Steinbeck has started the first two chapters with key descriptions of settings. Discuss the difference between these two settings in Of Mice and Men? Section 1 "A few miles south of Soledad, the...

Steinbeck has started the first two chapters with key descriptions of settings. Discuss the difference between these two settings in Of Mice and Men?

Section 1

"A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool. On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees—willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool. On the sandy bank under the trees the leaves lie deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them. Rabbits come out of the brush to sit on the sand in the evening, and the damp flats are covered with the night tracks of ‘coons, and with the spread pads of dogs from the ranches, and with the split-wedge tracks of deer that come to drink in the dark."

Section 2.

"The bunk house was a long, rectangular building. Inside, the walls were whitewashed and the floor unpainted. In three walls there were small, square windows, and in the fourth, a solid door with a wooden latch. Against the walls were eight bunks, five of them made up with blankets and the other three showing their burlap ticking. Over each bunk there was nailed an apple boxwith the opening forward so that it made two shelves for the personal belongings of the occupant of the bunk. And these shelves were loaded with little articles, soap and talcum powder, razors and those Western magazines ranch men love to read and scoff at and secretly believe. And there were medicines on the shelves, and little vials, combs; and from nails on the box sides, a few neckties. Near one wall there was a black cast-iron stove, its stovepipe going straight up through the ceiling. In the middle of the room stood a big square table littered with playing cards, and around it were grouped boxes for the players to sit on."

 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The introduction to Sections 1 and 2 differ markedly in both style and content.

In Section 1, Steinbeck writes of his beloved Salinas Valley, evoking a picturesque scene of burgeoning Spring and animal life, painted with color and grace. Indeed, the page comes to life with lyrical movement and visual imagery:

...the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan mountains...willows fresh and green with every spring...and sycamore with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool.--

Accompanying this lovely depiction of a peaceful and natural scene is the history of those who come to the "deep pool" as they leave something of themselves behind:

...tracks of 'coons...the spread pads of dogs...and the split-wedge tracks of deer..the limb...worn smooth by men who have sat on it.

Contrasting with this earthy and vital scene in Section 1 is the opening of Section 2 with its staccato sentences that lack distinction. The depiction of the bunkhouse is sterile and mathematical in its categorizing of the colorless geometric structures and items within this barren building:

The bunk house was a long, rectangular building...the walls were whitewashed and the floor unpainted. In three walls there were small, square windows....Against the walls were eight bunks, five of them..with blankets and ...three showing their burlap ticking....Near one wall there was a black cast-iron stove....

There is a marked absence of nature and life and variety in this scene that certainly differs from the descriptions of Section 1. Instead, descriptions uniformly itemize things. Clearly, in this bunkhouse there is little that is distinctly personal--only a few ties hung on bare nails as the powders, razors, and medicines are standard for all ranch hands.  

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