps even the dog.

Candy is the one to first use it - does he use it as a simple noun, like you would any other noun, or is there a sense of malice behind its use?

Is it simply a word that is part of their environment?  This, of course, does not make it acceptable, but some language can be used in ignorance unless it is challenged.  Remember Jim's outburst around the word 'gay'?  He argues that it is just a noun/adjective and carries no derogatory connotations, but just because he used it that way does that make it alright?  There are plenty of people who will use it intentionally to hurt others or to firm up the idea that being gay is a bad thing.  Does Steinbeck use it with this intention (not to wound, but to alert us to its use)?  Does Candy display a level of intolerance, or is Candy a victim of the maliciousness of language as well through his ignorance?

Jim, I'm sure you won't mind being featured in this post.





Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Terry's chocolate orange challenge

A Terry's chocolate orange for the best score in Section B.  Here's a bit more guidance for you.  Can you identify possible sections that might come up and why?
In the past page 75/76 has been a focus for looking at Crooks.

Where would you focus a response on Lennie, Slim, Candy and his dog, Curley's wife?

Where would you find examples of the themes:
Loneliness
Equality
Regret
Loss
Innocence
Betrayal
Perfection
Dreams
Aspiration

Can you name any others?

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Interesting view on structure in 'Of Mice and Men'



A study of Todorov's theory concerning structure held really interesting insights today with Charlie Falla (Year 10).  He sorted the structure and then went on to discuss the idea of equilibrium and balance in the novel. He suggests that there is a disrupted sense of equilibrium at the beginning as we learn throughout the novel that George and Lennie's friendship is unusual especially in view of the context at the time and the idea that men actually lived lonely lives (certainly the men like Lennie and George who worked wherever they could and had no home).

He argued that this is actually the natural state for men at the time: loneliness.  So, Lennie's death which is so heavily foreshadowed by the author is done so because the world is actually out of kilter (out of balance) and needs to return to a balance.  For Lennie and George (Candy and Crooks) to achieve the dream would actually break the natural order of the time.

It's almost as if the world, at the time, was so disrupted from the ideal, which would encompass friendship, companionship and equality that disorder has become the natural state of being.

(Sorry for the blurriness, but you can still make it out: I will be telling him about his spelling of 'meant')

Charlie then went on to identify evidence from the novel to support his view.

Todorov's theory states that most stories demonstrate the following five steps:
  1. A state of equilibrium (all is as it should be)
  2. A disruption of that order by an event
  3. A recognition that the disorder has occurred
  4. An attempt to repair the damage of the disruption
  5. A return or restoration of the equilibrium
1/ At the opening of the novel Steinbeck describes a perfect setting where hillsides 'run deep and green' and the warm water twinkles 'over yellow sands in the sunlight'.  An ideal that Lennie and George step into.  It is arguably an ideal that stronger men should look after weaker men.

2/ In chapter five Lennie says"'Don't you go yellin'" and shakes Curley's wife until her body flops "like a fish".  He has disrupted the 'order' on the ranch.

3/ George and Candy realise that their order, their plan, is off: the dream is finished and George admits "I think I knowed we'd never do her" almost as though he was always aware of the disorder of their relationship in these times.

4/ George repairs the damage by killing Lennie, interestingly his hand shakes "violently" illustrating the strength of feeling against going through with it.  When Lennie's body falls the the ground he lies on the sand "without quivering" suggesting peace has been restored.

5/ At the end of the novel, as Charlie believes the real equilibrium asserts itself.  George is now truly alone, just like he has been at his solitaire games.  Although Slim takes him away, he takes him for a drink.  This is the only thing that will now comfort him.  It is arguably tragic that Carlson doesn't recognise the loss, saying "What the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys", but this is the natural way of things according to Charlie: men don't understand companionship and it doesn't matter to Carlson that Lennie is dead, or in fact for the past few days he has been in his company.



I think I'd argue against the evidence Charlie has used in his last point, but his point definitely holds water!