How does the setting of Of Mice and Men clearly communicate Steinbeck’s message about the end of the American dream?

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In one sense the setting of this story is deliberately nondescript. There is nothing about the farm where Lennie and George work that stands out from any of the other hundreds of farms in the area. All that they have in common is that they use itinerant workers such as Lennie and George and the other men on the farm as cheap labour. The setting of the story at the time of the Great Depression deliberately exposes the frailty of men and the way that they are subject to economical forces that are far stronger than they are. Even though George and Lennie have a dream to sustain them, again and again this dream of buying some land of their own is threatened and challenged by other characters. Note what Crooks says to Lennie in Section 4:

I seen hundreds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads... every damn one of ’em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.

The setting of the story therefore reinforces the impossibility of the American Dream through presenting the farm as a kind of microcosm of American society at the time, filled with a group of people who are all lonely and have dreams that are hopeless. Even though the friendship of George and Lennie seems to offer some kind of artificial hope that dreams could come real, the setting constantly tries to erode that hope until it is finally successful. As Crooks says, nobody "never gets to heaven."

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Of Mice and Men

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