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CHAPTER 2: IN THE BUNK HOUSE
The next morning George and Lennie arrive at the ranch where they will work. From the first we know that this ranch is not one of the rich spreads that we have often seen on television. This ranch is poor, like George and Lennie and like American society as a whole in the early 1930s.
NOTE: THE RANCH AS A MICROCOSM
Steinbeck has said that he intended the ranch in Of Mice and Men to be a microcosm of American society. A microcosm is a miniature world. Individual people within a microcosm represent groups of people in the larger world. The ranch has many of the qualifies of the rural U.S. during the Depression-poverty, loneliness, a homeless feeling. See if you can spot these qualities in some of the stories told about ranch life in this chapter, particularly those of Candy and Whit. The people on the ranch also represent many of the different kinds of people who lived in rural California and throughout this country during the 1930s. You will meet all of the different characters in this chapter. As you do, think about them two ways-as individual people and as symbols of groups in American society.
The second chapter, like the first, opens with a setting description. This one sounds like stage directions for a play. Steinbeck carefully takes us through the one-room bunk house. He points out even minor details, such as what type of boxes are nailed over each bunk and exactly what items are to be found stored in the boxes.
Do you notice a difference in style between the openings of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2? Look at Steinbeck's sentence structure and even his choice of words. Which opener seems more interesting or gives you a more positive feeling about the world? Remember that Steinbeck's description of nature at the beginning of Chapter 1 was filled with imagery and interesting language patterns. The sentences were long and smooth flowing, like the river. The sentences in the bunk house description are short and bare, just like the room itself. compare the first two sentences in each chapter.
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.
The bunk house was a long, rectangular building. Inside, the walls were whitewashed and the floor unpainted. Steinbeck has taken us from the world of nature to the world of civilization. How do you think he wants us to feel about this change? It is clear that the author doesn't seem too thrilled about it. We can tell this by the series of events and descriptions that follow.