Of Mice And Men Essay Research Paper

Of Mice And Men Essay, Research Paper OF MICE AND MEN KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS SETTING This book is set in two places. It starts beside a stream, close to the Salinas River, a few miles

Of Mice And Men Essay, Research Paper

OF MICE AND MEN

KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

This book is set in two places. It starts beside a stream, close to the Salinas River, a few miles

South of Soledad. It then moves to a ranch, where the major part of the story is set. At the end of

the novel, the setting comes back to where it started.

The stream introduces George and Lennie. They are on their way to a near-by ranch. The

surrounding land is thick in vegetation and has its own wild life. Men frequent it, as there are ash

piles made by many fires and the limbs of the sycamore tree have been smoothed by the many

men who have sat on it.

The ranch, where the major part of the story takes place, appears isolated and lonely. It includes

a ranch house, a bunkhouse where the ranch workers live, a barn, and a harness-room off the

barn.

CHARACTERS

Major Characters

George – the protagonist and main character of the book. He is a caring, compassionate, and

understanding human being who dreams of owning his own piece of land.

Lennie – the obedient friend of George. He has a child’s mind and a giant’s body. It is these

contrasting qualities that cause him problems.

Old Candy – one of the lonely ranch workers. He is a cripple, working as a ‘Swamper’.

Crooks – a black ranch hand. He is sensible and neat, with a mind of his own. He is a lonely

character, who is discriminated against, due to his race.

Slim – a ranch worker with leadership qualities. He commands respect from all on the ranch.

Curley – the boss’s son who is a light weight boxer. He picks fights with everybody on the ranch.

Curley’s wife – the only woman on the ranch. She is very flirtatious.

Minor Characters

Carlson – a brutal man. He objects to Candy keeping his old dog.

Whit – a ranch worker. He is sent to town to fetch the Sheriff after Curley’s wife is murdered.

The Boss – a ‘mice fella’ (in Candy’s words). He is more concerned about his work on the ranch

than anyone else.

CONFLICT

Protagonist: The protagonist of the story is George. He is the kind-hearted ranch hand who is

concerned about his friend Lennie and watches out for him.

Antagonist: The antagonist of the story is George’s trying to care for the handicapped Lennie.

Because he has a giant’s body and a child’s mind, Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife; at the

same time he kills the dream of owning a farm that has kept George and Lennie positive about

the future

Climax: The climax occurs when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife. George knows that he

can no longer save Lennie, for Curley will want revenge.

Outcome: Of Mice and Men ends in tragedy. George feels compelled to mercifully kill his

friend and companion, Lennie, in order to save him from a brutal death. The death of Lennie also

marks the death of the beautiful dream they have been nurturing.

MOOD

The dominant mood of the story is that of expectation. This mood is developed through the

dreams of the major characters. The other mood that prevails is premonitory, of impending

doom. There are also other moods evoked through the actions of the characters reflecting sorrow,

pity, and brutality. The novel ends on a tragic note. The mood at the end is definitely one of

depression and frustration.

PLOT (Synopsis)

One evening, two men, on their way to a ranch, stop at a stream near the Salinas River. George,

who is short and dark, leads the way. The person following him is Lennie, a giant of a man with

huge arms. During their conversation by the stream, George repeatedly asks Lennie to keep his

mouth shut on the ranch, suggesting that Lennie has some kind of problem. After supper and

before going to sleep, the two of them talk about their dream to own a piece of land.

The next day, George and Lennie travel to the ranch to start work. They are given two beds in

the bunkhouse. Then Old Candy introduces them to almost everybody on the ranch. They meet

the boss and the boss’s son Curley, who is quite rude. They also meet Curley’s wife when she

comes looking for her husband. She wears heavy make-up and possesses a flirtatious attitude.

George warns Lennie to behave his best around Curley and his wife. He also suggests that they

should meet by the pool if anything unfortunate happens to either of them on the ranch.

George and Lennie are assigned to work with Slim, who is sensible and ‘civilized’ and talks with

authority. George finds Slim an understanding confidante, and a bond forms between the two of

them. When Curley wrongly accuses Slim for talking to his wife, Slim gets very angry. Curley

apologizes to him in the bunkhouse in front of everybody, but his apology is rejected. Curley

vents his frustration on Lennie, trying to pick a fight. Lennie does not hit back initially, but when

George asks him to, Lennie obliges and crushes Curley’s hand. Curley agrees that he will not tell

anyone about his hand, for it would mean losing his self-respect.

While working on the ranch, George and Lennie continue to dream about owning their own piece

of land and make plans accordingly. Old Candy, one of the ranch hands, overhears their planning

and asks to join them. He even offers to contribute all of his savings to purchase the land. George

and Lennie accept his proposal.

One evening, Lennie, looking for his puppy, enters the room of Crooks; since he is the only

black man on the ranch, Crooks lives alone, segregated from the other ranch workers. Candy

enters, looking for Lennie; the two of them tell Crooks about their dream of owning their own

ranch, but Crooks tells them that it will never happen, foreshadowing the truth. Curley’s wife

comes in and interrupts them. When Crooks objects to her presence in his room, she threatens

him with a false rape charge.

Later on, Lennie is seen alone in the barn, petting his dead pup. He has unintentionally killed it

by handling it too hard. Now he is grieving over the loss. Curley’s wife walks into the barn and

strikes up a conversation with Lennie. As they talk, she asks him to stroke her hair. She panics

when she feels Lennie’s strong hands. When she raises her voice to him, Lennie covers her

mouth. In the process, he accidentally breaks her neck and she dies. Knowing he has done

something terrible, he leaves the ranch. When the ranch hands learn that Curley’s wife has been

killed, they rightly guess the guilty party. Led by an angry Curley, they all go out to search for

Lennie. They plan to murder him in retribution.

George guesses where Lennie is and races to the pool. To save him from the brutal assaults of

the ranch hands, George mercifully kills his friend himself. Hearing the gunshot, the searchers

converge by the pool. They praise George for his act. Only Slim understands the actual purpose

of George’s deed.

THEMES

Major Theme

The major theme of the book, Of Mice and Men, is that a dream, no matter how impossible to

obtain, can forge friendship and give meaning to life. George and Lennie dream of owning a

little farm of ten acres, with a windmill, a little shack, an orchard, and animals. The dream keeps

them going and lightens the load of their work. It also solidifies their friendship.

Minor Themes

One of the minor themes is the tragedy of mental retardation. Lennie never intends to harm

anything, neither the puppy nor Curley’s wife. He is simply too slow to realize his own strength.

His retardation is the cause of his downfall and death, in spite of George’s trying to help him stay

out of trouble.

The pain of loneliness is another theme of the book. All the main characters, including George,

Lennie, Candy, Crooks, Curley’s wife, and Slim, express the sadness caused by their feelings of

loneliness. The craving for company and the longing for sharing real emotions make these

characters very human.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

JOHN STEINBECK

Born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California, John Ernest Steinbeck was the third of four

children. Though poor, Steinbeck had a normal childhood and attended public school, graduating

from Salinas High School in 1919. As a student, he had an inclination towards reading and

writing, which was encouraged by his mother, a schoolteacher herself. He was a frequent

contributor to the school magazine.

Steinbeck studied at Stanford University from 1920 to1925. Although he intended to become a

marine biologist, he never completed a degree. The courses that attracted his attention most were

zoology, English, and classical literature. While at Stanford, he wrote frequently and was often

published in the college newspaper. After leaving the University, he worked at a variety of jobs.

He went to New York, determined to become a writer. Between 1925 and 1927, he attempted to

earn a living as a reporter and a free-lance writer, but was unsuccessful. Disappointed, he left

New York and returned to the West Coast, where he met his first wife, Carol.

Steinbeck’s first novel, Cup of Gold (1929), is based on the life of Sir Henry Morgan, a famous

English pirate of the sixteen hundreds. His next work, The Pastures of Heaven (1932), is a

collection of stories about the people on a farm community near Salinas. In this work, Steinbeck

focuses on the struggle between human beings and nature. These first two books received scant

attention. Finally in 1933, Steinbeck achieved success with his short story “The Red Pony.”

Steinbeck’s next novel, Tortilla Flat (1935), dealt with the migrant workers and poor farmers. In

Dubious Battle (1936) realistically portrays the labor strife in California during the nineteen

thirties. This novel also sets forth Steinbeck’s concept of “group humanity” through the character

of Doc Burton. This concern reappears in The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and The Sea of Cortez

(1941). Of Mice and Men (1937) became a best seller and was adapted for the stage and a movie.

In 1940 Steinbeck went on an expedition to the Gulf of California (also called The Sea of

Cortez) with his friend Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist. Steinbeck shared with him a deep interest

in biology. The result of this trip was a joint publication, The Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal

of Travel and Research. The book is in two parts. The first part narrates the voyage and records

various conversations and speculations, and the second part describes the marine organisms

collected by the men.

Other works include Cannery Row (1944), The Wayward Bus (1947), The Pearl (1947), Burning

Bright (1950), East of Eden (1952), Sweet Thursday (1954), and The Winter of Our Discontent

(1961). East of Eden is Steinbeck’s longest and most ambitious work. It follows three generations

of a Californian family from 1860 to the First World War. The title refers to the family strife,

which parallels the conflict between the Biblical figures of Cain and Abel.

Steinbeck received the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. He died

on December 20, 1968, and is buried in Salinas, California, the place of his birth and setting for

many of his novels.

LITERARY/HISTORICAL INFORMATION

Started with a tentative title of Something that Happened, the book, Of Mice and Me, took the

form of an extended short story. Steinbeck rejected the initial version of the story, for he felt that

he had been unable to keep his own voice and viewpoint out of its narration. Steinbeck reworked

and expanded the story, adding more characters. He also added more dialogue, taking particular

care to reflect the accent and dialect of uneducated farm workers. It is said that a large section of

the book was rewritten by Steinbeck again, for his original manuscript was chewed up by his

dog.

The working title of the book, Something that Happened, was changed when his best friend Ed

Ricketts suggested the present title and introduced him to Robert Burns’ poem ‘To a Mouse’. The

words of the poem are as follows:

The best laid schemes o’mice and men

Gang aft agley.

And leave us nought but grief and pain

For promised joy.

The poet talks about man’s enslavement to forces of nature which he cannot control, destroying

hopes and dreams. This is what happens with George and Lennie.

CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES

CHAPTER 1

The book opens with a detailed geographic description of the countryside around the Salinas

River, a few miles south of Soledad. As two men walk from the dusty road to the cooling stream,

the native rabbits scurry away. George, a short man, is seen first. He has sharp features with a

thin and bony nose and restless eyes. He also has strong hands and slender arms. George is

followed by Lennie, a huge man, built like a bear. His giant arms hang like pendulums at his

side. Both men are dressed in denim trousers, denim coats with brass buttons, black hats, and

blankets, which are wrapped around round their necks.

Lennie is thirsty and dips his mouth into the green water, drinking like a horse. George stops

him, for the stream appears stagnant. George remarks that Lennie would drink from a gutter if he

were thirsty. George refreshes himself and lies down to rest. Lennie splashes in the water and

then joins George.

When George talks about going to the ranch, the forgetful Lennie does not seem to understand.

When Lennie inquires once more about what they are going to do there, George grows impatient.

Lennie apologizes, saying that he tries hard not to forget things. George explains to him once

again that they are going to work on a ranch, which is located nearby. He warns Lennie to refrain

from talking to anyone at the ranch and begs him to behave.

George notices Lennie reaching into his pocket and asks him to hand over whatever he is hiding

there. Lennie hands him a dead mouse that he has found along the road and put in his pocket to

pet. George throws it away in disgust. He then reminds Lennie that whenever he pets things, it

seems to get both of them in trouble, as it did on their last job. Lennie has already forgotten what

has happened there.

George sends Lennie to look for some sticks so they can build a fire and prepare dinner. When

he returns, George sees that he is wet and carrying only one stick. He immediately knows that

Lennie has retrieved the dead mouse from where he has hurled it. George asks for the mouse,

and Lennie resists giving it to him. George explains that a dead mouse is not a fit pet and

demands that Lennie hand it over, which he does reluctantly. George then sends Lennie off to

look for wood again. When Lennie returns with enough sticks, they build a fire and warm up

three cans of beans for supper. While the beans are heating, Lennie asks for ketchup to go on his

beans, even though it should be obvious that they have none. George is suddenly irritated with

his friend’s slowness and angrily explains all the things he could do without Lennie, including

going to a “cat house”, drinking lots of whiskey, and keeping a job.

Lennie knows that he has put George in a foul mood. Although he does not understand why

George is angry, he still tries to make up, saying that he will go away to some far-off hills and

live in a cave if George does not want them to stay together. George is touched by his friend’s

simplicity and honesty and reacts in a very understanding manner. He reassures Lennie that he

does not want him to go away. Lennie then asks George to tell him again about their dream.

George explains how the two of them are going to save their money and buy a ten acre farm,

where they can raise rabbits, cows, pigs, chicken, and cherries.

After dinner, George decides they should spend the night by the stream and head to the ranch in

the morning. He then reminds Lennie again about not talking to other people on the ranch. He

also tells him that if there is ever trouble on the ranch, Lennie should return to this same site and

hide in the near-by bushes, where George will come and find him. Lennie promises to remember

the place. They drift peacefully off to sleep, thinking about the little farm they want to own.

Notes

The book opens with a detailed description of the physical landscape around the Salinas River,

which Steinbeck knew very well. He then gives a physical description of the two major

characters, contrasting George’s small stature and Lennie’s giant body. George appears first,

leading his friend and suggesting that he is in control. Almost immediately, it becomes obvious

as to why, for Lennie is slow. Steinbeck describes him eagerly snorting water from the stagnant

stream as if he were a horse. When he sees what Lennie is doing, George commands him to stop,

for he does not want his friend to get sick. Suddenly, the stage is set for the entire novel. Lennie

is retarded, and George’s role is to watch over and protect him.

Lennie’s character as an innocent, immature, unthinking, and highly dependent character is

developed in this section. He splashes in the cool stream like a child. He constantly forgets things

that he is told or has experienced, even though he tries and tries to remember; he cannot even

remember having to escape from the last town because of trouble. He naively puts a dead mouse

in his pocket for a pet, not understanding that it is dirty and unfit. He asks for things that are

impossible, demanding ketchup for his beans. George knows Lennie’s limitations and watches

out for his friend.

Quite contrary to Lennie’s gigantic body, which can do the work of two or three men, his spirit is

tender and gentle. Like a child, he is fond of petting soft things, like a mouse or rabbit. When he

upsets George, he offers to go away and live by himself in a cave. He constantly dreams of

owning a small farm, where he can raise some rabbits as pets. His fondness for small creatures is

symbolic of his identification with them. Just as rabbits are delicate and need to be protected

from preying animals, Lennie has to be constantly looked after by George.

George shows that he is a sensible man, who understands how he must care for Lennie. For his

friend’s own good, he knows that he must treat Lennie like a child, giving him the same

instructions several times and disciplining him to encourage proper behavior. George recollects

the problem created by Lennie at their previous work place, when he touched and held the soft

dress of a little girl until she screamed for help; the incident forced them to quit their jobs and

run from town. As a result, he repeatedly warns Lennie to refrain from touching things or talking

to the other workers on the next ranch. He also tells Lennie that if there is ever trouble, he should

return to the stream and hide in the bushes, where George will come and find him.

George is also shown to be caring and compassionate. Although he grows irritated with Lennie’s

requests and questions, he regrets being mean to him and reassures him that he does not want

him to go and live in a cave. He also constantly watches out for his welfare, insisting he not

drink the stagnant water or carry the dirty mouse. He also explains to Lennie more than once

how he should act on the ranch so that he can stay out of trouble. Most importantly, he includes

Lennie in his dreams, planning to take his friend with him to his ten-acre farm that he wants to

buy and promising him that he can raise rabbits there.

It is important to notice the close bond that exists between the two men. Although George does

grow frustrated with Lennie’s handicaps, they genuinely care about one another and plan their

future together. George states, “Guys like us. . .got no fambly. . .don’t belong no place. . .with us

it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn.” In the company

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.

CHAPTER 2

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

stream.

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.

Notes

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

novel.

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.

CHAPTER 3

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,

only troubled.

Notes

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.

CHAPTER 4

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

attempted rape.

After she leaves, George arrives, looking for Lennie. He is upset to find Candy and his friend in

the black man’s room, telling him about the plans for the farm. He insists that they leave. As they

walk back to the bunkhouse, Crooks shouts to Candy that he can forget about him going with

them to the farm. The black realizes that his dream of comradeship can never be realized with a

white man.

Notes

This chapter emphasizes the theme of loneliness. Crooks, the only black man on the ranch, is

forced to live in isolation in a shed in the barn. Because of his race, no ranch hand has ever come

to visit him at his room, and he is routinely excluded from their activities. Because he feels the

prejudice of the other workers towards him, he has grown proud, aloof, and defensive.

Because of his simplicity, Lennie does not “see” Crooks’s color. He accepts him only as another

human being and thinks nothing about going to his room, looking for his pup. At first, Crooks

will not allow Lennie to come inside, saying that black and white do not mix. When he first hears

Lennie talk about the plan to buy a farm, he scoffs at the idea. When Candy reveals that they

almost have enough money saved for the land, Crooks wants to join them, hoping to escape his

isolation and loneliness.

Curley’s wife is also shown to be a lonely woman in this chapter. She craves an emotional

attachment with somebody who is understanding. When she protests against the unfriendly

attitudes of the men on the ranch towards her, she is actually complaining about the sense of

isolation in her life. She obviously dislikes her husband and stays with him only because she

does not have any alternative. She is also shown to be a very prejudiced woman. When Crooks

demands that she leave his room, she threatens to charge him with rape, which would mean

certain death for a black man.

Steinbeck, through the comments of Crooks and Curley’s wife, states that most great American

dreams are shattered, foreshadowing that George’s dream will not become a reality. Crooks tells

Lennie about the thousands of ranchmen who dream of owning a piece of land and who fail to

save the necessary money. Curley’s wife complains about the man who did not live up to his

promise of obtaining her dream, getting her into the movies. It is important to notice that when

Curley’s wife enters the room, she prevents the men from talking about their dream, just as her

death at the end of the novel prevents them from obtaining their dream. She is also indirectly the

cause of George having to face loneliness — without Lennie for a friend and companion.

CHAPTER 5

A sad Lennie is alone in the barn on Sunday afternoon. He indulges in a monologue with his

dead puppy. He has accidentally killed it while they were playing. He is afraid that now George

will not let him have any rabbits on the farm. He thinks about burying the pup and not telling

George about it; but he knows that George, as always, will sense the truth.

Curley’s wife walks into the barn. Lennie takes a defensive stance against her, for George has

warned him to stay away from her. She, however, forces herself on him, growing emotional

when Lennie refuses to talk to her. She notices the dead puppy and tells him not to worry about

it, for no one will be upset. She also talks about her childhood and tells him about her loneliness.

She explains her story about the guy who promised to get her into the movies and failed to do so.

She even tells Lennie about how much she dislikes her husband. As she talks about her broken

dreams, she occasionally checks to see if Lennie is listening.

Lennie keeps telling Curley’s wife that he is not supposed to talk to her, but she ignores him.

When he tells her that he wants to raise rabbits, she asks why he likes them so much. Lennie

explains how he loves soft things. She asks Lennie if he would like to stroke her soft hair. When

Lennie does so, she grows fearful at the strength she feels in his hands. Raising her voice, she

asks him to stop. Lennie is scared that George is going to hear her, so he covers her mouth with

his huge palms in order to quiet her. He begs her to be quiet and bemoans the fact that she is

going to get him into trouble. She struggles to get away, but his strength is far too great for her

fragile body. With no intention of harming Curley’s wife, he shakes her and accidentally breaks

her neck, just as he has accidentally killed his puppy.

Lennie realizes the terrible mistake he has committed. He then remembers what George has

asked him to do in case of trouble. He picks up the dead puppy, quickly leaves the ranch, and

heads to the stream to hide in the bushes.

Old Candy comes searching for Lennie and finds Curley’s wife, who is dead. He is stunned by

the sight and runs out to tell George about it. On seeing the body of Curley’s wife, George is

dumbfounded. He realizes that Lennie is responsible for her death; but he also knows that it had

to have been an accident. Lennie is incapable of intentional murder. He also knows that Curley

and the other ranch hands will have no mercy on Lennie. George must think and act quickly. He

asks Candy to inform the others about the incident, and he heads back to the bunkhouse. Before

he looks for Curley, Candy curses the dead body, blaming her for ruining his plans for the farm.

When summoned, Curley is quick to guess who the culprit might be. He swears to kill Lennie as

soon as he is found. He organizes a search party, and tells the men to grab their guns. George

begs Curley not to shoot Lennie, but he does not agree. The men set out, armed with their

shotguns. Carlson reports that his gun is missing, and everyone assumes that Lennie has it.

Notes

The accidental death of the puppy in Lennie’s strong hands is intentional foreshadowing to

prepare the reader for the accidental death of Curley’s wife in Lennie’s strong hands. As the

chapter opens, Lennie is seen in the barn, grieving over the dead pup. He senses that he has done

something wrong, but feels it is not bad enough to cause him to hide in the bushes. At the same

time, he knows that George will not be pleased with him and worries that he might not be able to

have any rabbits.

Curley’s wife happens to appear in the barn when Lennie is most sad and vulnerable and, in spite

of Lennie’s opposition, sits next to him. She tells him not to worry about the dead puppy and

talks about her unrealized dreams and the loneliness she feels on the ranch. Lennie talks about

the farm that he and George are going to buy and the rabbits he is going to raise. When she

learns how much Lennie likes soft things, she flirtatiously asks him if he wants to stroke her soft

hair.

Unfortunately, Lennie does not know how to be gentle; his large hands are just too powerful.

Curley’s wife grows fearful, screams for him to stop, and struggles to get away. To silence her,

he covers her mouth and shakes her. As always, Lennie does not realize his strength and breaks

her neck. When he feels her limp body, he knows he has done something really terrible. He picks

up the dead pup and heads for the stream to hide in the brush.

Even though the scene in the barn must have been a violent one, Steinbeck is careful not to

convey that image. He simply shows Lennie whimpering as he covers the mouth of Curley’s

wife, begs her not to scream, and shakes her. Then he reveals her death with total simplicity,

stating, “And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck.” The style is remarkable, for the

words capture the suddenness of the act and the stillness of the moment.

In earlier chapters, the author has carefully developed Lennie as a totally naive innocent. He

remains the same innocent character, even after Curley’s wife is killed. It is clear to the reader

that Lennie intended no harm, and there was no malice. In fact, he is totally perplexed over what

has happened in the barn. The only thing he knows is that this is “trouble,” and he needs to go

and hide in the bushes. He also knows that when George finds out that he was talking to Curley’s

wife and what has happened to her, he will be angry and probably not let him have any rabbits.

When Curley rightly guesses who the culprit is, he wants revenge on Lennie — for his wife’s

death and for his crushed hand. He tells all the men to arm themselves for a search party. Carlson

reports that his gun is missing, and the assumption made by all is that Lennie has taken the pistol.

The reader, however, knows that Lennie has headed straight to the bushes and realizes that

George had a purpose in going to the bunkhouse alone.

It is important to realize that the death of Curley’s wife causes yet another shattered dream.

Candy is first to realize what will happen to their plans for the farm and curses her dead body for

destroying his hopes. George also knows that nothing will ever again be the same. He begs

Curley not to kill his friend, but there is no agreement. Ironically, George had earlier complained

that Lennie’s presence in his life prevented him from doing normal things; now he will find that

life without Lennie causes the real abnormality for him. He, like the other ranch hands, will learn

to live a life of loneliness.

CHAPTER 6

Waiting for George, Lennie feels proud that he has remembered about coming to the stream, but

he feels terrible about Curley’s wife. He suddenly has a vision of his Aunt Clara talking to him.

She scolds him for his irresponsible behavior and for causing George trouble. When she

disappears from his sight, a giant rabbit appears in her place. Like Aunt Clara, the rabbit also

reprimands Lennie and adds that he is not worthy of tending rabbits. It also relays that George is

very upset with him and is going to beat him, but Lennie refuses to believe it, for George has

never been cruel. He screams out for George, who soon appears and quiets him. Lennie

confesses his mistake, and George tries to reassure his upset friend that everything is going to be

all right. In the conversation that follows, George repeats the dream to Lennie, who gets excited

and asks George to buy their farm right away.

When the voices of the ranch hands come closer, George asks Lennie to look away and try to

picture the farm in his mind. As Lennie stares out across the stream, George continues to talk

about the rabbits and tells Lennie he will soon be in a place where no one can hurt him. As he

speaks, George takes Carlson’s pistol and raises it behind Lennie’s head, without the latter

noticing. George pulls the trigger, and Lennie falls down dead. Hearing the gun shot, the men

rush towards the sound. They are surprised to find the dead Lennie with George standing next to

him. The men ask if Lennie had Carlson’s gun, and George nods a ‘yes’. The men praise George

for a good job. Only Slim has any understanding of what has really happened. He tells George

that sometimes things just have to be done and insists upon buying George a drink. As they

leave, Slim assures George that “you hadda. . .I swear you hadda.”

Notes

Steinbeck has masterfully and powerfully created the last chapter. The novel ends by the stream,

in the same place it began. The repetition of the setting binds the story together. The pastoral

setting by the stream, however, is not as peaceful at the end of the novel. Between the start and

finish of the book, there have been a series of deaths. Candy’s dog has been shot to put it out of

its misery, and Lennie has killed his puppy by petting it too hard. Most importantly, Lennie has

accidentally killed Curley’s wife, which he knows is a terrible thing. As he sits by the stream

waiting for George, he is very troubled, and his imagination runs wild. He has visions of his

Aunt Clara and of a giant rabbit. Both scold him for his irresponsible behavior and the trouble

that he has caused George.

The chapter is filled with pathos. Lennie knows he has done something bad, but his simple mind

is unable to grasp the depth of trouble that he is in. He has no idea that his act is punishable by

death. His only concern is that George will be angry with him and might not let him tend the

rabbits. He even thinks again about going off and living by himself in order to save George from

having to put up with him. When the big rabbit in his vision taunts him, saying he is not worthy

of tending rabbits and that George is going to beat him for his behavior, Lennie cannot take it.

He tells the rabbit that George would never be mean to him. Not wanting to hear more, Lennie

then covers his ears and screams for George.

When George arrives at the stream, he already knows what he must do. He cannot allow the

ranch hands to cruelly kill his friend; instead, he will use Carlson’s pistol to do the horrible deed

himself. He does not want to be like Old Candy, regretting that he allowed someone else to kill

his best friend, his old dog. George also knows he will perform the act as quickly, kindly, and

mercifully as possible. First, however, he wants to calm Lennie down. He paints for him a

picture of their planned farm and asks Lennie to look away and imagine it. George wants Lennie

to die in happiness, believing the dream will come true. He also does not want Lennie to realize

what is happening to him; he does not want his friend to feel betrayed. It is important to realize

that Steinbeck shows George’s action to be one of mercy and kindness. He is faithful, loving, and

compassionate to Lennie to the very end, selflessly doing the thing that is hardest for him to do

in life.

Curley is furious, almost irrational, in this last chapter, but ironically the death of his wife wins

him great sympathy and support from the ranch hands. Until her murder, everyone on the ranch

had hated Curley. Now everyone rallies around him against Lennie. They also rally around

George when they realize he has killed Lennie. Earlier the men had shown great concern for

Candy over the killing of his dog. Unfortunately, they do not show the same respect and concern

to George over losing his companion and friend. Slim is the only one who understands how

George feels. As they walk away together for a drink, the mood is tragic. All hope for a better

future for George or Candy is lost, for the dream has died with Lennie.

OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTERS

George

George is the protagonist and one of the two main characters in Of Mice and Men. A

compassionate, kind, responsible, patient, and understanding man, he faithfully watches out for

Lennie, his retarded friend and constant companion. When Lennie gets into trouble, George

always helps him find a solution or get away. George is also shown to be a thinking person. He

knows he must discipline Lennie in order to help him, and he is often seen telling Lennie what he

has done wrong and what he must do to improve. He is also a planner, telling Lennie where he

should go if there is trouble on the ranch. He also works hard to make the dream of owing a ten-

acre farm become a reality. Unlike the other ranch hands that squander their money on women

and drink, George refuses to spend a dime frivolously, saving everything to make the dream

come true. He wants to buy the farm so that he and Lennie can live there, free from problems and

constraints caused by society.

Sometimes George is portrayed as an angry man, for he gets frustrated with Lennie’s slowness.

Although he scolds and even screams at him, he is never intentionally mean or cruel. Several

times George thinks about what he could do if Lennie were not around, but they are just idle

thoughts. George is legally free to desert the retarded man at any point in time; emotionally,

however, he is entirely bound to Lennie, as his protector and companion. Lennie also keeps

George from feeling the isolation and loneliness that possess the other ranch hands.

Because George cares for Lennie so deeply, he cannot allow him to die brutally at the hands of

Curley and the angry ranch hands. After painting the picture of the farm in Lennie’s mind one

last time, he takes Carlson’s pistol and mercifully shoots his friend, in a totally selfless act of

kindness. It was a terribly difficult thing for George to do, and at the end of the book, Steinbeck

paints him feeling lost and alone without his faithful companion and without a dream to keep

him going.

Lennie

Lennie is George’s friend and constant companion, who is mentally retarded and highly

dependent on George. He suffers from a child’s mentality within a giant’s body. He is innocent

and forgetful like a child. He is also attracted to small, soft things because of his child-like,

gentle nature. Unfortunately, he often harms the things he loves accidentally. As a huge man

with heavy arms and powerful hands, he does not know or understand his own strength.

Lennie idolizes George, his kind caretaker, almost like a god. In Lennie’s eyes, George is totally

kind, faithful, and good. He tries hard to remember everything George tells him to do and obeys

him implicitly without asking any questions. Even though Lennie did not know how to swim, he

jumped in a river one time when George jokingly told him to do so. Because Lennie is slow,

forgetful, and powerful, he causes trouble for George wherever they go. They had to leave the

last job because Lennie reached out and grabbed the dress of a little girl and would not let go.

When she screamed, the townspeople came and blamed Lennie for attempted rape.

Lennie never means to cause problems. He did not mean to kill his puppy and greatly regrets that

it is dead. He tries to stay away from Curley and his wife, as George suggested. She, however,

comes to Lennie in the barn and tells him he can stroke her hair. When he is too rough, she

begins to scream and Lennie panics. When he covers her mouth and shakes her to be quiet, he

accidentally breaks her neck.

Throughout the book Lennie is portrayed as a dreamer. He longs to go and live on a farm with

George, away from the pressures and frustration of a society that always gets him in trouble. He

constantly dreams of raising soft rabbits to be his pets on the farm. He senses that there are

problems on the ranch and with Curley and begs George to take him away to the farm. At the end

of the novel, when he and George talk by the stream, Lennie again senses trouble and begs

George to get the farm quickly. When George pulls the trigger, Lennie is dreaming about the

farm and the rabbits, therefore, dying happily.

Candy

Candy is a very old ranch hand who is crippled and lonely. Steinbeck paints him as the sad,

stereotyped symbol of old age, a man whose life is void of friends and hope. His dog, who is his

only companion, is very much like him, old and crippled; but he also stinks and is blind. As a

result, the ranch hands insist that Candy allow them to shoot the old mutt. When the dog is dead,

Candy truly has nothing, no reason for existence. Then he overhears George and Lennie

discussing their dream of owning a farm. Candy asks permission to join them and offers his life

savings to help purchase the land. He wants to live his last days with a feeling of peace and

belonging. At the end of his days, Candy does not want to be treated like his old dog.

When Candy finds Curley’s wife dead, he is emotionally devastated and curses her body, not

because she has been killed, but because she put an end to his dream. He instinctively knows

who has killed Curley’s wife and what will happen to Lennie. As he realizes there will not be a

farm without Lennie, “His eyes are blinded with tears.” He is left only with the reality of his

lonely and isolated existence on the ranch.

Curley’s wife

Curley’s wife, the only woman on the ranch, is really a minor character in the story. In fact, she is

never actually named in the course of the book. She serves only as the instrument of the

destruction of Lennie and the dream. Steinbeck is not kind in his brief portrayal of her. She is a

coarse, vulgar woman who wears too much make-up and flirts with every ranch hand. She has

married Curley only because she had no other offers. Her true dream was to become an actress,

but the man who was supposed to help her get in the movies failed her.

Like all the characters on the ranch, other than Lennie and George, Curley’s wife feels very

lonely and isolated. She seems to hate her husband, as evidenced when she compliments Lennie

for crushing Curley’s right hand and granting permission for him to crush the other if need be.

She constantly looks for company and longs for an emotional attachment, seeking it in all the

wrong ways. It is strongly hinted that she has committed adultery, for Curley is always on the

lookout for her whereabouts, as if fearful of her disloyalty. It is her loneliness and her flirtatious

ways that lead her to her death. She sits beside Lennie in the barn, even though he protests

against it. Then she asks him to stroke her hair. It is a fatal mistake for her, because Lennie

cannot be gentle. When she screams out of fear for his strength, Lennie panics. He covers her

mouth and shakes her to be quiet; in the process he breaks her neck.

Curley

Curley is the boss’ son, who has a short stature and a large temper. To make up for his small size,

he became a lightweight boxer. Now he constantly tries to pick fights, especially with people

bigger than himself, gaining great pleasure over their defeat. Curley’s attitude suggests that he

has a grudge against everyone whom he meets. He is overly possessive of his wife and suspects

that every man on the ranch desires her. He wears a glove full of Vaseline to keep his hand soft

for her and it becomes a source of constant jokes amongst the ranch hands. Though he seems to

love his wife, he is an immoral character, visiting brothels on Saturday nights.

When Curley picks a fight with the giant Lennie, he bites off more than he can handle. Lennie

quickly crushes his hand, and Curley has to be taken to the hospital. He vows to get revenge on

Lennie. His opportunity comes quickly. When Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife, her

husband shows no mercy. He quickly organizes a search party to look for Lennie and promises to

kill him immediately. Although Curley has been hated for his meanness throughout the book, the

ranch hands now rally round him.

Armed and ready, they go off with Curley to search for Lennie, eager for blood. Ironically,

George stands in the way of Curley’s being able to get his revenge, for he mercifully kills Lennie

to save him from Curley’s wrath and a brutal death.

Slim

Compared to his co-workers, Slim is confident in his conduct and clear in his speech. As a result,

he is treated with respect on the ranch. Steinbeck portrays him as a thinker, “His ears heard more

than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding

beyond thought.” He is quite surprised to see the loyalty and companionship of George and

Lennie and comments, “Ain’t many guys travel around together, I don’t know why. May be

everybody in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” He is a good judge of people and

quickly understands, that in spite of his size, “Lennie ain’t mean”. When Lennie crushes Curley’s

hand, it is Slim who convinces him not to tell anyone about his fight with Lennie. He is also the

only one to understand why George has shot Lennie at the end of the novel and reassures him

that he had to do it. He then insists upon taking George into town and buying him a drink.

PLOT (Structure)

Of Mice and Men is almost a long short story, divided into six chapters. Steinbeck takes great

care to develop the tragic plot in a classical fashion. The first two chapters are largely expository,

describing the isolated setting, introducing the characters, and developing the relationship

between Lennie and George. The rising action begins in the third chapter with the confrontation

between Curley and Lennie. When the huge man easily crushes Curley’s hand, his strength is

actually seen for the first time and foreshadows that there will be trouble on the ranch. The fourth

part of the book focuses on the theme of loneliness and develops Curley’s wife, who is shown to

be a lonely woman, constantly seeking company. In the fifth chapter, her loneliness leads her

into the barn, where she engages Lennie in conversation. It has been clearly foreshadowed that

nothing good can happen in this encounter. In fact, Curley’s wife is the instrument causing the

tragic ending of the book. In a flirtatious manner, she asks Lennie to stroke her soft hair. When

she feels his powerful hands that do not know how to be gentle, she panics, screams for help, and

brin

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