2018 Exam Question

Choose a novel you have studied. To what extent has your understanding of people and human behaviour been shaped by reading this novel? Explain your answer with reference to your chosen text.

Text: Of Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck

From reading this novel, I have learned a lot about people and human behaviour. My understanding of people and human behaviour has been shaped in a negative way as a result of reading this book.

We see that people are quite cruel in this text and treat other people badly. For example, Curley is a mean person who picks on other people like Lennie, because he thinks that it makes him appear tough. He also treats his wife very badly and doesn’t allow her to speak to other men on the ranch. Carlson was quite cruel to Candy when he insisted that he shoot his dog because he thought that it was too old. He took the dog out and shot it and didn’t care about Candy’s feelings. This shows that people didn’t care about anyone else’s feelings.

I also realised that people who are treated badly are very likely to treat other people badly. For example, Crooks is the stable buck on the farm and is not allowed in the bunkhouse because he is black. But when Lennie comes into his room, Crooks treat him badly because he realises that he can. He scares Lennie into thinking that George isn’t coming back and uses his power over Lennie in a very negative way. We see this happen again when Curley’s wife comes into Crooks’ room. She has little power over anyone on the farm, but when Crooks stands up to her, she tells him, “I could get you strung up a tree so easy, it ain’t even funny.” This highlights how people treat people ‘below’ them badly.

It is clear from reading the book that humans need company and another person to talk to. Throughout the book, the other characters find it strange that George and Lennie travel together. But the two men are probably the happiest people in the book because they have each other. Curley’s wife is clearly lonely and is longing for someone to talk to, but is not allowed by Curley. Crooks tells us in the scene with Lennie, “a guy gets lonely and a guy gets sick.” He tells us that sometimes you just need someone with you to tell you everything is going to be OK. It is clear that Crooks is jealous of Lennie because he has George and that is why he treats him the way he does. Candy, now without his dog is also lonely and wants to go live on the farm with George and Lennie. This shows us that humans long for the company of other humans.

I became aware of how humans judge each other based on gender and race in this book. The treatment of Crooks by the other characters was very frustrating to read about. He is continuously referred to by the N-word, which was a derogatory name for a black person and he is banned from coming into the bunkhouse and from playing cards with the others. This type of exclusion is wrong but shows that people do behave this way. It highlights just how cruel humans can be to one another.

The treatment of Curley’s wife was also frustrating to read, as she is treated like an object. The fact that we never learn her name highlights the fact that she is not an individual person but simply a possession of Curley’s. She does have her faults but he is harshly judged by the other men and it is only when we hear her story that we realise that she is simply lonely and longing for human contact. The men form a negative view of her based on stereotypes of women and never actually get to know her. The treatment of Crooks and Curley’s wife highlights how humans judge people based on stereotypes.

Reading Steinbeck’s classic gave me a great understanding of the behaviour of humans and I came to the conclusion that people can be very cruel to one another. It is ironic that George killing Lennie turned out to be the one of the kindest acts in the book but only because Curley would have tortured him before eventually killing him.


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