Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

City

City. Unnamed California city at the start of the novel that is probably San Francisco. The signs of the economic Depression are everywhere here. Steinbeck wastes little time describing this setting, but it is in this city that Jim Nolan begins his education, by joining the Communist Party. He has been “dead” in this modern and alienating urban environment for some time, but under the tutelage of Mac, a Party organizer, he makes his commitment to the causes of social justice and begins to come alive.

Torgas Valley

Torgas Valley. Rich farmland full of apple orchards some 150 miles southeast of the city (and closely resembling California’s real Salinas Valley). Mac tells Jim that “Torgas is a little valley, and it’s mostly apple orchards. Most of it’s owned by a few men. . . . when the apples are ripe the crop tramps come in and pick them.” Later, Steinbeck describes one orchard where the pickers are working: “The orchard was alive. The branches of the trees shook under the ladders. The overripes dropped with dull plops to the ground underneath the trees. Somewhere, hidden in a tree-top, a whistling virtuoso trilled.” Figuratively, this is an evocation of the innocence of the Garden of Eden before the Fall. The title of the novel is actually taken from John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), which describes the forces of the fallen angels in league with Satan and, in the line Steinbeck uses...

(The entire section is 488 words.)