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In this wide reading assignment I am going to compare two different stories, John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ and Thomas Hardy’s ‘ The Three Strangers’. Both stories are written in completely different countries. Hardy was writing in 1883 about rural Dorset in the 1820’s and because of the time period, Hardy’s writing goes into greater detail about everything in his story much more often than Steinbeck does in his ‘Of Mice and Men’. Steinbeck was writing about the life of workingmen in America one year after the Wall Street crash in the 1930’s.
The story is based in California. The initial differences in style of writing are quite easy to see. Hardy writes with long, complex sentence structures, making long descriptions of the buildings, objects, people and weather. He uses complex, learned similes, ” the long inimical seasons, with their sleets, snows, rains and mists afford withdrawing space enough to isolate a Timon or a Nebuchadnezzar… “. In contrast, Steinbeck is descriptive, but in a more economical, more to the point way of writing.
He describes things within his story with a simple, direct approach, giving a clear visual image, ” A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas river drops in close to the hill-side bank and runs deep and green”. There are, however, some similarities between the two stories’ openings. Both open by describing very lonely, sparse locations. Hardy opens with “Fifty years ago such a lonely cottage stood on such a down… “, “In spite of it loneliness, however, the spot, by actual measurements, was not more than five miles from a Country town.
” Steinbeck opens with a similar idea, “A few miles south of Soledad… “. They both use the same device of a path to draw the reader into the story and they describe their opening scenes almost like you would imagine a film director to shoot his film, exploring a wide area, then drawing into more detail, focusing in on a particular part of this vast area. They both use descriptions of animals in the area to bring the scene to life and to make it seem much more realistic.
In order to convey the bitterness of the climate, Hardy describes the shepherds’ flock, ” such sheep and outdoor animals as had no shelter, stood with their buttocks to the winds… “. Steinbeck uses dogs and deer to similar effect, ” with the spread pads of dogs from the ranches, and with the split-wedge tracks of deer that come to drink in the dark. ” With this image, Steinbeck conveys the scene of unspoilt nature in this lonely drinking place. ” Within the two stories, many differences appear in the two societies that are written about by the authors.
One of the key reasons for this is the difference in time of writing and the country they are writing about, with both authors writing about totally different places and styles of life. Hardy tells of a secure community that is tightly woven together with little to be concerned with other than work and leisure. Hardy describes that there is not much trouble, as we can tell from the part-time police officer that would only work with his staff with a royal emblem on top. He did not know what to say when making an arrest, instead saying what a robber would “…
your money or your life! “. Although Hardy describes this community as quite a safe place, it is not idyllic, with poverty and unemployment in the area, which we learn from one of the main characters, Timothy Summers ” the poor clockmaker we heard of, who used to live away at Shottsford and had no work to do- Timothy Summers, whose family were a-starving… “. In contrast to the tightly knit community, Steinbeck writes about sparse, wide-open spaces with miles to walk if people wished to gather or go to different cities and towns.
He writes about itinerant workers travelling together to work on lonely ranches during the great depression. They, the characters in the story, have to regularly find temporary employment, working heavily on ranches for small pay, “To-morra we’re gonna go to work. I seen thrashin’ machines on the way down. That means we’ll be bucking grain bags, bustin’ a gut. ” These workers have next to nothing to look forward to after they retire, as a character named Candy demonstrates, “I planted crops for damn near ever’body in this state, but they wasn’t my crops, and when I harvested ’em they none of my harvest.
“. The characters in Steinbecks’ book harbour the same dream, to have their own farm and work when they want to, but as another character explains, “… never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it. ” In both stories, the people have a certain pride in their work. In both stories, people are known by their job title; for example, in ‘The Three Strangers’ we have people described to us as people like “Charlie Drake the Hedge-Trimmer”, as is the same in ‘Of Mice and Men’.
As a character is referred to as “Slim the jerk-line skimmer” who is admired for the skill he has in the way he works. The difference between peoples work in the two stories is that in ‘The Three Strangers’ a job is for life as you are told “you can tell a mans work by his hands. “. The leisure of the people in Hardy’s ‘The Three Strangers’ is fairly different to that of the people in Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’. In Hardy’s story, the characters rarely celebrate as money is tight, but they hold civilised parties for courtship and socialising.
In ‘Of Mice and Men’ this is not the case. Workers earn their pay and waste it on drink, prostitutes and gambling. Marriage is seen in two completely different ways in the two stories. In Hardy’s story there is marriage and planning ahead, “The shepherd fennel had married well… ” In Steinbecks story, people avoid women and marriage, one of the main characters even calls women “jail bait” and says he would rather be given “a good whore house every time” than be married.
Crime and Punishment differs in both stories, in both there are still people trying to escape from the law. In ‘The Three Strangers’ it is in a remote area that has never dealt with an escaped prisoner. The town only has a part-time police officer, yet there is the utmost respect for the law. The case is very different in ‘Of Mice and Men’. People still live in a remote area, but take the law into their own hands, forming lynch mobs to catch whoever breaks the law instead of getting the police involved first, “I’m going for my shotgun, I’ll kill the big son of a bitch myself!
“. In both stories the punishments are harsh for the crimes committed. In ‘The Three Strangers’ people are hanged and in ‘Of Mice and Men’ people are shot dead by executioners or members of a mob. The communities react quietly against the law and have their own sense of justice. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE John Steinbeck section.