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Laura Amy Schlitz

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3: Plot: A chapter tells the tale.

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck, 1937
Famous for: Bunnies, an “interesting” perspective on women, a horrible, tragic ending.

The Turn of the Screw foreshadows its first chapter with its title.From the very first page, George and Lennie are toast. They’re toast because they’re poor. They’re toast because they’re simple. Lennie is toast because he’s mentally handicapped. George is toast because he’s loyal to Lennie.

And they’re toast because they dream. Lennie dreams of a a life populated by rabbits and other small, soft things. George dreams of answering only to himself. George and Lennie share a dream of buying a farm and living off the land. They’re toast because they dream dreams that can never come true.

In other words, Lennie and George are ordinary.  And in Steinbeck’s telling, their ordinariness dooms them to failure before the first chapter of their lives has been told. Perhaps that’s why John Steinbeck reveals Of Mice and Men’s basic story in its very first chapter.

Here’s a hint: If you want to know what happens in Of Mice and Men all you need to read is … the first chapter.

Here’s what happens in Chapter One. We meet migrant workers George and Lennie. We learn of Lennie’s fascination with small, soft things.

We learn that Lennie is mentally disabled and doesn’t know his own strength. We discover that these three things—Lennie’s disability, his superhuman strength, and his love for soft things—often get him into trouble, like they did at the last ranch where he and George worked.

Finally, we learn that George and Lennie have a dream of buying a little piece of land where they can have a farm of their own.

Now, I’m not telling you to just read Chapter One and then skip the rest of this book. If you did, you’d never get to meet the other characters who help flesh out George and Lennie’s story.

But—and here’s what makes John Steinbeck such a great writer—everything you need to know about what’s going to happen in the rest of the story, everything you need to know about George and Lennie, even everything you need to know about Steinbeck’s themes … Yep. Chapter One’s got it.

That’s called foreshadowing—and really good plotting.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck | 60second Recap study guide resources


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