In Of Mice and Men, how is the bunk house described?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As with so many opening descriptions of the chapters in Steinbeck's work, there is considerable detail paid to how the bunkhouse is constructed.  Almost like stage instructions, Steinbeck wants to communicate the reality of the men who are labeled as "bindle stiffs" by the rest of society.  In describing where they live, Steinbeck seeks to give them voice and authenticate their own experience.

Part of this process involves describing the bunkhouse in almost antiseptic terms.  Steinbeck describes the bunk house as a domain where the men live, but do so only for working purposes.  Their lives as transients is communicated in details such as the "apple box" that held "the belongings of the occupant of the bunk."  Steinbeck understands that the predicament of the workers is one where they work for a particular period of time and then leave. They do not stay there for long, and thus there is a sense of contingency within the bunkhouse to communicate the transience of the men who live and work in there.  The inclusion of "those Western magazines" is also significant, as it reflects the sense of forlorn hope in how the workers "love to read and scoff at and secretly believe" them.  Steinbeck's purpose in including this detail in his description helps to foreshadow the theme of dreams and aspirations that will define men like George and Lennie.  Finally, Steinbeck wants to emphasize the temporal nature of the men's lives in the inclusion of the playing cards table, reflective of how the men pass time.  The description of the bunk house is one way that Steinbeck is able to communicate the lifestyle of the men who work on the ranches and struggle to find work.