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Steinbeck makes it clear that most of the men who work on the ranch are drifters. They are called bindle-stiffs because they carry all their belongings on their backs. Significantly, two of the exceptions are Candy and Crooks. Both men are seriously handicapped physically. They would not be able to move from job to job because they can't perform the hard manual labor required. So they are stuck on the ranch featured in the story and seem to characterize or symbolize the place. It not only exploits men but cripples them. Curley and his wife are also stuck on the ranch. Curley's wife hates the place, which probably makes her hate Curley for bringing her there and keeping her as a virtual prisoner. Curley himself has to stay because his father owns the place. It is not a peaceful bucolic setting but a sort of agricultural factory, a strictly commercial enterprise that produces only one crop. The bindle-stiffs probably keep moving on because they are unconsciously seeking a place where they would belong. George and Lennie are searching for a place where they could have a real sense of belonging, of permanency. In the opening chapter George decides to camp by the river overnight because he dreads being absorbed into another of the prison-like settings he is already so familiar with. He would rather sleep on the ground and eat beans out of a can.
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