How does Steinbeck build up atmosphere and tension in the fight scene ‘Of Mice And Men’?
Steinbeck uses different techniques to build up tension and atmosphere in the fight scene of ‘Of Mice And Men’. These methods include powerful images, vivid choice of words and speed of events. Personally, I think the most effective method is the contrast between Lennie’s gentleness and power. I think Steinbeck achieves the full potential effect with this technique, and it really adds to the images in the readers mind.
John Steinbeck uses violence in speech to build up tension. Curley says “Come on ya big bastard. Get on your feet. No big son-of-a-bitch is gonna laugh at me. I’ll show you who’s yella”. This quotation shows the obscene language used in the fight scene, and how it builds up atmosphere. Curley speaks in an aggressive manner and this dialogue shows he was acting threateningly towards Lennie. Not only does the obscene language suggest his fury, it also acts as evidentiary support for how uneducated the ranch workers were. This is also backed up by the fact that the boss doesn’t swear, suggesting he is slightly more intelligent than his employees, hence his authority. Curley is described as ‘handy’ earlier in the text, meaning he is a good fighter. He also tends to attack an easy target. Lennie is extremely vulnerable, despite his size. Therefore, Curley would be significantly improving his reputation by fighting Lennie, because people would be unaware of his vulnerability and just notice his appearance. The violence in speech is a very effective technique.
The description of the setting in this chapter is very different from the previous one, but also very similar in other ways. It is different because the mood is generally more threatening and ominous, but also because our vision of the characters in it is different, and we have fears, hopes and general suspense coming from the previous chapters, while in the first description it was a completely ...
Another method used by the author was similes or powerful images. Steinbeck describes Cureley’s movements as ‘Of Mice And Men’ states ‘Curley stepped over to Lennie like a terrier’. Terriers are stereotyped as small yet extremely violent dog. This really adds to the tension and makes the readers perspective of the scene very vivid. Lennie’s hands are also frequently referred to as paws. This, metaphorically, gives the impression that Lennie is some kind of animal. This emphasises the way Steinbeck describes Lennie. It also adds to the reader’s comparison between Lennie and Curley, as Lennie is quite obviously physically stronger, yet isn’t mentally capable of intentionally hurting somebody. Another incredibly effective simile is used when Steinbeck describes Curley as ‘flopping like a fish on the line’. This introduces a really strong and vivid image in the readers mind. It emphasises how powerful Lennie is, yet how unaware he is of his strength. This is supported by the later techniques of contrasting Lennie’s gentleness and power. The way the scene is described also makes Lennie’s actions seem almost effortless for him.
Steinbeck also uses powerful language to help the reader imagine the scene. The author writes ‘Curley slashed at his eyes’. This describes the violence imposed on Lennie. The phrase is not only potentially emotive language, the word ‘slashed’ is also onomatopoeic. This provides the reader with an in-depth mental image of the fight and its effects on
Lennie. Another example of this is when Steinbeck refers to Curley’s actions towards Lennie as ‘slugging him in the face’. The word ‘slugging’ provides an image for the reader.
Of mice and men demonstrates Steinbeck’s ability to build up fear throughout a scene. Before there was any actual physical conflict, Steinbeck wrote ‘Lennie looked helplessly at George, and then he got up and tried to retreat’. The word ‘helplessly’ highlights Lennie’s vulnerability. Furthermore, the word ‘tried’ suggests that Lennie doesn’t have control of the situation and doesn’t know what to do. This quotation is very emotive for the reader as they presumably prefer Lennie to Curley and don’t want Lennie to get hurt. Another example of the fear built up by the author is when the book says ‘George put out his hand and grabbed Slim’. The reader is immediately startled that George prevents Slim from helping Lennie, this shock soon turns into fear for Lennie.
... Curleys wife and Lennie and so the death of the dream. Steinbeck creates the character of Curleys ... black wrinkles and ‘ pain-tightened lips. The reader sympathies with Crooks because he is physically ... words. To further set the scene of Crooks room, Steinbeck uses cinematic effects. This helps ... Steinbeck does this to summarise Crooks as a character in a short space of time instead of describing ...