The description of the setting in this chapter is very different from the previous one, but also very similar in other ways. It is different because the mood is generally more threatening and ominous, but also because our vision of the characters in it is different, and we have fears, hopes and general suspense coming from the previous chapters, while in the first description it was a completely new setting. It is much more ominous because small bits of the description make a fundamental difference. For example, there is the snake gliding smoothly on the pool surface, only to be eaten by a silent heron. There is also the presence of wings, which puts everything in motion and can be quite creepy sometimes at night when suddenly it goes away.
There is an uneasy stillness and Lennie is also much more preoccupied and sad. This chapter is also very similar to the first however, because it is in the same location, at the same time (sunset), and with the same characters. Even the same words are repeated and the dream is a central point of discussion. “The deep green pool of the Salinas River was still in the late afternoon. Already the sun had left the valley to go climbing up the slopes of the Gabilan mountains, and the hilltops were rosy in the sun. But by the pool among the mottled sycamores, a pleasant shade had fallen.”
Lennie has two different visions in the final scene: one of his aunt scolding him, and one of a giant rabbit telling him off. They reveal exactly what Lennie is thinking and feeling at that precise moment. He is in fact feeling great guilt, but also astonishment and frustration. It is also the most important insight we have on how Lennie thinks, feels, and therefore acts. I find it is almost a final insight into Lennie’s mind and a further confirmation of his childishness, innocence and simple-mindedness. The two visions are really manifestations of Lennie’s conscience reprimanding him.
Aunt Clara, the first vision, is telling him that he will make George angry and that ‘he’s gonna give me hell’, but it continues to argue mainly about George and how he deceived him. The second apparition, the giant rabbit, is more about himself and that he ‘won’t get to tend the rabbits’ any more, and that George is sick of him and will leave him all alone and never come back again. In fact, he starts his discussion with ‘You crazy bastard. You ain’t fit to lick the boots of no rabbit’, and continues with a quite rasher tone than Aunt Clara, which probably means that he cares more about the things the rabbit talks about.
“And when she spoke, it was with Lennie’s voice. ‘I tol’ you an’ tol’ you,’ she said. ‘I tol’ you, “Min’ George because he’s such a nice fella an’ good to you.” But you don’t never take no care. You do bad things.'”
“He’s nice to me. He ain’t gonna be mean.’ ‘Well, he’s sick of you,’ said the rabbit. ‘He’s gonna beat the hell outta you an’ then go away an’ leave you.’ ‘He won’t,’ Lennie cried frantically. ‘He won’t do nothing like that. I know George. Me an’ him travels together.'”
I think that the killing of Lennie was inevitable, and that it was really only a matter of time. I think this because, as you also see from the previous mess they’d been in (which is the most obvious foreshadowing of the book), Lennie was almost lynched because he touched a girl’s soft dress, and didn’t let go. This time it was only unluckiness and fate that Curley’s wife made Lennie touch her soft hair. The death of Lennie though also gives this book a pessimistic side. Lennie, in this allegory, represents innocence and goodness, and it is this character that dies. It is also a clear reflection of the hard times in which it was written, for in that period there was a general economic and eventually a social depression. And the world war was coming.
Returning to the book, I also think that George did well in killing him, because otherwise they would have captured him and killed him in a much crueller way. Even if they did manage to escape, the cycle would repeat itself sooner or later, and Lennie would only cause more harm to himself and other people. In a way Lennie’s death can be compared to the killing of Candy’s old dog, where it was obvious that he was so old and aching that every day meant only more suffering for him.
“And George raised the gun and steadied it, and he brought the muzzle of it close to the back of Lennie’s head. The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied. He pulled the trigger. The crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again. Lennie jarred, and then settled slowly forward to the sand and he lay without quivering.” I think that George lies about Lennie’s death mainly for practical matters, for there was no need to hurt himself even further by telling the truth. He was also badly shaken by what he had just been forced to do, which had not been easy at all, even when he knew that it was for the further good, and this may also have affected him. I also think that Lennie had already done enough harm to himself, and that he didn’t want his existence to have caused more harm than it has already done. “But Carlson was standing over George. ‘How’d you do it?’ he asked. ‘I just done it,’ George said tiredly.
‘Did he have my gun?’
‘Yeah. He had your gun.’
‘An’ you took it away from him and you took it an’ you killed him?’ ‘Yeah. Tha’s how.’ George’s voice was almost a whisper. He looked steadily at his right hand that had held the gun.”
I think that Steinbeck intended exactly this as an ending, because of this story being an allegory of American society and because the ranch is a microcosm of society. The story clearly reflects in many ways the 1930s period in which it was set; a period of depression and economic crisis leading to war. I think that George and Lennie’s dream also represents the American dream, and it is the most important symbol in the story that Steinbeck wanted to transmit to us. In fact the dream becomes in chapter three, almost a tangible thing, something that you can almost touch, and this represents the 1920s, a period of exploration and growth.
But then comes the disaster – in the story it’s Curley’s wife’s death, while in history it comes as the crisis which changes everyone’s lives, completely killing the hopes and dreams of the people, leaving them empty, without the will to live – like George after Lennie’s death. This I think is the most important thing Steinbeck also wants to make us feel, to feel George’s/America’s depression, emptiness and hopelessness in this period. And at the end, I think that he really made it, because every time I read the passage of Lennie’s death, tears come to my eyes.
“George let himself be helped to his feet. ‘Yeah, a drink.’ Slim said, ‘You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. Come on with me.’ He led George into the entrance of the trail and up towards the highway Curley and Carlson looked after them. And Carlson said, ‘Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?'”