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The best quote to portray life on the ranch in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is the entire first paragraph of the second chapter, in which the author describes the bunkhouse where all the men spend most of their time when they are not laboring in the fields. The description of the clean but spartan living conditions ends with the following sentence:
In the middle of the room stood a big square table littered with playing cards, and around it were grouped boxes for the players to sit on.
The owner doesn't even provide chairs for the men. Their mattresses are made of burlap sacks stuffed with straw.
Over each bunk there was nailed an apple box with the opening forward so that it made two shelves for the personal belongings of the occupant of the bunk.
Each man has his very own apple box!
Although the first paragraph of the second chapter says nothing at all about the men who live in this bunkhouse, the reader can get a good picture of what the setting must be like when they are all present, either lying on their bunks readinig pulp magazines or sitting around the table playing cards and talking.
They don't eat in this big room but all rush to another room when meals are served. The reader can get a pretty good impression of what mealtimes must be like from Slim's advice to George and Lennie:
Slim stood up slowly and with dignity. "You guys better come on while they's still something to eat. Won't be nothing left in a couple of minutes."
Steinbeck's description of Curley's dead wife in chapter five is very touching:
Curley's wife lay with a half-covering of yellow hay. And the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young.
Like his contemporary Ernest Hemingway, Steinbeck could create strong emotional effects with the simplest English prose. Both these writers were also notably gifted in their ability to characterize the men and women in their fiction through their dialogue.
Any selection of quotes from Of Mice and Men ought to include the fantasy that George keeps repeating to Lennie, and Lennie never gets tired of hearing. It succinctly expresses the theme of Steinbeck's tale and begins with these words:
"Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world."
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