Of Mice and Men takes place in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. During this time, jobs were scarce and many people were forced to be itinerant, traveling from town to town, searching for short-term employment. Steinbeck’s story focuses on the hardships that these workers had to face, and explores the issues that affected them.
The novel begins in a rural setting – a bunkhouse on a ranch. Steinbeck uses careful descriptions of the surroundings to emphasize themes, structure, and context. This setting is vital to the development of the story because it influences the vocations of the characters. The author also uses place names to signal the setting.
The setting of the story evokes the 1930s, a time when men dominated society. While the characters of the novel are largely male, there is one notable female character, the Curleys Wife. She is referred to as a “tart” and “jail bait” by the other workers. Her husband, Curley, is very demanding. The couple’s dream is to buy a ranch.
The title of the novel comes from a poem by Robert Burns. It is a Scottish dialect poem that translates to “best-laid schemes go awry.” That’s what happens in the book: Lenny and George’s scheme goes awry. Sadly, it turns out to be the most important obstacle in their way to becoming a successful rancher.