Of Mice and Men – Essay Questions

These may just help the thinking process. I used this with all of my students to support them when planning essays.

1. Describe in some detail the incident where Lennie crushes Curley’s hand. What does this incident reveal about the characters of Curley and Lennie?


This topic could be conveniently split into thirds (Describe / Curley / Lennie). However, it may be better to comment on the characters as you describe the incident; this would save you from repeating detail of the incident later.

Answer Plan

  • Beginning of incident
    • Curley is humiliated and angry –       why?
    • Lennie is seen smiling – why?
    • Curley is a coward and a bully
    • Lennie is slow and a dreamer
  • Curley’s attack
    • Curley uses boxing skill to cruelly attack Lennie
    • Lennie does nothing to fight back
    • Stresses Curley’s frustration, cruelty
    • Curley resents big men because he is small
    • Lennie is basically gentle, does not want to fight
  • Lennie crushes Curley’s hand
    • Lennie obeys George’s instructions to ‘get him’
    • Crushes the bones of Curley’s hand, ending fight
    • Frightened, has to be told to stop
    • Lennie is simple, can’t think for himself
    • He is immensely strong, causes serious injury
    • Lacks control (important for later)
  • Conclusion
    • Curley vents his anger on ‘helpless’ Lennie
    • Lennie is a gentle giant who only does what he’s told.

2. The killing of Candy’s old dog foreshadowed Lennie’s death. Describe the two killings, pointing out any similarities and differences between them.


Which is better – to describe the two killings and then comment on them, or to mention the similarities and differences as you describe?

Answer Plan

  • Killing of dog
    • Carlson nags Candy about dog
      • offers to shoot him
    • Describes how he will do it
    • Carlson takes dog out, tension in bunkhouse
    • Finally there is a shot, Candy withdraws into silence
  • Killing of Lennie
    • George steals Carlson’s Luger, same gun
    • Finds Lennie by pool, different place
    • They talk, George tries to make Lennie happy
    • Others are approaching, George must hurry
    • George shoots Lennie, unlike stranger shooting dog
    • Method of killing exactly the same as with dog
  • Conclusion
    • gun and method are the same
    • reason for both killings
      • to prevent suffering
    • George kills Lennie for love, Carlson doesn’t love dog

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