OF MICE AND MEN
Read the passage from near the end of Section 3 of Of Mice and Men from 'Why'nt you tell her to stay the hell home where she belongs?' to 'Slim jumped up'…I'll get 'um myself.' Then answer the questions below. (a) How does Steinbeck use details and language in this passage to
show how tension mounts and leads to violence, and to portray violence?
(b) How does Steinbeck use violence and the threat of violence in the novel as a whole?
Grade C answer (a) Steinbeck shows how the men seem to be ganging up on Curley because they
don't like him. Just before this passage starts, Slim has created an example by
telling Curley that he is 'God damn sick' of Curley. This encourages Carlson, who is
next down in the pecking order, to join in. He also speaks angrily: 'Whyn't you tell
her to stay the hell home where she belongs?' He suggests that if Curley lets her
'hang around bunk houses' it will lead to trouble.
This further insult winds Curley up, and he invites Carlson to 'step outside'. The
tension builds up even more when Carlson laughs at Curley, insults him by calling
him a 'punk' and 'yella as a frog belly', and threatens to kick his head off. It is the
last straw for Curley when even old Candy joins in with a snide dig about Vaseline.
Curley doesn't dare fight Slim or Carlson, and Candy is too old, so he takes it out
on Lennie who he thinks is laughing at him.
Steinbeck uses violent words like 'slashed', 'smashed' and 'slugging' to make the
fight vivid, as well as describing the blood. He also makes it seem wilder by making
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OF MICE AND MEN
George yell. He also makes us feel sorry for Lennie and his 'terror', which makes
Slim get up, as if the fight is going to spread and involve all of the men.
(b) The threat of violence is present in Of Mice and Men really from the first moment
we meet Curley. He is an uptight little man who doesn't like big men. Lennie is big,
so this is a disaster waiting to happen. Even when Curley first meets George and
Lennie we read that 'his hands closed into fists' and he goes 'into a slight crouch'
like a boxer, which he is. Candy explains that he is 'handy', meaning he is a good
boxer and has won prizes for boxing. George is worried and says to Lennie, 'You
gonna have trouble with that Curley guy. I seen that kind before. He was kinda
feelin' you out. He figures he's got you scared and he's gonna take a sock at you
the first chance he gets.'
The big fight that eventually takes place is caused by a number of things. First,
Curley's wife is a flirt, wearing make-up and fancy shoes, and Curley is jealous
and always checking up on her. He get it into his head that Slim, the mule skinner,
is having an affair with her, so he goes looking for Slim. Steinbeck makes us
aware of this threat early on in Chapter 3, when Curley is said to 'burst into the
room excitedly' asking if...