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In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses the setting to explain the isolation the characters often feel. The story is set during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The novel is set on a ranch in the Salinas Valley in California.
Times were tough economically. Men like George and Lennie struggled to find work. George and Lennie moved from ranch to ranch trying to find enough money to make their dream come true. Also, the setting was a lonely setting. Men lived in isolation one from another.
George and Lennie dreamed to own a small farm of a few hundred acres, but these farms were "were relatively scarce."
Larger farms produced fruits and vegetables which provided only low wages. It was difficult to save the money that George and Lennie needed to buy their dream farm.
Steinbeck covered a strike that the workers of the Great Depression created. He was familiar with the economic times which caused the strike of September 1936. During this time, "thousands of lettuce workers in the Salinas Valley went on strike over low wages."
The strike was crushed within a month by army officers who were hired to stop the workers from striking:
The situation grew tense, and an army officer was brought in to lead vigilantes against the strikers. The strike was crushed within a month. Steinbeck covered the strike as a reporter for the San Francisco News.
Also, for a woman like Curley's wife, the setting proved to produce a sense of isolation. No other women are introduced. Curley's wife flirts with the men on the ranch because of isolation and loneliness. She reaches out to Lennie because of her lonely setting. She dies due to her interaction with Lennie. Lennie loses his life because of a woman like Curley's wife. George had warned him that she was "poison."
Economic times were difficult. George and Lennie struggled to make a living during these hard times. Loneliness prevailed. It was a life of isolation for George and Lennie. George and Lennie lived for their dream of owning their own farm one day. Since George had to shoot Lennie in the end, the dream was over.
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