In the opening of chapter 2, the ranch is presented in a very poor state. As George and Lennie enter the ‘bunk house’, they immediately feel uncomfortable and hostile due to the extremely poor lack of hygiene and privacy of where they are expected to sleep while working on the ranch. This is shown when George finds an insect repellent in his bed, and asks Candy “What the hell kinda bed you giving us”. This shows the living conditions on the ranch, and Candy’s response insinuates that precautions such as keeping insect repellents were common.
When Candy indicates to George and Lennie their beds, George feels insulted as to find his mattress is a “sack of straw”, in response to George’s outburst, Candy tries to make him feel comfort when mentioning the cleanliness of the ‘blacksmith’ that previously lived on that bed, and how he used to “wash his hands before and after meals”. By mentioning this, shows that this is an unordinary way to live in comparison to an everyday lifestyle of a guy on a ranch, in which this adds to the semantic field of poor hygiene.
Steinbeck also presents George as an exception to the filthy ranch workers as he “made his bed up neatly with blankets”. Life on the ranch is presented as being very simple and basic as the ranch workers don’t have any luxury of any kind as they simply cannot afford it due to the fact they are ‘trapped’ in a cycle of poverty, where on the one hand they get paid for their work, and on the other hand, they have to pay the ranch owner for their substandard living quarters. They only have the very bare necessities so we see as George places on the apple crate for a shelf ‘his razor and a bar of soap, his comb and bottle of pills’.
The life the workers live on the ranch consist of survival, which is why the workers use magazines etc. to read about people who have exquisite lives, trying to live in the hope of the American Dream. One of the major themes that Steinbeck presents in the novel consists of loneliness and despair, which is repeatedly shown throughout the chapter, in the motif ‘Solitaire’. This one player card game is very significant as it represents the personality, individuality and pessimistic behaviour of George and the other workers.
They are close to company, yet they feel isolated as they don’t feel the need for a friendly relationship as they feel that they will be separated in future due to the lack of job security. We can view that racism is accepted and normalised by life on the ranch, we know this because the main character, George repeatedly uses the term ‘nigger’. Blacks were also treated very harshly in the early 1930’s in America as racial discrimination was not illegal and blacks were segregated from the whites, and were treated as second class citizens, therefore they were given lower wages than white workers and were commanded to do the dirtier jobs.
An example of the harsh environment that black people had to live in is expressed in the story the old swamper told about a previous Christmas where they beat up a ‘nigger’ just for the fun of it. Also the disability and inequalities of people were also treated inhospitably on the life of the ranch. Steinbeck continually manifests the de-humanisation of Lennie and how he is rated below the standard of the ‘normal’ workers due to his mental illness.