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In the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, setting plays an important role as it helps the reader understand the atmosphere Steinbeck creates. The novel has four major settings that are the Salinas River, the bunkhouse, Crook’s room, and the barn. The first and last setting in the novel is by the Salinas River. Steinbeck creates the setting as being idealistic and like the Garden of Eden. The place is described as `fresh’ and `twinkling’ creating a beautiful image. Steinbeck uses different techniques such as a metaphoric transition between the `golden foothill slopes’ and `strong… rocky Gabilan mountains’.
Steinbeck uses a metaphoric transition between the `golden’ slopes, giving a smooth and warm feeling, compared to the `rocky’ mountains. The transition represents opposites in nature but this also links with George and Lennie, being very different from one another; Lennie is described as having `bear’ like features such as `big paws’ and `wide, sloping shoulders’. However George is defined as being his `opposite’ with `slender arms’ and being `small and quick’. In the beginning of the book, the two friends shared their feelings, expectations and a combined dream of becoming independent from reality.
George also planned an escape route for Lennie as he is expecting trouble ahead. The men are on their way to a ranch looking for work, as they had to run away from the troubles they left behind in Weed, although many more problems will arise through the journey. The scene is set just outside the town Soledad, which means solitary, suggesting the men’s aloneness with the world, even though George and Lennie are a pair, they have lost and lonely minds filled with empty dreams and aims. But like the Garden of Eden, not everything is as perfect as it seems.
In the final scene Lennie returns to the river alone in fear of the consequences following his earlier actions. Steinbeck describes the setting with the sun `climbing up the slopes’ showing the uses of personification, and is running away from the problems Lennie is faced with, just like he has done. A `snake’ swims along the river, representing a symbol of Eden’s evil, and the end of the dream. The snake swims along the pool until it reached a heron, which represents purity and patience, the neck of the `motionless’ heron `lanced down’ and `plucked it out by the head’ swallowing the snake whole.
The evilness of the snake is gently eased by the purity of the heron, until `another little water snake’ saw up the pool, gently swaying side to side. The evil of the snake represents the death caused by Lennie, and then getting eaten away by the patience heron, to return soon after. Having the beginning and end set in the same place, represents the cycle of George and Lennie’s life till the death of Lennie and the almost certain dream. The second setting; the Bunkhouse, is where Steinbeck shows the hard, basic and lonely life the migrant workers live, with very basic and shared accommodation.
Steinbeck describes the bunkhouse with `unpainted’ floors and `small square windows’, with `eight bunks’ for the men with space for any personal possessions in an `apple box’ nailed above each bunk. The bare possessions owned by the men included basic toiletries, tools, medicines and Western magazines as a form of little entertainment. They seemed to have nothing valuable, sentimental or beautiful in their lives, showing doubt and unhappiness. The workers had medicines showing they were expecting to become ill at any time, living in the basic conditions with a long hard labour.
The only entertainment described by Steinbeck includes `Western magazines’ and `playing cards’ showing the men’s lives are basic, plain and not many activity’s for the men. The bunkhouse gives no privacy and offers no real comfort for the men after their long day at work, through the harsh living conditions, Steinbeck shows us the brutal world in which only the fittest can survive. The men living in the bunkhouse are described as being aggressive meaning Lennie and George must constantly be on guard as the men are mistrustful of each other, and the bosses’ son, Curley, constantly itching for a fight, because of his position on the ranch.
Chapter four shows the hard life for the weak, disabled black farmer Crooks. The man is isolated because of his colour, meaning he is separated from the company of other men to make his life more bearable. His loneliness has made Crooks into a bitter character, with fear of being hurt more. The room where Crooks lives is described as `a little shed’ with limited possessions including books, medicines and a pair of glasses. Crooks is shown as a intelligent man wanting more in his life, as his books include the `Californian civil code’.
He is described as a `proud, aloof man, with eyes that `glitter with intensity’. The accommodation Crooks lives in shows his little value. Later in the chapter we find that Crooks used to be accepted as part of the community in Soledad, but was left alone when other black families moved away. The chapter ends as it began, lonely and bitter. As a shelter for animals, Steinbeck uses the barn to show the non-deliberate murders of Curley’s wife, and the new-born puppy, killed by Lennie and his animalistic features.
Lennie doesn’t understand why the puppy got killed, since it is so much bigger than a mouse causing him to `cover it over in hay’ in his frustration. Lennie’s thought quickly turn to the rabbits that he would tend in the dream as he threats his precious and meaningful role, would be destroyed. The location is best suited to the murders, as it symbolises the death of the dream and animals such as the dead mouse, the dead dog of Candy, Curley’s wife and the dead puppy.