The life on the ranch for the majority of the story is based on the idea of the “American dream”. Every man wants a “little place” of his own, where he could live “offa the fatta the lan’. ” This idea of escapism is reflected in the “western magazines” owned by the men, which they loved to “scoff at and secretly believe”. Read by these men to dream of escape from the life of a migrant worker, the cycle of weeks of backbreaking toil, before moving on to the next job to repeat the process again. None of the characters can escape from it. Not even George and lennie!
Nothing is permanent for these men; they only own small things, which they can carry on their backs. Steinbeck’s description of their belongings helps to prove the vulnerability of their jobs – when the job isn’t there for them anymore, they always have to move on! Crooks the negro stable buck is more of a permanent worker. His room is small, basic and plain. Steinbeck develops crook’s personality through the descriptions of his belongings. He owns “books” and a “shot gun” suggesting that not only is he a hard worker, he is also a good thinker.
The observation of the “big alarm clock” and the statement that he had “ slightly more things than he could carry on his back” helps the reader to understand that crooks isn’t really a migrant worker and that he seems to have a more permanent contract. Although crooks is subjected to racism and prejudice, crooks is proud and aloof. He owns a “mauled” copy of the “California civil code for 1905”; this suggests that it has been read a lot! Rights are obviously important to crooks.
The description of his bed as a “long bunk filled with straw” suggests that crooks is treated little better than the animals he is expected to care for, unlike the bunks with “blankets” that some of the men have access to. He is segregated from the rest of the men, although this means he has the space that the other men dream of; he is in isolation and soured by his lonely existence. Stienbecks observation of the “manure” outside his window also pinpoints his place within the social hierarchy, as being placed near dung isn’t very pleasant.
The barn is set very differently by Steinbeck, in comparison to the other chapters. It is described as being “lazy” and “humming”, which is not only in contrast to the violence of death, portrayed in this chapter, but it also gives the reader the impression that the barn is completely contradistinctive to the hustle of the rest of the ranch. The mention of the “buzz of flies” is magnified by Steinbeck in order to symbolise that the characters are trapped into a migrant lifestyle. In the same way that flies get trapped inside buildings, to escape until their eventual death.
After Lennie flees, and Candy and the others enter the barn to discover Curley’s Wife’s body lying in the hay, the barn begins to darken, and the Sunday laziness of the horses dissipates, foreshadowing the dark ending to come. In the tragic novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ Steinbeck uses setting to prepare the reader for the novels pessimistic ending. Steinbeck sets the novella during the Great Depression, this has great impact on the story as a whole as this ensures that the characters within the novella are all living in poverty and desperate for work.
This poverty and the general tough times caused by the Depression, gives the characters good reason to be suspicious of the relationship between George and Lennie, this disbelief at such a close friendship between the two men hints that their relationship is destined to come to a painful end. In of mice and men, the American dream is the foundation of what keeps the workers living, but it can also leave the men bitter. The closer a worker comes to fulfilling a dream, the closer he comes to being disappointed, this is suggested through the poem, from which the title was taken from, proposing that dreams can often fail to become reality.
In this novella, dreams, hopes, and plans are not realistic, but about finding a way to survive the harsh times in which these men are living, Steinbeck’s use of setting enhances and highlights the idea of the American dream, whilst foreshadowing that the novella is destined to never achieve its happy ending. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE John Steinbeck section.