Of Mice And Men Setting

What is the setting for Of Mice and Men and why is it important?

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Mice and Men, the great novel by John Steinbeck, takes place in the 1930's during The Great Depression. Knowing the exact setting for the novel is important to understand the journey Lennie and George go through. During the Depression, unemployment was at the highest it has ever been in the United States. Furthermore, with unemployment high and the demand for labor low, wages were also very low. That left many workers looking for any type of work, regardless of wage and benefits.

With Lennie and George looking for work and just to survive the Depression and continue to live their lives, their journey was told through the understanding of why the Great Depression was so important. Understanding what they, and the rest of the country, had to go through, is essential for any reader's comprehension for this American classic novel.

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Interestingly, the Salinas Valley which is known as "America's Salad Bowl" is an extremely fertile area and even has an extended period of time in which crops can be grown compared to northern regions of California.  Then, in the midst of all this fertile land with abounding life, there is the setting of "Of Mice and Men": a "few miles south of Soledad."  The word soledad in Spanish means "solitude."  Of course, Steinbeck chose this location purposefully to underscore the aloneness of George and Lennie and the other men working as itinerant workers in such an area of rich land in the 1930s.

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The setting is Salinas Valley in California during the Great Depression.  Salinas Valley was the home of many large farms during the Depression.  This is important because large farms employed large numbers of workers, often up to hundreds.  Farm workers with no steady employment, known as migrant workers because they traveled to find work, would head to these communities.  George and Lennie are migrant farm workers, and so it is logical that Salinas Valley would be their destination.

The reason that Steinbeck makes them migrant farm workers is because these type of men were perfect highlight the lonliness and alienation created by the Depression.  These men had no home, no place and few belongings to call their own.  They were constantly at the mercy of the farmers, and of the weather - in bad conditions, they could be homeless again in moments.  Besides being homeless, they would quickly be friendless.  It was impossible to develop lasting relationships in this transient lifestyle.

This is why George and Lennie - and later, Candy - dream about getting a home with a little vegetable garden, etc..  They don't want much, they just want to be settled and to have permanancy in their lives.

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Most of "Of Mice and Men" takes place on and about a ranch in the Salinas Valley, near the town of Soledad, south of San Francisco. The story begins and ends at a clearing near a pool about a quarter of a mile from the ranch, and spans only four days. No specific time frame is given, though it seems fairly clear that the book is set during the Great Depression of the 1930s; yet though the book was published in 1937, Steinbeck does not allude to the Depression in the novel.

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