of each other, they do not feel loneliness in this stark and lonely landscape. This will be in sharp
contrast to the loneliness that the other workers feel on the isolated ranch.
It is also important to notice the foreshadowing that occurs in this first section of the book.
Lennie is fascinated with soft things; he hides the mouse in his pocket for it has a soft touch, and
he dreams of raising soft, furry rabbits. The fact that Lennie does not know his own strength is
also explained when he says, ‘I’d pet ‘em (mice), and pretty soon they bit my fingers and I
pinched their heads a little and then they was dead.’ George makes it clear that Lennie’s “petting”
things has gotten them into trouble before. He also explains that they have had to leave other jobs
quickly because of problems caused by Lennie. All of these facts foreshadow the trouble that
will occur on the new ranch.
It is finally important to remember that the title of the book is Of Mice and Men. In this first
chapter, both mice and men are introduced and discussed at length.
The next morning, George and Lennie reach the ranch around ten o’clock. They go to the
bunkhouse, a long rectangular room filled with beds and shelves made of apples boxes. The
room also has a table for playing cards. An old ranch hand assures George that the boss is a nice
man and that the place is very clean, in spite of the insect repellent that George spies on his bed.
The boss enters the room and inquires of George the reason for being a day late to work. George
explains that they had to walk a long way. When the boss asks for their names, George tells him
both names and explains that Lennie is a slow thinker but a strong, hard worker. He also says
that Lennie is his cousin, who he has watched after for a long time at his aunt’s request.
After the boss leaves, George reminds Lennie once again about behaving correctly and not
talking needlessly to the other ranch hands or to the boss. Candy, an old cripple who does some
of the small chores on the ranch, overhears their conversation. When George confronts him,
Candy denies hearing a word. Curley, the boss’s son, interrupts them; he has come looking for
his father. When he spies Lennie, he begins asking him questions. George always answers for
Lennie, which angers Curley. He rudely demands that Lennie answer him directly in the future.
When Curley leaves, Candy tells George that the young man used to be a lightweight boxer and
picks fights with everybody, especially men that are bigger than he. As a forewarning, George
proclaims that Curley had better not attempt a fight with Lennie. Candy then tells George about
Curley’s new wife. He describes her as a flirtatious woman who has eyes for every man on the
ranch. After Candy leaves, George warns Lennie about Curley and tells him not to lose his
temper around him, no matter what happens. He also reminds Lennie of the hiding place by the
Curley’s wife enters, looking for her husband, and stays, flirting with George, even after she is
told that Curley has gone. Lennie, staring at her, outwardly shows he is impressed with her
beauty. After she leaves, George tells him he must not stare at her again and warns Lennie that
any contact with the lady will cause a direct confrontation with Curley. Lennie is scared and
upset. He wants to leave the ranch and says that “this ain’t no good place. . .it’s mean here.”
George reminds him that they must earn some money if they are ever to have their own farm.
Lennie understands and agrees. Ironically, their staying on the ranch destroys the dream. For
once, George should have paid attention to Lennie’s intuition.
Slim, a ranch hand that commands respect, comes into the bunkhouse for lunch and strikes up a
conversation in a friendly tone. He asks George and Lennie to become part of his team. Carlson,
another ranch hand, walks in and talks about Slim’s dog having a new litter of pups. They decide
to give one of the puppies to Candy to replace his old, blind, and stinking mutt. When Candy and
Carlson leave, George promises to ask for one of the puppies for Lennie. He instinctively knows
that his friend wants one for a pet.
Curley comes in again, looking for his wife. When he leaves the room, George has a premonition
that Curley will cause problems.
In this second chapter, Steinbeck vividly describes the remaining important characters of the
story. Candy is pictured as old, bored, and physically handicapped, with a wooden stick for a
right arm. He is a keen observer as he goes about his chores and knows about most things that go
on at the ranch. He is compared to his old mutt, his constant companion. The boss of the ranch is
the second important person introduced in the chapter. Although described as a nice man, he is
irritable by nature and voices his displeasure when George answers the questions addressed to
Lennie. The boss’ son, Curley, is next introduced. He comes in with his hands covered in
Vaseline, for he wants them to remain soft and smooth for his wife. Although he is short, he is
solid, having trained as a lightweight boxer. He is also vain and rude, trying to mask his
insecurity and inferiority complex. To hide his weaknesses and size, he acts big and tries to pick
fights, enjoying hurting someone. He is a total contrast to Lennie, who is huge in stature and
hates hurting anything. As a person, Curley definitely introduces a note of the ominous into the
Curley’s wife is introduced next. She is painted as a vulgar woman who is quite proud of her
position on the ranch as the boss’s daughter-in-law. She wears heavy make-up and flirts with
every man on the ranch. Not understanding her appearance or her motives, the innocent Lennie
thinks she is pretty. Slim is a friendly man, who asks Lennie and George to join his team. He is
described as a man in his late thirties, who loves his job and is neat and clean. He is also a
thinking man, who ponders things. When he learns Lennie and George are together, he
comments, ‘I don’t know why many guys don’t travel together. Maybe the whole world is afraid
of each other.’
Again in this chapter, Steinbeck demonstrates how George protects Lennie. He answers the
boss’s questions about Lennie, even though it causes the boss to be angry. He does the same
when Curley questions Lennie. After learning about Curley’s background, George warns Lennie
to stay away from him. He also tells Lennie he must never again stare at Curley’s wife. George
obviously senses that things are not going to be easy for he and Lennie on the ranch with Curley
and his wife around. As a result, he reminds Lennie once again about the hiding place in the
bushes by the stream. In spite of his slowness, Lennie also has an ominous feeling about the
ranch and says, “This ain’t no good place.”
In addition to his intense devotion towards Lennie, George has a strong moral sense. Even
though he does not like Curley, he does not like it when the men tease Curley for wearing a
glove full of Vaseline. He says, “That’s a dirty thing to tell around.” George is also pictured as
being concerned about cleanliness, inspecting his bunk for bed bugs and asking questions about
the insecticide on the shelf. His cleanliness is in direct contrast to Lennie, who carries a dead,
dirty mouse in his pocket and thinks nothing of drinking stagnant water.
This end of the chapter focuses on the fact that Slim’s dog has given birth to puppies. Carlson
and Slim decide that Candy’s old, blind dog needs to be killed and replaced with one of the new
puppies. The manner in which the death of the dog is planned suggests the violence and brutality
of life on the ranch. When Lennie hears about the puppies, he immediately wants one for a pet.
The kind George promises to ask Slim for one.
It is important to notice the clear, simple style of this chapter. There is considerable dialogue that
reveals much about the characters. Using the third person, impersonal narrator, Steinbeck also
gives a clear, crisp picture of the events that transpire in the bunkhouse, without making any
personal comment. He begins the scene by describing the physical bareness of the ranch and the
bunkhouse, creating a feeling of foreboding; by the end of the chapter, he has created a fully
ominous feeling, due to the personalities of Curley and his wife. Both George and Lennie have a
bad reaction to the ranch.
It is evening in the bunkhouse, and George is seen thanking Slim for giving one of his puppies to
Lennie. The modest Slim says it was nothing, for he might have wound up killing more of the
puppies anyway. Slim then comments that Lennie is a very hard worker and asks about their
friendship. George says that they have grown up together, sharing good times. He also tells Slim
that Lennie is dumb but not crazy and gives the example of when Lennie jumped into the river
without knowing how to swim. Slim listens to George very attentively and adds his own
observations about Lennie, saying he is definitely not a mean guy. He then asks George why they
had left their previous job. Though hesitant at first, George tells him about the episode when
Lennie touched the dress of the young girl, explaining that he was wrongly accused of attempted
rape; as a result, they had to run for their lives. When Lennie walks in, George is quick to see
that he has a puppy hidden in his shirt. George explains that handling it too much can hurt the
puppy and commands him to take it back to the barn; Lennie obeys. The way Lennie behaves
makes Slim comment that he is just like a kid. George agrees.
Old Candy walks into the bunkhouse with his old dog and asks for a drink of whisky for his
upset stomach. When Carlson arrives, he comments on the stinking smell of the dog in the room.
After much conversation in which Candy defends his old dog, Slim and Carlson persuade him to
get rid of the dog and promise a new puppy in its place. When Candy agrees, Carlson gets his
gun and leads the dog outside into the darkness. A gunshot is heard in the distance, and Old
Candy is visibly upset.
When George sits down to play a card game with Whit, Crooks comes in looking for Slim. He
complains about Lennie messing around with the pups. George tells Slim to drive Lennie away if
he is creating problems. George turns to the card game, but Whit does not seem interested. He
talks about Curley’s wife and tells George about their Saturday night jam up at Susy’s place,
which has clean chairs and clean girls. George agrees to go with them, but says he will not spend
any money on the women. He is saving his money for the farm.
Carlson returns, cleaning his gun, and Lennie is with him. While Whit and Carlson are sharing a
joke about Curley’s wife, Curley himself barges into the room, asking the whereabouts of Slim.
Curious about what is going on, Whit follows Curley out, leaving Lennie and George together.
George inquires about the happenings inside the barn. Lennie assures him that he is not getting
into any trouble. Lennie then starts a conversation about their dream, and George describes each
and every detail as he sees it.
Listening in on the conversation, Old Candy is interested in their plan and says he will give them
his savings, about 300 dollars, if they will let him join them. He does not wanted to be treated
like his old dog and promises to do lots of the work. Though George hesitates initially, he
accepts Candy’s proposal, for 300 dollars is one-half of the money they need and brings them
closer to the fulfillment of their dream.
George decides to send off a down payment on the farm in the amount of one hundred dollars. A
clamor outside the room puts an end to their conversation. Slim, Carlson, and Curley enter the
room. Slim is quite furious with Curley for wrongly accusing him of talking to his wife. Curley
then tries to pick on Carlson, but he also dismisses him blatantly. Candy joins in the fray and
laughs at Curley for using a glove full of Vaseline to make his hand soft for his wife.
Unaffected by all the commotion, Lennie smiles as he continues to dream of the farmhouse.
Curley misinterprets his smiling and picks a fight with Lennie. Although he hits Lennie
repeatedly, Lennie remembers the warnings and does not defend himself against Curley. George
is outraged by the situation and encourages Lennie to strike back. Lennie quickly crushes
Curley’s right hand and throws him down. When George expresses his fear of losing their jobs,
Slim strikes a deal with Curley. He promises not to tell anyone about how Curley is injured if
Curley does not tell his dad about the incident. The vain Curley agrees to Slim’s plan before he is
taken to he hospital.
Although injured and bleeding himself, Lennie feels guilty about hurting Curley and repeatedly
asserts that the whole thing was not his fault. He begs George not to be mad at him and wants to
make sure he will still get to go to the farm and tend the rabbits. George is not the least bit angry,
Lennie is further developed in this chapter. Slim says he is likable and compliments him as a
hard worker. He wants to know more about George’s friendship with him. George explains that
Lennie is slow, but not crazy. He shares a significant incident with Slim. Once George told
Lennie to “go jump in a river.” Lennie, not understanding the comment, obeyed his friend
literally, even though he did not know how to swim. When George rescued him, Lennie was very
appreciative, forgetting that it was George who told him to jump. It is obvious that Lennie has
great respect for and child-like trust in George.
Slim is also developed in the chapter. He is a leader amongst the ranch hands, commanding
respect. It is also clear that he is mentally superior to the other workers. He appreciates the kind
of friendship that George and Lennie share and recognizes its rare quality. He also learns to look
at Lennie through George’s eyes, seeing him as a child who must be guided and disciplined. He
is also self-confident and is not afraid to stand up to Curley when he falsely accuses him.
A portion of the chapter is devoted to Candy and his dog, and there are many parallels that can
be drawn between that pair and George and Lennie. Candy is devoted to his dog, and, in return, it
follows its master everywhere. In a similar manner, George is devoted to Lennie, who will
follow him anywhere. Candy’s dog emanates an awful odor which goes unnoticed by Candy;
they’ve been together for so long that Candy has gotten used to the stench. Similarly, Lennie can
be a nuisance and a pain, but George is so used to his presence that he barely notices Lennie’s
odd ways. Candy agrees to have his dog killed, for he realizes that it has become a social
nuisance. In a similar manner, George will kill Lennie, since he is judged to be a threat to
society. After Candy agrees to the killing, he turns toward the wall, unable to face the dog or the
people. Before George shoots Lennie, he asks the latter to look away. After his dog’s death,
Candy feels lost and alone, foreshadowing how George will feel after Lennie is gone.
Steinbeck portrays the harsher side of life through Carlson. On a superficial level, he seems
totally brutal, caring only about his own discomfort in regards to Candy’s dog. In truth, his
suggestion that the dog be killed and replaced with a puppy is practical advice, for the animal is
very old, blind, crippled, and stinking. Carlson volunteers to shoot the dog to spare Candy from
having to do it himself. Later, Candy says he should have shot the dog himself. But Carlson sees
it as an act of mercy, just like George’s shooting Lennie is intended to be an act of mercy. The
reactions of the men to the two deaths is very different. In honor of Candy, they maintain a
respectful silence until they hear the gunshot announcing the dog’s death. Their conversation
afterwards is muted and respectful. After Lennie’s death, the men show no sensitivity to George;
only Slim appreciates what has happened and shows George any concern. In truth, they seem to
value the life of a dog more than the life of Lennie.
Although the dream of the farm is a recurring image in the first two chapters, it takes on a new
significance in this chapter. George and Lennie are different from the other workers on the farm
because they have a dream, a purpose. Their life has more meaning than going down to Susy’s
place. When Candy hears about the plans of George and Lennie, he wants to join them, hoping to
find peace and contentment in his last days. Now that he has lost his dog, his faithful companion,
he has nothing and belongs nowhere. He offers his life savings of 300 dollars for the chance to
go with them and promises to work hard. At first George hesitates to include Candy, but he
realizes that Candy’s proposition leads them closer to the fulfillment of the dream and accepts it.
The irony is that George and Lennie really do come close to fulfilling the dream. Had they been
able to leave the ranch, Lennie’s tragedy would have been avoided.
The first real conflict that Lennie has on the ranch occurs towards the end of this chapter.
When Slim and Carlson refuse to fight with Curley, he deliberately picks on Lennie, striking
him. Lennie remembers George’s warning and obeys, trying to stay out of trouble and not
striking back. When George sees what is happening, he urges Lennie to defend himself. In the
ensuing fight, Curley is thrown to the ground and his hand is crushed. Curley agrees to say that
his hand was crushed in a machine, not telling his father or the other ranch hands the truth, for he
is ashamed of his defeat. The reader is aware, however, that Curley will want his revenge.
After the fight, Lennie feels guilty, for he did not mean to really hurt Curley. He simply does not
know the power of his own brute strength, foreshadowing the tragedy at the end of the novel.
Lennie is also fearful that he has displeased George. His main concern is that he will not be
allowed to go to the farm or have any rabbits.
Lennie arrives at Crooks’ room looking for his pup. At first, the black man, who is a loner on the
ranch, is hostile towards him, saying that black men do not mix with white ones. His proud
attitude changes, however, when he observes Lennie’s childish conduct. He finally invites Lennie
into his well-kept room, but he does not know how to treat him. Crooks is at first cruel to Lennie,
teasing him about George not returning from the city. Lennie protests that such a thing would
never ever happen. Lennie then tells Crooks about the plan to buy a farm, and Crooks speaks
about himself, telling of his childhood. Lennie then turns the conversation to his dream of
owning rabbits. Crooks tells him that his dream is never going to be a reality, explaining that
many men have the same dream but never save enough money.
Searching for Lennie, old Candy makes his way to Crooks’ room. He is invited inside, where he
and Lennie have a conversation about the farm. When Crooks learns that they have saved almost
enough money to buy some land, he becomes interested in the dream and expresses a wish to
join them, working for his keep.
Curley’s wife walks in, looking for her husband. The men tell her he is not around and ask her to
leave. She desperately tries to strike up a conversation with them and complains about her
loneliness and how people treat her. She also says that she does not believe that Curley’s hand
was caught in a machine. In the conversation that follows, Candy reveals the dream of owning a
farmhouse to her. She reacts in a discouraging and condescending manner. She also finds out the
truth about her husband’s crushed hand.
The private Crooks grows upset about all the people in his room. He demands that Curley’s wife
leave immediately, which upsets her. Before she departs, she threatens him with a charge of
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