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  • Date Submitted: 11/14/2013 02:01 PM
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3. Describe the devices Steinbeck uses to create atmosphere in Of Mice and Men.

The story is set in California's Salinas Valley and the action takes place on a large ranch during the Great Depression. One of the ways Steinbeck creates atmosphere in the novel is the way in which he uses nature as a background and ‘medium’ of his characters.   Nature is seen in minute detail.   The opening of the novel illustrates this and the description is full of nostalgia. The tone is simple and immediate:

‘There is a path through the willows and among the sycamores, a path beaten hard by boys coming down form the ranches to swim in the deep pool, and beaten hard by tramps who come wearily down from the highway in the evening.’

There is a poetic element to Steinbeck’s style, as seen in the following quotations: the sycamores have ‘mottled, white, recumbent limbs’, the ‘rabbits sat as quietly as little grey sculptured stones’, a heron is ‘stilted’ and a lizard ‘makes a great skittering’. He uses various literary devices including similes and metaphors, onomatopoeia and personification.   The closeness of man to nature is emphasised in the novel and Lennie is seen frequently as a bear or a dog; the imagery emphasising the simple responses of his nature.
The settings are simple in detail but powerfully symbolic. The secluded spot in the woods by the stream is the uncomplicated world of Nature; the bunkhouse is the bleak home of hired working men trying to make sense of their lives and gain comfort in a limited environment; the barn is the place of working life, of seed and harvest, birth and death, the harness room with Crook's bunk symbolises social constraints; the ‘little place of our own’ about which George and Lennie dream is the Paradise we all yearn for.
Light is another very important element in the novel which Steinbeck uses to create atmosphere.   The natural light of the sun and the artificial light of the interiors is an important part of the author’s unvoiced...

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