Essay Planning: Light and Darkness in ‘Of Mice and Men’

So we have been practising using ‘PEE’ to plan an essay in the Literature exam. Here’s how:

Steinbeck frequently uses images of darkness and light in ‘Of Mice and Men’. Write about how this imagery contributes to the novel as a whole.

1. Highlight the key words in the essay question.

2. Use these to write your POINT sentence. The POINT sentence is the sentence you will use to make your points (or at least, the beginnings of them.) It should:

* use words from the question;

* use them in such a way as to make it clear that you are actually answering it.

Examples of POINT sentences:

The imagery of light and darkness is used to…

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to…

Images of light and darkness contribute to the novel by…

Obviously the ends of the point sentences will be different, depending on what the point is. This is when you need to start generating some ideas. So:

3. Work out what the ends of your point sentences will be. You could do this as a brainstorm, or, if you prefer, by writing out three or four point sentences and then filling in the ends, like this:

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… create atmosphere.

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… emphasise the novel’s themes.

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… create characters.

Obviously, knowing what to put at the end of the POINT sentences involves having studied and revised the novel thoroughly. This is not what we are concerned with here, but rather with the art of planning.

Once you are happy that you have three or four strong POINT sentences, then you can begin to think about the EVIDENCE you will use, to develop your point. WJEC English Literature is a ‘closed book’ exam, which means that the evidence you use will need to be in your head. (This is why revising is so important.)

4. Add the evidence:

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… create atmosphere.

The afternoon sun is described as ‘slicing’ through the cracks in the barn wall.

In the bunk house, when George confides in Slim about what happened in Weed, they are situated under the spotlight, whilst the rest of the bunkhouse is in darkness.

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… emphasise the novel’s themes.

When Curley’s wife dies, the light leaves the barn. Steinbeck describes a rectangle of light gradually climbing the wall of the barn.

When Lennie is shot at the end of the novella, the light leaves the Salinas valley: ‘Evening came fast…’

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… create characters

When Curley’s wife enters, Steinbeck writes that a rectangle of sunshine is cut off by her body in the doorway with her body.

In Crooks’ room, there is a small ‘globe’ of light that emits a yellow light.

 

5. Now for the best bit: exploring the evidence. This should be what you spend most of your time doing. It’s what I spend most of my life doing. For some tips on how to explore quotations, click here.

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