The War of the Mice and the Crabs Questions and Answers
by Giacomo Leopardi

Start Your Free Trial

Explain how Steinbeck uses language to describe the setting in Chapter Six of the novel, Of Mice and Men?

Expert Answers info

Sol Gandy eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write965 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Steinbeck opens each of the six chapters of his novel, Of Mice and Men, with a description of the setting. Chapter Six is set near "the deep green pool of the Salinas River", which is also the setting of Chapter One. Lennie has returned to this spot on George's orders. For George and Lennie, this is a safe place, free of other people or the potential for Lennie to do "another bad thing". Lennie returns to the spot after accidentally killing Curley's wife, and it is where he will meet his end as George mercifully kills the big man at the close of the chapter.

In order to understand Of Mice and Men, the reader must understand literary naturalism. In novels which employ naturalism the characters are viewed from a totally objective and scientific stance. Often the harsh realities of life, as in nature, are the focus.

In the opening of the chapter, Steinbeck initially describes a tranquil scene:

The deep green pool of the Salinas River was still in the late afternoon. Already the sun had left the valley to go climbing up the slopes of the Gabilan Mountains, and the hilltops were rosy in the sun. But by the pool among the mottled sycamores, a pleasant shade had fallen.

Like the ranch, the river looks calm, but when examined closer it has an underpinning of violence as a heron, a bird common to this part of California, kills and eats a small snake. This matches the atmosphere at the ranch, which is idyllic on the surface, but which contains the belligerence of Curley and the discontent of Curley's wife, as well as alienation and racism.

These settings are a microcosm for the rest of the world which is a tough place to survive. In the final analysis Steinbeck's world is difficult and depressing where "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray".

check Approved by eNotes Editorial