This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at setting in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. The location and the time in which the events of a text take place are two significant elements of a work’s setting. In addition to the events explicitly taking place in a novel, there will be events occurring in the background to which characters might allude. This wider fictional world is known as context and is also a key component of its setting (fictional context should not, of course, be confused with the author’s real-life context). Another important element of setting is atmosphere, which can change multiple times in a text, just as a text might include several different settings.
It is important to spend some time considering the setting of any text you study. The world in which the characters live impacts the decisions which they make over the course of the plot.
The effect of political or social events on characters can usually be seen in their reported thoughts, behaviour and dialogue.
While John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is rooted in a very specific time and place, Steinbeck aimed to remove features which would closely identify the story with a set of political developments. This creates the impression that the social conditions which rule the lives of the characters are somehow beyond time, existing long before the events of the novel take place, and showing no signs of a foreseeable end. Why might Steinbeck have wanted to dissociate his text from historical specificity in this way?
Geographical setting can include country or region, environment, the buildings or landscapes where events occur, and even the weather. Do all the events occur in the same place? Do characters travel, or arrive from elsewhere? How does the interaction of characters with their environment create meaning in the text?
It can also be useful to compare the time a text is set with when it was written. Do these times differ? Find out why an author might choose to set a text in the past, present or future. Does this change our understanding of the story?
Answer the questions below on setting in Of Mice and Men.