The majority of the story Of Mice and Men takes place on a ranch in Soledad, California. The action is presented in only four settings at the riverbed, in the bunk house, Crooks' room, and the barn which lends to the dramatic quality of the text.
The story begins and ends at the Salinas riverbank a few miles outside of the ranch where George and Lennie start working. George and Lennie camp there for the night prior to moving on to the ranch in the morning. Readers are introduced to the men's dream of owning a plot of land there for the first time. George also forebodingly instructs Lennie to return to the riverbank in case he gets into any trouble. While at the beginning of the story the space represents hope in the American Dream, it comes to represent the shattering of that hope as George must shoot Lennie there in order to protect him from Curley's wrath at the end of the story.
Lennie, George, and the rest of the ranch workers, except for Crooks, live in the bunk house. There the men make an attempt at creating some sort of home life and bonding with one another. The bunk house also serves as a symbol of elite masculinity is the text as outsiders such as the feminine Curley's wife and the African-American Crooks are usually barred entry. The men are quite antsy and desire Curley's wife to leave immediately when she makes an appearance. Steinbeck also reveals that Crooks has only been admitted into the bunk house for a holiday celebration.
Living in seclusion in a small, isolated room, Crooks lives a bitter and lonely life in the barn, which is a dark and foreboding place in the story. A critical conversation takes place there between Crooks and Lennie that reveals to readers how heavily solitude and loneliness can weigh on a person. That Crooks is forced to live in the barn with the animals also demonstrates his society's view of African-Americans as subhuman, more fit to dwell with the animals in the barn than in the bunk house with men during the time period. Finally, Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife in the barn at the end of the story.