How Does Steinbeck Create Tension in of Mice and Men

May 5, 2018 General Studies

Steinbeck also uses pathetic fallacy, figurative and colloquial engage to build the tension in the readers mind. The tension in chapter six rises when the reader finds out that the setting in the last chapter is the same as the first chapter and that the events take place at the same timescale. This makes the narration seem to come a full circle. Although the story ends where it began, the values of the setting have been changed. Instead of a place of sanctuary, the pool is now a place of death.

Instead of the innocent picture of “rabbits playing in the brush”, there is an imagery of violence with the “heron swallowing the little snake” whole. Instead of green leaves and a gentle breeze, there are brown dying leaves and a gush of wind. Instead of safety for Leonie there is danger. Instead of companionship for George there is a future of loneliness. As the last chapter begins with the sun setting, this marks the death of the day, making the reader wonder if it is not only the death of day but something more sinister is to come.

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All of the above creates tension to the reader as everything in nature is dying signifying that death is near. In the first chapter Steinbeck describes Leonie as a “bear’ but in the last heaper he is a “creeping bear’, from this we can sense that if Leonie is “creeping” then something is afoot. Steinbeck also uses the term “pounded” to describe the heron having a labored flight. Steinbeck uses phrases like the one above to prepare chapter six with very powerful and strong verbs and adjectives to reinforce the tension.

Another way in which Steinbeck uses strong verbs and adjectives is in the phrase “jacked its way clear of the water” which implies force; ironically a heron is a very delicate bird, whereas these incident show violence. These short simple sentences complement the absurdity of the event, which quickly builds the momentum of tension in chapter six. Tension is also built when the reader finds out how opposite things are happening to Leonie. His clumsy body language signals the tension to the reader.

Steinbeck uses words like “quietly/’ to make the reader think that it is as though he knows he has done something wrong. Lenses body language can be shown through the way he drinks the water as he “kneels down” in chapter six, instead of “drinking like a horse” in chapter one. We mind this to be very different to the Leonie we met in chapter one. As Leonie is trying to process the problem we can assume that he feels guilty for what he has done. Tension in the novel again rises when there is a conversation between Leonie, his aunt Clara and a “gigantic rabbit”.

Let alone everything we see to show the workings of Lenses mind, we can still tell that his mind is childlike if he is having imagery of a “gigantic” talking “rabbit”. The hallucinations that Leonie has shows that his mind is slowly breaking making the atmosphere more tense. Steinbeck very intelligently shows the dying of day through the lengthening “shadows” and that darkness is taking over. By doing this, Steinbeck prepares the reader for the climax which can be expected to appear when darkness falls.

The darkness can be seen as a symbolic ending to both the day and Lenses life this reinforces the tension. As the time passes George finds Leonie and when they are talking to each other about the dream the sentence structure is simple. This makes the dialogue short, dramatic and tense, for example: we goanna do it? “Goanna do it real soon” “Me an’ you” “You an’ me” “go on George when This moment in the brush is very significant in terms of the American dream which purports to economic success if you are ready to work hard.

However, Steinbeck tries to smash this ideology by showing that dreams only die-The American dream is not a reality, it’s just a dream in essence. At this point in the novel the tension has reached its climax. As the chapter slowly goes towards the end, Steinbeck mentions “Carillon’s lager” this reminds the reader of the shooting of Candy’s dog. It also reminds he reader about what Candy says to George in chapter three: “l ought to of shot my dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to let no stranger shoot my dog’.

This makes tension for the reader rise as they begin to again wonder if George will shoot Leonie himself and not let someone else do the job. Steinbeck says “The voices came close now’. This short simple sentence on its own creates a lot of tension, Steinbeck makes it seem like time is running out for them. Steinbeck creates this tension through the sound of people coming threateningly close. Then comes the point in which George must kill Leonie at his point in the novel there is a sign of dramatic irony as we know George is going to kill Leonie but Leonie doesn’t. Also, George pulls the trigger there is a moment where everything is at peace and it is as though all the action here slows down, at this point tension in the readers mind is greater than ever as they may have second thoughts on whether or not George is going to kill Leonie. To conclude, Steinbeck creates tension in chapter six before ending the novel to make it even more compelling. With the use Of pathetic fallacy and figurative language Steinbeck creates an atmosphere of reality.


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