Of Mice and Men Circular Plot Structure

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Plotting my Demise

After teaching students about allegory, imagery, and characterization in Of Mice and Men, I felt good. I bragged to my principal and demanded a statue. Then a student said, “I understand that the Of Mice and Men Plot is an excellent example of circular plot structure”. I mumbled an incoherent response. I didn’t know what circular plot structure was. I had failed my students. In shock, I ran back to my statue, chiseled away the nose, did some research on circular plot structure, and reread the novel. I analyzed Of Mice and Men plot and came up with this great lesson plan.


  1. Review the elements of literature, if necessary.
  2. Draw a giant circle on the board, divided into 6 slices (like a pie).
  3. Number each slice 1-6, one for each chapter in the novel.
  4. For each slice write down the setting and major events:
    • The setting is the river. Lennie and George had just escaped from Weed, where Lennie was being hunted for accidentally ripping the dress off a woman. It’s peaceful. Lennie and George talk about rabbits and the farm they’re going to own. George tells Lennie that if there’s any trouble, to meet him at the river.
    • The setting is the bunkhouse. Lennie and George arrive at the ranch and meet the boss, Curley, Curley’s wife, and the other workers. George and Lennie suspect trouble. Slim gives Lennie a puppy.
    • The setting is the bunkhouse. Candy’s old sheepdog is shot. Candy is brought in on George and Lennie’s plan to buy a farm and tend rabbits. They start to believe they can actually pull it off. Curley comes in looking for trouble. He gets it. Curley starts a fight with Lennie and Lennie crushes Curley’s hand.
    • The setting is Crook’s room next to the barn. All the workers except Lennie, Crooks, and Candy go out for a night on the town. Lennie enters Crook’s room uninvited. Candy enters soon after and they talk about the farm they’re going to buy. Crooks offers to work for free if he can come. Curley’s wife shows up and threatens everybody. Crooks, defeated, changes his mind about the farm.
    • The setting is the barn. The chapter begins with Lennie next to his dead puppy that he killed. Curley’s wife enters and invites Lennie to feel her hair. He pulls it. She panics and screams. Lennie gets scared and breaks her neck. The workers get a posse together to kill Lennie.
    • The setting is the river, where the novel started. George breaks from the posse and meets Lennie. They talk about rabbits and farms. George shoots Lennie in the back of the head.

Analyzing Plot Structure

Once the pie chart is filled out, students should be able to recognize the circular structure of the plot. Discuss the following connections:

  1. The story begins at the the river with Lennie and George running from a posse and ends at the river with Lennie and George running from a posse. This represents the friends' futility in trying to move ahead in life.
  2. In chapter 2 Lennie gets a puppy. In chapter 5 Lennie kills his puppy.
  3. In chapter 2 George warns Lennie to stay away from Curley’s wife. In chapter 5 Lennie kills Curley’s wife.
  4. Chapter 3 begins with the hope of a bright future and ends with Curley ruining the mood.
  5. Chapter 4 begins with the hope of a bright future and ends with Curley’s wife ruining the mood.

After discussing the plot structure, assign an essay. The thesis statement should state the author’s purpose for using a circular structure.

For example: John Steinbeck uses a circular plot structure in Of Mice and Men to show the dead end existence of working men during the Great Depression.

More Resources

Looking for a standards based syllabus for high school language arts? Click the link and find all the resources–lesson plans, unit plans, handouts, powerpoints–you need for an entire semester.

This post is part of the series: Of Mice and Men Lesson Plans

Students love Of Mice and Men. Help them develop critical thinking skills with these lesson plans.

  1. Teaching Allegory in Of Mice and Men
  2. Teaching Students to Analyze Imagery in ‘Of Mice and Men’
  3. The Best Laid (Lesson) Plans Of Mice and Men
  4. Lesson Plan: Analyzing Circular Plot in Of Mice and Men
  5. Of Mice and Men: Does it Belong in High Schools?