Of Mice and Men – Lit Exam Question 2013

Here is one of the exam tasks from 2013 from the 4705/9715 syllabii.

Question 21
Read the following passage and then answer Part (a) and Part (b).

Text from Of Mice and Men

A tall man stood in the doorway. He held a crushed Stetson hat under his arm while he combed his long, black, damp hair straight back. Like the others he wore blue jeans and a short denim jacket. When he had finished combing his hair he moved into the room, and he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen. He was a jerk line skinner, the prince of the ranch, capable of driving ten, sixteen, even twenty mules with a single line to the leaders. He was capable of killing a fly on the wheeler’s butt with a bull whip without touching the mule. There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke.

His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or
love. This was Slim, the jerk line skinner. His hatchet face was ageless. He might
have been thirty-five or fifty. His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow
speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought. His
hands, large and lean, were as delicate in their action as those of a temple dancer.
He smoothed out his crushed hat, creased it in the middle and put it on. He looked
kindly at the two in the bunk house. ‘It’s brighter’n a bitch outside,’ he said gently.
‘Can’t hardly see nothing in here. You the new guys?’
‘Just come,’ said George.
‘Gonna buck barley?’
‘That’s what the boss says.’

Slim sat down on a box across the table from George. He studied the solitaire hand
that was upside down to him. ‘Hope you get on my team,’ he said. His voice was
very gentle. ‘I gotta pair of punks on my team that don’t know a barley bag from a
blue ball. You guys ever bucked any barley?’

Part (a) – In this passage, how does Steinbeck present Slim? Refer closely to the passage in your answer.

Part (b) – In the rest of the novel, how does Steinbeck show that some people on the ranch are considered more important than others? How does this reflect the society in which the novel is set? (30 marks) SPG: (4 marks)

You have to note a few things. Firstly, there are two parts of equal proportion, so your timing has to be as exact as possible. If you have 90 minutes and have to answer on OMAM and another text [Woman in Black?] then each task has 45 minutes attached, so this task would be 45 minutes in length. Do not go over this time. Take off the watch at the beginning and place it in front of you – to time yourself and keep on task.

Secondly, one part is on Slim, as a character and the latter part is on the rest of the novella. If I asked you to write an essay on Slim, I would expect you to use a section of the novella, like this, and then write about how he is presented. Then I would expect you to write about the rest of the novella, how Slim is different to others etc. I would be expecting you to cover both parts of this task in one essay but this exam task asks you to do it in 2 separate sections, so beware of answering part 2 in part 1. This can happen and you get zero marks for the effort.

So, how to answer it….

Again, use the structure showed earlier….Intro, Point 1, Point 2, Point 3 and conclusion. But because it is two short answers rather than one large one, use one quote for each midsection in each one. Ergo, you still have answers with structure. Because there are SPG marks here, if each section is one paragraph, then providing they are written properly, indented beginning and no lines missed, all will be well.

How does Steinbeck present Slim? – Strong, team leader, man of authority, capable man, knows his place…etc – a great quote to use would be “he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen.” This shows the reader the sort of man he is.

How does Steinbeck show that some people on the ranch are considered more important than others? – Curley, the Boss, The blacksmith etc, Each have position, each have some degree of authority in comparison to others [even Lennie is ruled by George].

How does this reflect the society in which the novel is set? – In society, there are hierarchies. There are those in charge [the boss], their deputy managers [Curley], the middle managers [Slim], the workers [George], the mentally deficient [Lennie] and the victims [Curley’s wife] who pay the price for the way society is made up. In the 1920s when there was little work in America due to the Great Depression, this novella becomes what is termed a “Social commentary” on the nature of society and how we seem to have got something wrong.

All of the above and some more of your ideas, are what I would expect to see in your answer, if you wanted an A*.