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Of Mice and Men Preparation

There is some confusion surrounding preparations for the Of Mice and Men assessment and this is a post to alleviate (note vocabulary) your sense of worry.

Lot's of you are stating that 'this is the hardest assessment you have done'. What you need to understand as it seems harder because I am stretching you to consistently improve. My job as a teacher is to keep honing and improving your existing skills, adding new ones and challenging you to use your skills in different contexts in different ways.

You are interested in using your skills and knowledge in assessments and exams and enjoy drilling them but that is only part of my job. My job is also to get you to be able to recognise the skills and knowledge you need to use when looking at a question and instinctively know how to tackle it. It may not seem it sometimes but it is not all about exams and assessments. The skills of analysing, evaluating, creating an effective argument and modifying your vocabulary depending on the context you are working in are key for the rest of your life whether you choose, College, A-Levels, University or straight into work.

That's the pre-amble over. Now for the bit you want. The explanation in relation to the assessment.

We have drilled the skills of Analysis and Evaluation looking at individual quotations and also evaluation writer's purpose and ideas. If you are uncertain about these skills then revisit this post that walks you through the ideas.

However, with an extended essay task like this we also need to draw out an argument that links all the analysis and evaluation of quotations that you do. You all did brilliantly well in the Shakespeare assessment at the analysis and evaluation of the quotations but this often read as separate paragraphs evaluating individual quotations without any real link to an argument - your answer to the question.

This is what I keep banging on about by linking your paragraphs to develop an argument.

If I put these two paragraphs next to each other

'Steinbeck  uses George and Lennie to portray thoughts and opinions on companionship. For example, we see this in the first chapter within the line “because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you.” With this, we can instantly see the two character’s dependence on each other; they feel as if they can’t look after themselves, so they look out for one another to ensure their safety. The words ‘look after’ can also indicate a sense of simplicity within their task, which can make us readers seem at ease with the fate of the two characters. However, we can also debate that this is used to imply a sense of weakness rather than a strong companionship. It can lead to the statement that there is no George without Lennie, and no Lennie without George. Conclusively, this can relate back to the writers overall message that friendship is a strong bond which should be treated with care. As these two characters come across lonely labourers, we are able to see the significance of friendship as it seems that everyone is in competition with the ones they’re close with, as if Steinbeck is trying to emphasise the idea that “maybe everybody in the whole world is scared of each other”. And so using this friendship can really highlight the contrast between companionship and independence as several characters look upon the two in somewhat jealousy. It could even imply that humans are weak and they always need someone to fall back upon as most of the characters are lonely ‘losers’ in the game that is life itself.'

Steinbeck gives the initial impression of life outside the ranch, being very peaceful and almost dreamlike. He gives this impression by using detailed descriptions of the view to help us see what George and Lennie see. He uses phrases such as, “golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan mountains”. The imagery and absence of anything relating to man sets an idyllic atmosphere though the lack of human contact in the landscape may be hinting at the isolation and loneliness to come. Steinbeck seems to be taking the characters away from human contact to comment on how society breaks down when loneliness dominates people's psyche.

There isn't an explicit link or argument running through them  and they just become strong analysis of key areas of the text. You have a question to explore and development to highlight so you need to consistently link your ideas together into a fluent tackling of the task.

This is the simplest way I can put it (thanks Tom Mulvihill). The diagram represents the points you are going to make with the arrows representing the links to your argument. I would start with an overall statement you wish to make:


Steinbeck explores ... through the use of... to highlight...

E.g. Steinbeck explores the role of women through the use of structure and imagery surrounding Curley's Wife to highlight that despite having dreams and aspirations of the men they have even less power to achieve them.

This becomes your main idea that you wish to express. You introduce your topic (see here) then make your first point.

Steinbeck explores the role of women in Chapter 2






Develops in Chapter 3 with 'Old Susie'

 Shows abuse of power in C.W and Crooks

Develops similarities in Dreams in Chapter 5 and being unattainable just like the men.

Each arrow represents linking back to your original statement before you move on to your next analysis.

If we were to apply that to the original paragraphs:

'Steinbeck  uses George and Lennie to portray thoughts and opinions on companionship. For example, we see this in the first chapter within the line “because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you.” With this, we can instantly see the two character’s dependence on each other; they feel as if they can’t look after themselves, so they look out for one another to ensure their safety. The words ‘look after’ can also indicate a sense of simplicity within their task, which can make us readers seem at ease with the fate of the two characters. However, we can also debate that this is used to imply a sense of weakness rather than a strong companionship. It can lead to the statement that there is no George without Lennie, and no Lennie without George. Conclusively, this can relate back to the writers overall message that friendship is a strong bond which should be treated with care. As these two characters come across lonely labourers, we are able to see the significance of friendship as it seems that everyone is in competition with the ones they’re close with, as if Steinbeck is trying to emphasise the idea that “maybe everybody in the whole world is scared of each other”. And so using this friendship can really highlight the contrast between companionship and independence as several characters look upon the two in somewhat jealousy. It could even imply that humans are weak and they always need someone to fall back upon as most of the characters are lonely ‘losers’ in the game that is life itself.'

This idea of the loneliness is further developed within the setting. Steinbeck gives the initial impression of life outside the ranch, being very peaceful and almost dreamlike. He gives this impression by using detailed descriptions of the view to help us see what George and Lennie see. He uses phrases such as, “golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan mountains”. The imagery and absence of anything relating to man sets an idyllic atmosphere though the lack of human contact in the landscape may be hinting at the isolation and loneliness to come. Steinbeck seems to be taking the characters away from human contact to comment on how society breaks down when loneliness dominates people's psyche again exploring the weakness of humans and the need for companionship.'

We now have the a seamless argument that runs throughout reinforcing the points made previously and linking back to a key idea. 

This is what I mean by developing an argument. The only real change is rather than focusing on your analytical and evaluative skills, I am now confident you can do this naturally and want you to trust your natural skills and give extra focus to your argument.

The last focus is to make sure you modify your language. When you start writing, you need to throw out your everyday vocabulary and use your expert academic vocabulary. See here for further details.

So to summarise:

General Tips
  •  John Steinbeck in introduction and Steinbeck throughout the rest of the essay - not John!
  •  Write in the 3rd Person to highlight Academic Confidence
  •  Use Modal Verbs to indicate that your analysis is just a possible interpretation
  •  Use your expert academic vocabulary - No 'putting across' 'zooming in' or 'to the max'
Structural Tips

Introduction - Show a broad knowledge of the text and then narrow the focus to your key argument in the last sentence of your introduction.

Paragraphs - Point, Quotation, Explanation, Analysis, 2nd Interpretation, Evaluation - 

Links - Sandwich the skills you used with links back to your key argument at the beginning and end of each paragraph.

Conclusion - Sum up your argument in a few succinct sentences drawing on the points you've made in paragraphs. State overall what you think Author is exploring.

If you have any questions, post them in the comment box below and I'll get back to you over the weekend. 
 

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