John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ is a classic American story about two friends who are ‘down and out’, struggling to make their dream of a better life come true. We will use the text as a way of exploring the socio-historical context of the novel (depression era California), particularly focusing on social justice issues such as exploitation of the working class.
Through reading the novel, we will learn how literature, through emotive engagement, can help raise awareness and promote action on social issues. After reading the novel we will also explore other text types, such as news reporting, in order to see how both factual and emotive language can be used to draw attention to social issues.
Session 1 – “Best Laid Plans…” Unit introduction
We will ‘tune in’ to the unit by brainstorming issues of justice and fairness we are concerned about. We will also research about depression-era rural California to more fully understand the historical context of the novel. We will even read a poem about a mouse!
Session 2 – “A Dream Home” Setting and Symbolism
Of Mice and Men contains some incredibly descriptive settings that not only build atmosphere but also contain meaning. This lesson concerns the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of setting in literature.
Session 3 – “Setting and Sympathy” Sympathetic Characters
In chapter 2 we get to find out more about the characters of this novella. John Steinbeck creates both sympathetic and unsympathetic characters to engage the reader and highlight social issues of the times.
Session 4 – “Complex Connections” Implied Meaning
The power of literature comes from concise and subtle meaning, presented through symbolism and allusion. We can uncover this complexity by making connections between seemingly disparate elements of a text!
Session 5 – “Candy ‘n Crooks” Comparing Characters
Today we look closely at the two seemingly different, yet actually very similar characters of Candy and Crooks.
Session 6 – “Death of Dreams” Foreshadowing
Today we debate the idea of fate vs. free will and explore how Steinbeck uses foreshadowing to imply the inevitable tragic situation that our poor characters ultimately find themselves in.
Session 7 – “Read All About It!” Emotive vs. factual news reporting
In the final session, we will discuss our reactions to the ending of the novel. We will then transfer our understanding in our final radio broadcast assignment.
- Biography for John Steinbeck: Provides an essential introduction to the writer and his work
- Sparknotes: Summary and analysis (includes a video summary)
- Shmoop: Like Sparknotes, but the language is more casual and accessible.