Reading Rhetorically

Jon-Michael Poff

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. 1937. New York City: Triangle Book, 1937. Quote or Summary
*Be sure to include page #’s or parenthetical citation if using a source other than the text.

Paraphrase or Summarize
*Include at least five (5) paraphrases.

Rhetorical Device or Strategy/ Literary Elements
*Label ALL the devices/strategies the writer employs

Commentary
*Explain the effect of the device (connotations or associations) *Explain how the device connects to the meaning of the passage or to the author’s purpose

“What’s your name?” “George Milton.” (Steinbeck 41).

The boss asks George what his name was; George replies that his name is George Milton.

George’s last name, Milton, is an allusion to the author of Paradise Lost, John Milton.

“I’m George Milton. This here’s Lennie Small.” “Glad ta meet ya,” Carlson said again. “He ain’t very small.” He chuckled softly at his joke. “Ain’t small at all,” he repeated. (Steinbeck 64)

George introduces himself and Lennie Small to Carlson. Carlson jokes that Lennie’s last name is in stark contrast to his physical appearance, for Lennie is no small man.

This is an example of paradox.

Paradise Lost is a story concerning the fall of man—Adam and Eve sinned against God and were consequently kicked out of the Garden of Eden. This story, also found in the book of Genesis in the Bible, shares many similarities with Steinbeck’s novel. Similarities include the actions of imperfect humans, the presence of temptation, and the consequences of doing sinful things. The author uses the allusion to help the audience relate to a familiar story. Lennie’s last name, Small, seems unfitting, because Lennie is a very large man. This irony about Lennie is much deeper: many things in his life are paradoxical. He works much harder than any other laborer, yet he is mentally retarded. His strength is great, yet he desires the simple things in life —soft things and animals. He is Jon-Michael Poff

AP English Language

“A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside banks and runs deep and green.” (Steinbeck 7) “The deep green pool of the Salinas River was still in the late afternoon.” (Steinbeck 172) “I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain’t no good. They don’t have fun.” (Steinbeck 73)

The Salinas River, which is a short distance from the town of Soledad, runs close to hills and is deep and green. Towards evening, the deep green Salinas River is still.

This is an example of artful syntax.

While George describes his relationship with Lennie to Slim, George admits how lonely, boring lives ranch hands lead without a partner.

This is an example of pathos.

“I said what stake you got in this guy? You takin’ his pay away from him?” “No, ‘course I ain’t. Why ya think I’m sellin’ him out?” “Well, I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy. I just like to know what your interest is.” (Steinbeck 43) AP English Language

The boss asks George why he answers for Lennie. He thinks that George takes Lennie’s pay away from him. George honestly denies taking Lennie’s money and asks the boss why he thinks George would do that? The boss believes money is the motive because George takes on a lot of trouble

This is an example of repetition.

the underdog—the one the readers feel sorry for and root for —yet he is the cause of so much trouble. The first and last scenes of the book occur in the same place—on the banks of the Salinas River. The circular pattern of syntax mirrors the circular pattern of ranch hands. Men strive to become bigger than themselves, achieve wealth, seek a better life, yet in the end, they are still lonely men. The plot comes full circle. While most ranch hands don’t travel from job to job with a companion, George has Lennie, and Lennie has George. The audience feels a sense of sadness for the ranch hands. They have no friends and have no fun. Steinbeck uses this example to illuminate the greater picture—all human suffering. This novel exposes the cruel, grueling life of ranch hands, and this example only adds to their anguish. The boss, Curley, and Slim all ask George about his relations with Lennie. They find it unusual for two ranch hands to travel together. The repetition of this question reinforces that the life of ranch hands are lonely and rootless. This relates to Steinbeck’s overall purpose for writing the novel: to expose the cruelty that humans Jon-Michael Poff

“What the hell are you getting’ into it for?” “We travel together,” said George coldy. “Oh, so it’s that way.” (Steinbeck 48) “Funny how you an’ him string along together.” It was Slim’s calm invitation to confidence. “What’s funny about it?” George demanded defensively. “Oh, I dunno. Hardly none of the guys ever travel together.” (Steinbeck 71) “Well, it’s ten acres,” said George. “Got a little win’mill. Got a little shack on it an’ a chicken run.” (Steinbeck 100) Lennie said softly, “We could live offa the fatta the lan’.” “We’d jus’ live there. We’d belong there.” (Steinbeck 101)

for Lennie. Curley asks George why he answers for Lennie. George replies that he and Lennie travel together. Curley implies that they have sexual relations. Slim kindly states how it is unusual that Lennie and George travel together. George asks why Slim finds that funny. Slim replies that guys usually don’t travel together. George describes the house that he and Lennie desire to own. It has a windmill, a shack, and a chicken run. Lennie wishes that one day they could live off of the fat of the land—live somewhere where they belonged. This is an example of a connection made by the author to another book.

are forced to endure. Curley’s insinuation that George and Lennie have a sexual relationship shows that Curley is a vulgar and cruel man. Slim’s inquiry shows that traveling with a companion might help the ranch hands to overcome loneliness.

“S’pose he took a powder and just ain’t coming back. What’ll you do then?” (Steinbeck 124) “They’ll take ya to the booby hatch. They’ll tie ya up with a collar, like a dog.” (Steinbeck 126) AP English Language

Crooks asks Lennie what would happen if George went away. He knows Lennie depends upon George. Crooks tells Lennie that they would take Lennie to an asylum and tie him up like a dog.

Within this quotation are examples of colloquial diction and regional dialect.

Lennie and George are just like Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby. In The Great Gatsby, the featured characters live in excess; however, in Of Mice and Men, the featured characters live in dirt poor conditions. No matter their social or economic status, people still can’t achieve their dream. Both stories contribute to the impossibility of the American dream. Colloquialism illustrates the men’s lack of education. Their whole lives have been devoted to work, with little or no education. Steinbeck uses this to bring to light the larger problems in society at the time. The ranch hands’ rustic dialect reflects the setting of the book and the lack of schooling Jon-Michael Poff

“Curley’s wife lay on her back, and she was half covered with hay.” (Steinbeck 160)

After Lennie accidentally broken This is an example of her neck, Curley’s wife laid in passive voice. the hay on her back.

“As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.”

The time following Curley’s wife’s murder seemed to stand still, to remain, to linger.

Within this quotation are examples of polysyndeton and repetition.

A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side; and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in AP English Language

A water snake swam through the pool of water, turning its head from one side to the other. It swam near a heron, which quickly plucked the snake out of the water and swallowed it.

This is an example of allusion, symbolism, and foreshadowing.

for the workers. Perhaps Steinbeck is pushing for reform in the realm of education as well. Curley’s wife is now dead—lifeless and helpless. This intentional use of passive voice allows Steinbeck to communicate her weakness and powerlessness. In this time period—the early 1900’s—women were second-class citizens. Steinbeck points out the plight of women of this time—they were subordinate to their male counterpart. Curley’s wife is never mentioned by name within the book. The effect of leaving her nameless also highlights the rights and expectations of women. Essentially, they were to be of no use to society. Polysyndeton mimics the setting. Using “and” allows the sentence to move at a slower pace and allows the audience to absorb the shocking event. Just as the sentence seems to continue, so does the “moment.” The repetition of “more than a moment” conveys the seriousness and length of the time following Curley’s wife’s death. The quote alludes to the snake in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis, the snake is the source of evil; the audience knows that something bad is about to happen. Also, just as the heron unsuspectingly Jon-Michael Poff

the shallows. A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically. (Steinbeck 172)

seized the snake from the water, George will also unsuspectingly shoot Lennie. Lennie will be just as clueless about his imminent death as the snake was. The snake’s death foreshadows Lennie’s death and prepares the reader for a devastating event soon to happen.

AP English Language

Jon-Michael Poff

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