In Of Mice and Men, how does Steinbeck create setting in Chapter 1 ?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Steinbeck is able to construct the setting to the first chapter in a couple of ways.  The opening to each of the chapters in the work are established with an almost journalist- like description of the conditions that welcome the characters.  This description is almost as meticulous as stage directions for a drama.  Steinbeck is able to do this in the first chapter as he describes the physical territory into which George and Lennie will appear to us.

The establishment of the Salinas River is a part of this.  Soledad, "loneliness," is the first physical location described.  The physical description of the first chapter's setting with the water that is "warm' and "twinkling" as well as the Gabilan Mountains, along with a bank "under the trees" where "the leaves lie deep and and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them" all help to establish how this looks in the reader's mind.  Steinbeck goes to vast lengths in describing the setting into which the initial action between the two main characters will take place.  At the same time, his description of the setting becomes that much more significant when he comes back to this at the end of the novel.  Steinbeck is able to create the setting through such descriptions, placing his characters within it, both as the center of attention, but also as a part of the condition into which all life takes place.  Through this stylistic element, Steinbeck is able to make the setting almost like a character in the narrative itself.