In Of Mice and Men, how does Steinbeck present the lives of the workers on the ranch?

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The lives of the ranch hands, who are, by and large, workers traveling from place to place, are described as harsh. For example, as George and Lennie lay down to sleep under the stars near the Salinas river before they start their new job on the ranch, George says:

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The lives of the ranch hands, who are, by and large, workers traveling from place to place, are described as harsh. For example, as George and Lennie lay down to sleep under the stars near the Salinas river before they start their new job on the ranch, George says:

I seen thrashin' machines on the way down. That means we'll be buckin' grain bags, bustin' a gut.

The ranch is a place of loneliness too. Although the men live close to one another, with little privacy and few possessions, sleeping together (except for Crooks) in the same bunkhouse, they are still lonely because their wandering lives mean they can't put down roots and become part of a community. As George says to Lennie, explaining how their friendship sets them apart:

We don't have to sit in no bar room blowin' in our jack jus' because we got no place else to go.

This particular ranch also has a mean, frightening quality, mostly radiating from Curley. George tells Lennie he's "scared" after they interact with Curley and says the place:

ain't no setup. I'm scared. You gonna have trouble with that Curley guy. I seen that kind before.

The dream farm George spins endless stories of owning is the opposite of everything wrong with the ranch: on the farm, George and Lennie can keep out people like Curley who cause trouble, they will be able to take a day off if they want to, and they will have a sense of place and plenty that the ranch does not provide.

The farm George and Lennie dream about, at least in their imaginations, provides a respite from their current dawn to dusk labor. As George says, they would only have to work:

Maybe six, seven hours a day. We wouldn't have to buck no barley eleven hours a day.

They also would a sense of satisfaction from their labor that they don't now, because their migrant status alienates them from what they do:

An' when we put in a crop, why, we'd be there to take the crop up. We'd know what come of our planting.

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In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck presents the lives of ranch workers in a negative light. Take, for example, his description of the bunkhouse in the opening of chapter 2: the bunkhouse is where the men live, and it is depicted as being more like a prison than a home. There are few windows, for example, and the walls are "whitewashed." In addition, the men have only minimal personal effects, including soap and razors. The bunkhouse, therefore, lacks any personal touch and sense of belonging.

For Crooks, the bunkhouse is symbolic of his isolation because he is generally not allowed to go into the bunkhouse. In fact, he has only been inside once, during Christmas.

Steinbeck also suggests that the lives of these workers are dominated by feelings of loneliness and isolation. Note how a number of characters say how unusual it is for two ranch workers to travel together, as George and Lennie do. Instead, men travel and work alone. Their contact with the outside world is restricted to their visits to town on a Saturday night.

In addition, with the exception of Curley, they do not marry or have families. Their only relationships with women consist of visits to local brothels, as we see in chapter 4.

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Steinbeck presents the lives of the ranch workers to be unfulfilling, lonely, and arduous. The transient workers are essentially powerless because of their economic situation and are forced to work long hours for little pay. Typically, workers travel alone from one farm to the next without staying very long, which explains their isolated lives. However, George and Lennie are the exception and travel together as friends while they search for work. Many of the workers on the ranch also have dysfunctional, difficult lives, which are portrayed in various ways throughout the novella. Candy is getting too old to be useful and fears that he will be let go soon. Crooks is marginalized because he is black, while Carlson is depicted as a coldhearted man, who lacks empathy for others on the farm. The only wise individual who is presented in an unambiguously positive light on the farm is Slim. Throughout the novella, the workers long to own their own property and become financially stable. However, their dreams are simply fantasies which will never be attained. Even George is forced to accept the reality of his disheartening situation after Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife. Overall, the lives of migrant ranch hands are difficult, isolated, and discouraging. The lack of significant personal relationships and financial freedom prevent the workers from living satisfying, comfortable lives.

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The life of the ranch hands is characterized by hard work, first and foremost, and also loneliness, isolation and powerlessness. Though most of the men work and bunk together, they are presented as existing in a situation where every man is on his own. 

Loneliness is a recurrent theme in the novel. "Guys like us," George says, "that work on the ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong noplace."

Candy and Crooks are the best examples of the ranch hands being isolated and lonesome. Candy has just one friend, an old dog. He also has only one hand, so he can no longer do much work on the ranch. Without the ability to work, Candy is powerless in ways that are literarl and figurative. He has no property, no family, and no real wealth. 

This state of affairs characterizes all of the ranch hands. Only Lennie and George can be said to have a friend. 

Crooks is forced to stay in his own room in the stable and is not allowed to mix freely with the other ranch hands. There is a definite, if invisible, line between Crooks and the other ranch hands drawn due to race. 

Crooks' racial identity parallels the economic or financial identity of the ranch hands. They are separate from the big house, separate from Curley and Curley's father. They are separated by the issue of wealth and land ownership. 

Through these examples we can see that the ranch hands have a defined "place" on the ranch which serves to isolate them. 

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