Two itinerant workers, George and Lennie, are introduced. They rest in a small clearing by the Salinas River, on their way to a nearby ranch where they expect to sign on for work. They have hurriedly left the last ranch, following an incident involving Lennie in Weed. Lennie pleads with George to tell him over and over again about their dream ranch, where Lennie’s main task will be to tend the rabbits. Lennie’s Aunt Clara, whom he refers to as “that Lady”, is briefly introduced to the novel, as is Lennie’s love of petting mice.
• Introduction of George and Lennie – character descriptions (p.19-20) • We first hear about the American Dream (p. 31-33)
• First hints of what happened in Weed (p.24, 29)
The next day George and Lennie arrive at the ranch and go to the bunk house, where they meet most of the other main characters in the novel: Candy, an old “swamper” with only one hand; Curley, the boss’s son; the boss, who is suspicious that George will not let Lennie speak for himself; Curley’s “purty” young wife, who flirts with the other men; Slim, the top ranch hand who is respected by all the other ranch hands; and Carlson, another of the established hands. Slim is friendly towards George and Lennie. His bitch dog has recently given birth to pups and begs George to ask him if he will give one to Lennie as a pet.
• Introduction of the other characters (and mention of Crooks, the stable buck) – character descriptions are throughout the chapter • We can begin to see the hierarchy on the ranch – introduction of Curley (p.46-48) – introduction of Slim (p.55-57) – CONTRAST • Introduction of Curley’s wife – important for the theme of sexist attitudes towards women? (p.53-54)
George reveals to Slim the real reason why he and Lennie travel together. Slim realises that Lennie has the mentality of a child. George tells Slim about the supposed rape in Weed involving Lennie. Carlson bullies Candy into allowing him to shoot his ageing, smelly, rheumatic dog. George, at Lennie’s insistence, describes to him again their dream farm, and Candy who is listening in, also becomes enchanted by the idea. Curley starts a fight with Lennie and at George’s command Lennie eventually unleashes his strength and crushes Curley’s hand with ease. Slim persuades Curley that to avoid further humiliation, it would be in his best interests to pretend that his hand got caught in a machine.
• Further character development of George and Lennie – reader gets more of an insight into their past together – George’s “confession” of how he used to treat Lennie ( p.65-66) • Shooting of Candy’s dog – a forewarning of what is to happen to Lennie? Because the relationship between Candy and his dog could be seen as similar to George and Lennie’s. (p.70-72…74-76) • George and Lennie realise their dream could become a reality, as Candy gets involved, and the three realise they could save the money together (p.83-89)
All the men go into town on Saturday night except Lennie, Candy and Crooks. Crooks reluctantly allows Lennie into his room where they talk and Crooks taunts Lennie that George may not return, leaving Lennie on his own. Lennie begins to panic at this thought and Crooks is forced to apologise in an attempt to calm Lennie down. Candy joins them and he and Lennie let slip to Crooks their intention to buy a farm.
They are interrupted by Curley’s wife, who is looking for company. Candy and Crooks resent her presence and when Crooks orders her out of his room, she attacks him verbally, using her superior social status as a white woman.
• Proper meeting of Crooks’ character – insight into life as a coloured man in 1930’s America and the hardships he has suffered. (p. 98-105) • Character development of Curley’s wife – a sense of vulnerability is revealed about her as she describes how her life could have been if she wasn’t married to Curley – the grim reality of life is shown when she attacks the three men when they tell her to leave. (p.109-115)
Most of the men are outside the barn playing at throwing horseshoes. Only Lennie is in the barn, where he has just accidentally killed his pup by stroking it too hard. Curley’s wife comes in and starts to flirt with Lennie who confesses to her his liking for stroking nice things. She invites him to stroke her long, soft hair, but as his stroking becomes harder, she panics; the harder her strokes the more she panics and in the end, Lennie accidentally breaks her neck. He half buries her body in the hay and runs off.
Candy discovers Curley’s wife’s body and informs the rest of the men. Curley is furious and decides to seek revenge, organising a man-hunt to pursue and kill Lennie. Slim suggests that Curley stay with his wife, but Curley shows his true feelings for her as he is more concerned about getting revenge on Lennie that grieving for the loss of his wife. Reluctantly, George joins the hunt.
• Further development of Lennie – a violent side to him which was always present is shown in the extreme, although it is made clear that Lennie meant no harm – killing the pup (p. 121) – killing of Curley’s Wife (p. 127-128) • CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT – Curley’s Wife’s dream to become an actress, how her dream never worked out (p.124-125) – in death she appears more vulnerable and innocent, and the most positive way in which Curley’s wife is portrayed throughout the novel is in death – (p.129) • Character development of Candy – the importance of the dream to him in particular is shown (p. 132) • Curley’s lack of love for his wife even when she has been killed – all he thinks about is revenge (p.133, 135)
George meets up with Lennie at the clearing where he had instructed Lennie to go in the event of any trouble. Lennie is panicking and George attempts to calm him down by telling him once again about their dream ranch. George distracts Lennie’s attention and shoots him in the back of the head with Carlson’s Luger pistol which he had stolen from the bunk house. The other men come running to where George and Lennie were on hearing the gun shot. When Carlson asks George how he killed Lennie, George replies tiredly “I just done it”. Slim kindly tells George he “hadda” kill Lennie, and the two go for a drink. The novel ends: “Curley and Carlson looked after them. And Carlson said, “Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?”
• The novel ends where it began – by the Salinas River with George and Lennie by the brush • CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT of Lennie – for the first time, the reader gets an insight into Lennie’s mind as he hallucinates, whereas before throughout the novel Lennie appears simplistic and not much feeling is shown. (?) • Lennie’s death – like Candy’s dog, but George does it himself – Candy wishes he had killed his dog himself. • Bond formed between Slim and George, which, like George and Lennie’s bond, seems unusual and strange to the other men – Carlson, who perhaps has never known such a close bond between itinerant workers, says “Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?” – He will never understand the close bond Slim and George now share.
Courtney from Study Moose
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