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Of Mice and Men - Understanding the Text

This GCSE English Literature quiz will test you on John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Although comprehension accounts for the first steps in approaching any work, it is not always easy to understand a text. Authors have a variety of methods through which to convey meaning and very rarely state what they mean directly. Instead, they use character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue to show the reader what they wish to convey. As a reader, you must pay close attention and try to understand the text as you read. Sometimes it becomes apparent that you will need to reread certain sections, especially if a later turn of events shows that you might have missed something. Don’t worry! This happens to all readers and shows that you are paying attention!

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Comprehension works on several levels simultaneously. Think about context and setting and how these relate to events. Consider too how events relate to each other. One helpful method for understanding a text is to create a timeline of events. Remember, though, that events are not always revealed in the order in which they occur chronologically. Sometimes it can be useful to create chapter summaries when the structure of a text differs from the chronological timeline.

Think about characters’ actions and what these reveal about their motivations. Do any clues in the text explain their behaviour? Should readers take their words at face value, or should their subtext be examined more closely? Do characters’ words always match their actions and their beliefs? Try to answer why or why not, justifying your views by referring in detail to the text.

Analysing beginnings and endings is a very useful activity. Why does the text begin where it does? How do you come to find out about previous events? Is there any distance between the narrator and the time when reported events took place? Are future events foreshadowed? How? Analyse individual chapters in the same way: think about the significance of their beginnings and endings. Undertaking detailed analysis of this sort will really improve your knowledge and understanding of the text!

Read the questions below on Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and test your knowledge and understanding of the text.

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  1. Why does Lennie eventually begin to talk to Curley's wife? Choose the best answer.
    When she asks what he is hiding, Lennie shows her the puppy and begins to talk about his dream of owning rabbits, sharing his sorrow and fear that George will be angry with him
  2. What makes the dream of owning a home, a ranch and some rabbits a sudden possibility for Lennie and George?
    The wages of a casual labourer are low and unreliable. Candy's modest savings have been augmented by a payout for losing his hand on the ranch. His offer of money to the two men makes their dream possible in an instant
  3. Why is Curley often looking for his wife?
    Curley's insecurity and violence, mingled with his wife's loneliness and naivety, leave the men of the ranch dreading her frequent appearances
  4. What does Crooks do to upset Lennie on the night the other men go into town?
    At first Crooks enjoys teasing Lennie until he realises how seriously frightened (and unpredictable) Lennie has become at the thought of facing the world without George
  5. Why does George shoot Lennie?
    George wishes to protect Lennie from violent retribution, but also knows there is no possibility of running away in this case. Very few people would understand that Lennie did not intentionally kill, or even mean to hurt, Curley's wife
  6. Why did Lennie and George have to leave Weed?
    Lennie got himself into trouble by trying to touch a young woman's dress, frightening her and panicking himself at her screams for help. The two men are forced to hide from the group of men seeking violent revenge
  7. For how long do Lennie and George expect their jobs to last?
    As casual agricultural labourers, George and Lennie must move from one ranch to another in a constant search for work
  8. What are George and Lennie employed to do at the ranch?
    Lennie and George are hired to work as "buckers", which means they will carry and load the barley harvest
  9. Why does Curley's wife seek out Lennie in the barn?
    Curley's wife, who doesn't yet realise that Lennie has the mental age of a child, thinks she can flirt with him with the aim of enlisting him as protection from Curley
  10. Why does George look out for Lennie?
    George has no family and feels that travelling in companionship protects him from falling into antisocial behaviour. He tells the boss that he made a promise to Lennie's "old lady", lying about being cousins and about Lennie being kicked in the head by a horse, too. He later tells the truth to Slim

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