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I will choose the beginning of the novel, because I think the way Steinbeck describes the setting is very interesting. First of all, notice that he begins by describing the Salinas Valley in great detail. It’s a beautiful, peaceful picture. To me, this presents the contrast between peace and suffering that is throughout the novel.
A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool. On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees— willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool. (Chapter 1)
Notice the detailed imagery in this passage, appealing to five senses. Steinbeck carefully describes the sights of the valley, including the colors and movement of the river. Words like “twinkling” and “golden foothill slopes” make the setting come alive. It is a peaceful, beautiful world Steinbeck is describing.
This beatific setting is interrupted by the appearance of George and Lennie.
And then from the direction of the state highway came the sound of footsteps on crisp sycamore leaves. The rabbits hurried noiselessly for cover. A stilted heron labored up into the air and pounded down river. For a moment the place was lifeless, and then two men emerged from the path and came into the opening by the green pool.
Notice that when George and Lennie arrive, there is fear and then lifelessness. They interrupt the idealism and bring suffering.
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