By Chapter 2, Steinbeck has established two separate moods using a dual style. He alternates between a poetic and a naturalistc style. The dialect is written in slang and colloquialisms. It is intentionally ungrammatical and characteristic of the tough, lonely men that inhabit the novel. However, when Steinbeck is describing the land, his sentences are almost poetic. His harshness in the dialogue produces a sense of foreboding since we know that Lennie has been in trouble because of his great strength before the novel opens. Curley, who has seen Lennie's size, immediately dislikes Lennie. However, the mood is balanced primarily because of the portraits of Slim and George. Slim acknowledges the good and bad in people and is an example of man at his best. George is to be admired for his obvious care of Lennie--and, later, his romantic description of his dream about having his own land one day.
The prevailing mood throughout this chapter is one of tension. George and Lennie meet the other ranch hands they will be working with, the boss, his son, Curley, and Curley's wife. This chapter sets up the conflicts, foreshadowing the trouble that will occur in the later chapters. George is nervous going to a new place because he never knows how people will react to Lennie, and his new boss is suspicious that George steals Lennie's money until George tells him that he and Lennie are cousins. The other men underscore the themes of loneliness and the Depression occurring in the U.S. at that time, and George doesn't trust any of them at this point. George yells at Candy, accusing him of listening to his conversation with the boss and Lennie. Curley also comes into the bunkhouse and sets up his conflict with Lennie. Curley is a small man who likes to pick on bigger men because that way he never loses. If he beats up the bigger man, then Curley is congratulated, but if the bigger man beats up Curley, the others watching consider the bigger man a bully. Curley either wins the physical battle or a moral battle this way. This injects a great deal of tension into the story because Curley insists on talking to Lennie when George answers for him. When Curley's wife enters the bunkhouse, this adds to the tension because Lennie repeats over and over how "purty" she is. George angrily tells Lennie to stay away from her.