Steinbeck’s style is economic; he uses every word carefully. His descriptions are highly detailed, showing that he is an excellent observer, especially of natural things, such as landscapes and animals.
He creates the setting for each ‘scene’ with vivid description, and takes care to describe the atmosphere as well (eg ‘The silence came in to the room and the silence lasted…’ (when describing the shooting of Candy’s dog). Another example is after the death of Curley’s wife: ‘…a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. Sound stopped and movement stopped…’) His style is simple and straightforward, with few long sentences. It is a combination of poetic and realistic.
His poetic style uses detailed description and striking, effective metaphors, similes and imagery: for example, the metaphor ‘the heron jacked itself clear of the water,’ the similes ‘in and out of the beam flies shot like rushing stars’ and ‘…as silently as a creeping bear’ and the imagery on p105 ‘the tops of the mountains seemed to blaze with increasing brightness’ when Steinbeck describes the sun setting, heralding the end for Lennie and a new dawn for George.
His more realistic style can be seen in his dialogue. The way the characters speak is naturalistic and counterbalances the poetic description. For example: ‘What the hell kind of bed you giving us anyways? We don’t want no pants rabbits.’ This quotation conveys just how the ranch hand would have spoken, using slang (pants rabbits), double negatives (don’t want no) and missing out words (bed you giving us?).
Like his poetic description, Steinbeck’s dialogue is also economical; he does not waste any words. He also uses the dialogue as it would be used in a play – to move the action along, or to heighten the atmosphere, for example when Lennie says ‘Let’s get outa here. It’s mean here.’
This combination of poetic versus realistic style mirrors the themes of dreams...