LEARNING GUIDE TO:
OF MICE AND MEN
SUBJECTS — Literature - U.S.;Age: 13+; MPAA Rating -- PG-13; Drama; 1992; 115 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.
Description: Set in Depression era farm country, this film adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel opens as George and Lenny flee authorities after Lenny, who is mentally disabled, appears to have assaulted a woman. Lenny is incapable of understanding that his desire to caress something soft can easily be seen as threatening. George is his friend and protector. They eventually find work at a ranch where Lenny runs into similar but more serious trouble, the results of which cannot be escaped.
Rationale for Using the Movie: In its fairly accurate portrayal of the characters and themes presented in Steinbeck's novel, the film illuminates the conflicts between self-interest and loyalty as it explores the limits of friendship.
Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will make connections between the use of visual and print media. Analytical and persuasive writing skills can be exercised as students explore the tools used in adaptation from page to screen. Students viewing the film alone can use the film's themes as the subject for both narrative and opinion essays.
Possible Problems: Some students may be sensitive to the disturbing disrespect shown for the mentally disabled as well as for the off-screen aspect of unintended mistreatment of animals.
USING OF MICE AND MEN IN THE CLASSROOM
1. Aunt Clara seems to have involved George in a life-long duty to attend to Lenny. In spite of the resentment that George feels, he remains loyal to Lenny. Although it is clear that Lenny benefits from George's care, what benefits, if any, may George receive in the relationship? Suggested Response: Answers will vary: Some may suggest that the benefits of companionship are worth the effort. Others may believe that George is sacrificing too much in tending to Lenny and there are no benefits to be derived from duty which stems from guilt.
2. The old man named Candy says he could not shoot his dog because he had him too long. Later, however, he feels he should have shot the dog himself. How does Candy's experience with his dog influence George's decisions about Lenny? Suggested Response: The relationship between Candy and the dog can be seen as analogous to the relationship between George and Lenny. Candy is sorry that he did not kill the dog himself but instead allowed another man to shoot his old and loyal pet. George decides not to make the same mistake Candy made in allowing someone else to end the life of a companion. Thus, George shoots Lenny out of loyalty and love.
3. At the end of the story, George does not berate Lenny for what he has done; instead, he continues the fantasy of one day having a ranch and raising rabbits. What does this say about George's character? Suggested Response: George is compassionate, forbearing and forgiving. He knows that Lenny is not capable of understanding what he has done. He also knows that after the death of Curley's wife, Lenny would either be killed by Curley or forced, as Candy says, to live in a cage forever. George's compassion, ironically, leads him to kill Lenny himself and for the last moments that they have together, George retells the fantasy of the ranch and the rabbits so that Lenny can die in a state of peace and joy.
Assignments and Assessments:
1. In all likelihood, given the circumstances and the time period, there would be no murder charges brought against anyone who would have killed Lenny. George would be free to carry on with his life. He might work to earn money and partner with Candy. One day he might buy the land he and Lenny talked about. He might drift on to other ranches in other states and continue as he had been living, but without the companionship of Lenny. Write a present tense narration that is set a decade after Lenny's death in which you describe where George is living, with whom he is living, and how he supports himself. Relate his thoughts as he goes about his day and when he remembers Lenny. In your narration try to use the following methods describe action (including dialogue), reveal thoughts (including internal monologues), describe observations made by the characters, use descriptive language (including images of people, places and things), and compare one thing to another.
2. Both Steinbeck's novel and the film, suggest that time and place are essential to a story. Write an informal essay in which you analyze this thought. Consider whether or not it would be possible for two men to sustain such a dependent relationship as that of Lenny and George in your community in the 21st century. Consider what kinds of work would be available to the men, where they would live and how they would be treated by others. Consider, as well, whether or not George could have killed Lenny in the new environment, how the law may have handled Lenny's crime, and how the law would have handled George's action in killing Lenny.
3. Write an opinion essay in which you evaluate the film in terms of how well it adheres to the characters and themes in the novel. Compare Steinbeck's description of the land to the images shown in the film. Evaluate whether or not the film captures the sense of time and place that Steinbeck intended and whether or not the actors in the film capture the sense of the characters Steinbeck created.
WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.
Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.
Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more . . . Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.
Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.
Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.
Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!
Inquire as to whether or not your child has been assigned the novel in his or her Language Arts class and be certain your child is not viewing the film as a substitute for reading the book.
This Learning Guide was written by Mary Red Clay.
This Guide was first published April 1, 2013.
Spread the GOOD NEWS about