How does the language in the beginning passage of Chapter 5 in Of Mice and Men make an impact on our view of the setting?
Chapter 5 of Of Mice and Men is the second to last chapter. The first paragraph includes a detailed description of the barn. The impact on the reader is that this serves to remind the reader of where the action of the story takes place- on a ranch in Northern California, around the Great Depression and at a time when “agriculture as a working-culture was undergoing an historic change” (enotes historical context, Of Mice and Men). Most of the description is reserved for the hay. The barn is described as “great” and the hay is described as coming down “like a mountain slope” (p. 42), so both of these words serve to stress the immensity. The rest of the crop has also not been brought in, indicating unfinished business.
In the second paragraph, the focus switches to imagery though the use of sensory details that make the reader feel there.
The afternoon sun sliced in through the cracks of the barn walls and lay in bright lines on the hay. There was the buzz of flies in the air, the lazy afternoon humming. (p. 42, emphasis added)
As noted by the words I have put in bold, we see the sun and hear the sounds of the flies. This really establishes the farm setting, but in a pleasant way. While outside it is a bit noisy and chaotic, inside “it was quiet and humming and lazy and warm” (p. 42)
Note that Lennie is alone in the barn, so we can interpret this as Lennie’s haven of lazy comfort. The outside world continues to be messy, but inside it is peaceful. Lennie’s peace, unfortunately, is not real. We soon see that he is stroking a dead puppy. We realize the peaceful language is deceptive, and things are not peaceful at all. The juxtaposition serves to jar the reader, and make the scene all the more grotesque.
For more about the setting of the book, read here: http://www.enotes.com/of-mice-and-men/historical-context
For more about this chapter, read here:
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin, 1993. Print.