This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at language in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. John Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men as a novelette, or what he described as a “playable novel”. The text is tightly structured as a series of scenes; dialogue forms a significant proportion of most of these scenes. The language of narration is clear and precise while characters speak in an honest and unsophisticated dialect dictated by geography, class and other social circumstances.
Beyond dialogue, the language choices in Of Mice and Men tell us subtly about what characters are thinking and feeling. Steinbeck does this not through telling us directly, but through careful depictions of scenes and of characters’ physical actions and responses while they interact with one another.
Remember, therefore, to analyse not only the content of dialogue, but also the descriptive elements which introduce or follow speech.
While visual elements, including layout, font and, sometimes, illustration, certainly have some effect on the reader’s understanding and interpretation of a text, its meaning is conveyed primarily through language. Texts cannot exist without the words from which they are formed.
Authors choose the language that they use with precision. Beyond the literal meaning of each word lies a weight of symbolic meanings and other associations. Language conveys literary effects through the use of imagery, such as metaphor, simile and personification. Dialogue, setting and characterisation are all accomplished through an author’s skilful use of language.
It is always worthwhile to pay close attention to language choices in a text; your effort will be rewarded through deeper understanding. Remember to go beyond the surface meaning. Take time to consider what is going on below the surface. Pause a moment to think about the language the author has put such care into choosing. This practice will help you to decipher the text’s deeper meanings.
Answer the questions below to develop your understanding of the way language choices affect our interpretation of a text.