How does Steinbeck create atmosphere in the lead up to the fight between Lennie and Curley?

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How does Steinbeck create atmosphere in the lead up to the fight between Lennie and Curley?

The fight is a pivotal moment in the novella’s plot and it brings out the emotions of many of the ranch hands and lets us examine closely the relationships between certain characters. Steinbeck uses carefully planned linguistic techniques to create an atmosphere of tension and drama before the event, adding to the foreboding throughout the first two chapters that something bad will happen between Curley and Lennie. Steinbeck uses hard, harsh language in dialogue between the characters before the fight. Sometimes this is an intentionally aggressive attack, such as Carlson addressing Curley as a “God damn punk” and subsequently threatening to “kick [his] God damn head off”; often it is built into ordinary speech, exemplified by the repetition of the word ‘hell’: “What the hell you laughin’ at?” “Why’n’t you tell her to stay the hell home”. If the latter had simply read “Why’n’t you tell her to stay home” it would be perceived as a genuine, polite question but adding ‘the hell’ gives it an aggressive tone, showing to the reader that tension is mounting in the bunkhouse. Nearly all of this aggression is aimed at Curley or from Curley, as Curley is provoking them with his own aggressive, egocentric attitude, and this gives the impression that they are all against Curley and that inevitably he will be involved in the violence resulting from the growing tension in the room. The general antipathy towards Curley also influences the readers’ own negative opinions of him and, such is Steinbeck’s intention, they will take sides with whoever dares to fight him.

It is argued, however, that the harsh language used by the workers is not intentionally aggressive at all and simply typifies the harsh reality of ranch life and the limited vocabulary of the workers. One technique that Steinbeck definitely uses though is imagery, both in dialogue and in description of characters. Animal...