Of Mice and Men takes place over the course of three days in the Salinas Valley on the Central Coast of California during the 1930s. This was during the Great Depression, the largest financial disaster in the history of the United States. Millions of Americans were unemployed and, like Lennie and George, desperate to find any work they could.
All the action of this story takes place in a rather confined space. In fact, there are only four locations. The story begins and ends along a wooded stretch of the Salinas River. This is where George and Lennie discuss their dream of owning their own land. It is also where George tells Lennie to return to if things go wrong. This leads to the tragic outcome at the story's conclusion.
In between, George and Lennie find themselves on a ranch a short distance away. Much of the time on the ranch is spent in the bunkhouse where all the ranch hands except Crooks live. Being Black, Crooks is forced to live apart in his own small room, where he and Lennie have an illuminating exchange about racial discrimination and loneliness. Near the end of the book, Lennie commits a fateful mistake in the ranch's barn.