I am have difficulty in understanding Of Mice and Men. Is a theme created by the writer followed by the creation of the atmosphere.  I received my coursework back and the question was, "At the End...

I am have difficulty in understanding Of Mice and Men. Is a theme created by the writer followed by the creation of the atmosphere.  I received my coursework back and the question was, "At the End of the Novel there has been a distinct change in the atmosphere from that provided by the opening.  How does Steinbeck achieve this and for what purpose?"  

There is one paragraph I have written that I am struggling with....

Another theme is the almost pure sense of tranquility which later turns into a disturbance and the evidence for this atmosphere created by this theme is shown in 'the rabbits sat as quietly as little grey, sculptured stones' and 'for a moment the place was lifeless'.  This indicates exactly how quiet this scene really is.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are a couple of moving parts here.  There is not a steadfast rule about which comes first in terms of a theme of an atmosphere. Sometimes, an author will use an atmosphere to create a theme.  For example, Scott Fitzgerald uses the atmosphere of the 1920s, the Jazz Age, to establish his themes in The Great Gatsby.  In this particular instance, I think that Steinbeck uses the atmosphere to enhance his themes of the American Dream, the establishment of community, as well as the theme of poverty.The question of how there has been a distinct change in the atmosphere can help to illuminate such themes.  

Consider that the setting in the first chapter and the setting in the last chapter is the same. However, there is a fundamental difference in how each setting looks.  The first chapter features Lennie and George with a sense of hope and optimism about what can be in the face of what is.  However, in the last chapter, there is a sense of fear and dread that Lennie understands that his hopes are going to be dashed because he "did a bad thing."  The detail about the rabbits sitting reflects this.  As the first chapter opens, it becomes clear that Steinbeck wishes to establish a sense of pristine hope and promise in the world that awaits George and Lennie.  The "lifeless" condition is one where hope is intact and optimism presents itself, a condition that is challenged when the same setting is encountered at the end of the novel.  As a result, the atmosphere can be seen as enhancing Steinbeck's themes at different point in the novel's trajectory.

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