The setting offered in the first chapter is a calm and serene vision. It is something that reveals itself to be the hiding place for Lennie, where he is to go when there is trouble or an instant sense of fear. The physical conditions of the banks of the river and the small puddles of water help to bring out the fundamental calm in this area. At the same time, the physical setting is where only Lennie and George exist. The wideness of the land as well as the limitless nature helps to feed their own dreams, as well as their own hopes in the future.
This is set in stark contrast to the setting of the bunkhouse. The cramped conditions, the focus on personal toiletries, as well as insect spray helps to bring out how far both of them are from where they were. It is a necessary evil though, as both need work and need to save for their shared dreams, something at this point in the novel makes total sense. At the same time, the cramped conditions reflects what it actually means to be in the company of other men, individuals who struggle and fight to find work, any work, in a time period where so few are fortunate.