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How does Steinbeck use setting in his novellas Essay

Steinbeck uses the beginning of each chapter to paint the image of the room or location in which the chapter takes part. The main locations are the place near the pool, the bunkhouse, the dream farm, Crooks’ room, and the barn. Steinbeck picks items or feature of each place to help evoke the atmosphere of the place and to symbolise the greater ideas of the story. The idealised setting near the pool is where people start waiting to begin working towards the American dream, hoping to live an idealised existence; it acts as a canvas for their dreams to be painted upon. However, Crooks’ room and the bunkhouse represents the difficulty to reach the ‘American dream’. The barn is somewhere to reminisce about the struggle on the path to the idealised world. Then the last chapter of the novella returns to the place near the pool, this is when they know they have failed. That this is reality and it is clear it is just a dream. This cyclical structure shows the contrast about dream and reality. As mentioned the first chapter of the novella is set in the place near the pool. The setting resembles paradise. Somewhere you can be at peace.

This fools Lennie into believing that he is safe when he is not. The picturesque setting makes people believe that dreams are attainable. There is great peace and tranquillity, as indicated by the fact that ‘deer come to drink in the dark.’ There is no one that can endanger their lives, the dears are not afraid of the predators, just as Lennie is not. But the danger that lurks underneath. This is illustrated in the killing of the snake by the heron ’a silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while it tail waved frantically’. Lennie’s arrival describe as ‘silent as a creeping bear’. Mirrors the arrival of the snake ‘A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side; and it swam the length of the pool’ this foreshadows Lennie’s death. The bunkhouse and Crook’s room are the two settings in which most of the novella takes place.

The settings contrast because the bunkhouse is plain, but Crooks’ room is full of possessions. The reason for this is Crooks is that he doesn’t have a chance @being a stable buck and a cripple he was more permanent than other men’ and he is black. In light of this the harness room is more than he can wish for. Crooks has ‘more possessions than he could carry on his back.’ This is a lot more than the other men, meaning that he is a more permanent inhabitant. On the other hand, the men in the bunkhouse are transient and not move a lot of possessions. ‘Over each bunk there was apple box with the opening forward so that it made two shelves for the personal belongings of the occupant of the bed … this shelves were loaded’. The men (except Crooks) share a long rectangular building with 20 other men, where they could have a whole farm to themselves; even if the men do not have a house to themselves they still try to create some personal space and belongings. The dream farm is the fantastical world for the ranch workers to work and live in. this is the place where people feel free, and can do whatever they please ‘if we don’t like a guy we can say, “Get the hell out” an’ by God he would.’ This shows that they are they boss and do not ‘have to buck no barley eleven hours a day’.

They could set their own rules. When they have this dream farm they would be independent. They do not have to be given food, money and shelter ‘No more running’ round the country and gettin’ fed by a Jap cook. No sir, we’d have our own place where we belonged and not sleep in no bunkhouse.’ In the dream farm they had a place where they could settle for once, they could even think about making a family, because they would be settled and have a regular income to support the family with. This is a dream that is currently impossible for them. The barn is a place to be supposedly safe as it is a place to shelter and protect the animals in. this is ironic as it is the place that Lennie kills he dog and Curley’s wife in the barn. All the places in the novella signify the hardships of life. The place near the pool symbolises the contrast between dreams and reality. The bunkhouse is a gateway to their ‘dream’. Crooks’ room shows the segregation and prejudice that was around in 1930s America. The barn represents loneliness and death. The fault of the dream farm is it does not actually exist.


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