Notes on Of Mice and Men Themes

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Of Mice and Men Topic Tracking: Landscape

Landscape 1: Before we meet any characters the narrator introduces us to the California valley, along the Salinas River, and its beautiful landscape. These descriptions of nature bookend sections of the novel. They are very poetic and stand apart from the rest of the novel, which is composed primarily of dialogue. An example:

"Evening of a hot day started the little wind to moving among the leaves. The shade climbed up the hills toward the top. On the sand banks the rabbits sat as quietly as little gray, sculptured stones." Chapter 1, pg. 2.

The description of the green river and its yellow sands is a quiet image, broken only by the entrance of George and Lennie.

Landscape 2: The conditions of the bunkhouse starkly contrast the lush and beautiful description of the valley's landscape. Inside the bunkhouse it is dark and dull. Each man's bunk is the same as the others. Each has a little shelf to put his belongings on, but that is all. The contrast between this man-made world and that of nature is described as follows:

"At about ten o'clock in the morning the sun threw a bright dust-laden bar through one of the side windows, and in and out of the beam flies shot like rushing stars." Chapter 2, pg. 17 - 18.

Landscape 3: For the third consecutive chapter Steinbeck begins with a description of the setting. He contrasts the dark bunkhouse with the light still visible outside:

"Although there was evening brightness showing through the windows of the bunk house, inside it was dusk." Chapter 3, pg. 38.

Landscape 4: After Lennie leaves and Curley's wife lies dead in the hay, a strange quiet settles over the barn:

"As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment." Chapter 5, pg. 93.

This moment lingers, then decisively ends when Candy enters the barn, looking for Lennie.

Landscape 5: The book ends as it began-by the banks of the Salinas River. The scene is described as tranquil and beautiful, just as in the first chapter:

"Already the sun had left the valley to go climbing up the slopes of the Gabilan mountains, and the hilltops were rosy in the sun." Chapter 6, pg. 99.

The Salinas River and its creatures have not changed despite the turmoil Lennie and George have suffered.

Landscape 6: After the shot is fired, there is a description of how the landscape reacts to the violence:

"The crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again." Chapter 6, pg. 106.

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