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Of Mice and Men prep for context

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Posted by Studentbox user
on 08/11/2018 at in  English

Practice question:

 

“Explain how context is an influence on an audience’s preferred reading of a text.”

 

Let’s look at the context in Of Mice and Men during the 1930s and relate that to the question.

 

Disability

-Mentally disabled people were considered a burden on society, they weren’t often given opportunities in the workforce. Widespread misunderstanding of mental disability.

-Less integration of people with mental disability in society (generally, people with high-needs were sent to specific institutions, taken away from their families, marginalised from society for being ‘different’.

-Physical disability meant you were alone, isolated and found it difficult to survive.

 

The Position of Women

-Seen as commodities, not people- Curley’s wife is not given a name- owned by her husband.

Few opportunities for women- marry or work in a cat-house.

- Married for security- their duty was to stay at home and look after the husband and children

-Lonely, isolated lives on farms with all-male workforce

- Often victims of abuse-domestic: physical, mental

 

Racism and Segregation

-Had few rights under the Jim Crow laws- mindful of not upsetting white folk for fear of being lynched.

-Made to feel unappreciated, lack of education, lack of rights.

-Isolated from whites through fear of change. White supremacy.

-No equality for blacks- victims of racial attacks- verbal and physical.

 

 

 

P1

 

·      Considered a burden on society- weren’t often given opportunities in the work place.

·      How is this established or made known in the novel?

·      I would relate this to the preferred reading that people with mental disabilities should be given opportunities based on what they are good at. They should not be judged by others on what they aren’t able to do, but what they can do. people with mental disabilities are not always disabled, some are very able bodied and intelligent, and that they are often not given a voice in society because of this label, ‘disabled’.

·       This would need a quote and reference to language features/narrative conventions identified and analysed in regards to how the author uses the language feature/narrative convention to get you to respond with that preferred reading.

 

P2:

 

·      Few opportunities for women- married for security during the Great Depression

·      How is this established or made known in the novel?

·      I would relate this to the preferred reading that Curley’s wife is a voice for women of the time. Those who had to make tough decisions in order to survive.

·      This would need a quote and reference to language features/narrative conventions identified and analysed in regards to how the author uses the language feature/narrative convention to get you to respond with that preferred reading.

 

P3:

 

·      Racism was prevalent during the 1930s, not regarded as equals.

·      How has this (or any other relevant aspect of your life) influenced the way you respond to the novel?

·      I would relate this to the preferred reading that Crooks is the only realist in the novel. He understands his place and the place of everyone in the novel. He acts to remind readers that plans do not necessarily come to fruition.

·      This would need a quote and reference to language features/narrative conventions identified and analysed in regards to how the author uses the language feature/narrative convention to get you to respond with that preferred reading.

 

 

 

Example:

 

P1:

 

A relevant aspect of the context in which the book is set (1930s, United States, California) that influences the readers’ interpretation of the text, is the lack of integration of people with mental disabilities into society. As reflected in the opening chapter of the novel, people with mental disabilities were often sent away by their family to specialist institutions and were faced with limited job prospects when they grew up. This is reinforced through George who reminds Lennie ‘If he [the Boss] finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won’t get no job’ (8). The blunt tone of George’s words supports the preferred reading that people with mental disabilities were contextually seen as burdens to society who would not really amount to much and who served no economic or social purpose. The use of the adjective ‘crazy’ and the derogatory ‘bastard’ highlights the normality of how people with disabilities were spoken to during the 1930s. In addition, the judgemental attitude towards those with disabilities can be seen when George continues, ‘but if he sees ya work before he hears ya talk, we’re set’ (8), furthering the idea that people with disabilities were not treated equally. This idea is again seen, and in some ways challenged, Lennie, who is portrayed by Steinbeck as unfailingly confident when he finds himself in a situation of realisation, ‘If you don’ want me I can go off in the hills an find a cave. I can go anytime.’ (14). The use of the unconventional choice of home, ‘a cave’, juxtaposed with the high modality language ‘I can go’, encourages readers to see Lennie’s character as self-aware and competent; he understands that he is different, and that he will probably never have the opportunities of a neurotypical person, but he also recognises his own worth. In this way, Lennie’s character reinforces another of Steinbeck’s preferred readings that people with disabilities are not always ‘disabled’, some are very able bodied and intelligent. These examples are also a reminder of the text’s purpose: to encourage readers to see an individual’s strengths, and to support the voice of marginalised members of society.

 

 

Conclusion

Migrant workers/Disabled/Women/Racism- nowadays. What has changed? How do you feel towards them now?

 

You will need to relate this to a preferred reading, or how has your own understanding based on your context been reinforced or challenged by the purpose of the novel?

 

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