Fully describe the setting of Of Mice and Men, including the sensory images.   

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Originally written for the stage, Of Mice and Men opens on a quiet setting outside of Soledad, California, that soon becomes lonesome after rabbits and other regular denizens scurry for cover when they hear the footsteps of two men. There is a pool formed from the deep, green Salinas River. The area is flooded with color: yellow, gold, green, white:

One one side of the river the golden foothill slopes cure up the strong and rocky Gabilan mountains...willows fresh and green with every spring,...sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs...that arch over the pool.

But, there is evidence of man as there is a path through these willows and sycamores, and a place where many a fire has burned. Until the two men arrive, the rabbits sit on the sand banks, looking like stone sculptures. A large heron laboriously flaps its long wings and lifts itself into the air and "pound[s] down the river. As the two men approach, the rabbits hurry for cover on the hot evening.

In this depiction of the clearing in the woods, Steinbeck employs much color/sight imagery, but there is also some sound imagery with the movement of the heron and the rabbits, as well as some tactile imagery with the description of the sandy bank and the rabbits being like sculptures, along with the description of the "rocky Gabilan mountains."

On the morning of the next day, the men arrive at the ranch where they are to be employed. The ranch itself is not described; however, the bunk house is depicted as a "long, rectangular building, whose inside walls were merely whitewashed while the floor is unpainted.

Against the walls were eight bunks, five of them made up with balnkets and the other three showing their burlap ticking.

Over each bunk there is an apple box nailed to the road, and these boxes contain the men's personal items, such as a razor, comb, medicine, talcum powder, and magazines. Close to a wall is a cast-iron stove, and in the middle of the room, there is a squared table with scattered playing cards. Around this table are boxes for the players to sit upon.

This description is rather impersonal and barren. In contrast to this is the description of the quarters of Crooks in the barn. Crooks has in his neatly swept room books and magazines and other personal items because he has worked on the ranch for a long time.

Crooks possessed several pairs of shoes, a pair of rubber boots, a big alarm clock and single-barreled shotgun. And he had books, too; a tatered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905. There were battered magazines....A pair of large gold-rimmed spectacles hung from a nail on the wall above his bed.

The room is more personal and there is a single light bulb, but Crooks is alone and marginalized since no one enters his room. The rest of the barn is somewhat hollow with empty stalls.



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Of Mice and Men

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