The Allen farm sits in the Salinas Valley outside Salinas, California after the turn of the twentieth century. Elisa is, above all, isolated on the farm and surrounded by elite masculinity. While her husband conducts business, and the handyman represents the freedom of the roving male life, Elisa sits alone and hemmed in behind her garden fence. The garden itself is her only means of creative expression and thus she comes to associate her flowers very closely with her own inner nature. That is why it is so painful for her to see them discarded with such insensitivity at the end of the story.
The setting of "The White Quail" is marked by the ordered garden adjacent to a wild brush hill. For Mary, the garden keeps the wildness, or the disorder of the hill, at bay. Thus the setting itself can be read as a representation of Mary's mind where the facade of her ordered garden disguises the fearful disorder that lurks beneath the surface.
The story begins on the meager Torres farm 15 miles outside of Monterey, California. The tiny farm, which is tucked into the foothills of the wild mountains, hugs the coast on a bluff just above the Pacific Ocean. The farm buildings, which have been battered by both the wind and sea, "huddled like little clinging aphids on the mountain skirts" (28). Pepé leaves the farm on a trip to Monterey, the big town, which exists on the periphery of the story. Eventually Pepé ends up fleeing into the wilderness of the surrounding mountains where he pits his survivals skills against nature and his pursuers. The wilderness ends up being a formidable opponent that Pepé cannot overcome with his inexperience and immaturity.
"The Snake" takes place in Dr. Phillips lab on Cannery Row in Monterey, California. His lab is reminiscent of Doc's Western Biological Laboratory in Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday.
The episode, "Breakfast," which ends up in The Grapes of Wrath, takes place in the Salinas Valley during the Great Depression when California was inundated by hundreds of thousands of such migrants looking for work. Thus Steinbeck reveals insight into the experiences of thousands of poor and displaced workers in this one brief snapshot.
The story takes place in a small, seemingly deserted Californian town late at night—next to, and inside, a large building—likely during the Great Depression when Communist organizers worked diligently to organize thousands of disadvantaged and displaced migrant workers.
"The Harness" takes place in the Salinas Valley and San Francisco. The Randall's farm, a place of repression and constraint, is contrasted against the city, which is a Babylon of waste, excess, and immoral unrestraint for Peter.
"The Vigilante" opens in a dark town park and then moves to an empty bar. The story ends at Mike's house.
The tiny village of Loma is lonely and isolated. The Hawkins sisters are integral to the community conscience. The narrator remarks, "A place like Loma with its fogs, with its great swamp like a hideous sin, needed, really needed, the Hawkins women. A few years there might do things to a man's mind if those women weren't there to balance matters" (112).
The Buffalo Bar, a seedy, dank establishment, is the center of village life in Loma. Home to a never-ending stream of whiskey, men retreat here to participate in the show by goading Johnny Bear into acting. They ultimately realize their mistake when Johnny Bear goes too far and defames the village's two most important residents.
"The Murder" takes place in the Cañon del Castillo in the Santa Lucia range—Monterey County, central California.
The story likely takes place in the traditionally Catholic French countryside in the 14th century.