Who’s Responsible?

A variety of themes are explored in Of Mice and Men, some of which you have explored in your last investigation. One of these themes explores how every individual has responsibilities they must satisfy within an environment. This theme is explored particularly through characterisation — the thoughts, feelings and actions of the individuals in the environment. You have already worked on defining several different environments in Of Mice and Men. These included the social, cultural, ethical and economic environments of Tyler ranch. So who is responsible for these environments?


Explore the theme of responsibility of the individual as seen through the characterisation in Of  Mice and Men.


  • Your writing will be in the style of an analytical essay
  • It must be 500-1000 words in length. Submissions shorter or longer than this will not be accepted.
  • Your work must include evidence from the text and be accurately cited.
  • You will be assessed using criterion B and C, and will peer assess each others work using criterion A


You have already considered the way in which characters affect and are affected by the environment. This task asks you to focus primarily on the responsibilities of individual characters within an environment. Your task is to make connections between these ideas. Choose two or three characters from the novel. For each, discuss their acts of responsibility and/or irresponsibility and how they ultimately affect the environment of Tyler Ranch. Think analytically about Steinbeck’s characterization: why do these characters behave the way they do? In what ways are they also affected by their environment? Why did Steinbeck create them this way? What is his point regarding responsibility and environment? Also, don’t be afraid to talk about other literary features. Foreshadowing is linked with Candy’s responsibility in the novel so this could be used as a point of discussion.


Start by investigating each of the characters and the responsibilities they have to the ranch and each other. Use this planner to help you.

Once you have finished the planner, decide which characters you have the most detail about. Which characters have more responsibilities? Which characters consistently don’t meet their responsibilities? These are all indications that a particular character is worthy of analysis. Select your favourite two or three.

Now create an outline. How will you divide your thoughts? A logical way to start is by working on one character, then moving to the others. There are other ways however: you could organise by acts of responsibility and irresponsibility or you could organise your ideas by environments. Remember, you are being assessed using criterion B, so it is important that you have made this clear.

Image: ‘Little One

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