Of Mice & Men
By: John Steinbeck
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.
A large, lumbering, childlike migrant worker. Due to his mild mental disability, Lennie completely depends upon George, his friend and traveling companion, for guidance and protection. The two men share a vision of a farm that they will own together, a vision that Lennie believes in wholeheartedly. Gentle and kind, Lennie nevertheless does not understand his own strength. His love of petting soft things, such as small animals, dresses, and people’s hair, leads to disaster.
George, unlike other men, has a companion and friend in Lennie. Because of this, Lennie makes George feel special. They are different from all the other guys, and George realizes only too well that they have a special bond. At the ranch, George often plays solitaire, a game for one. Without Lennie, George would be a loner. Even though George gets frustrated by Lennie's mental weakness, he also feels compassion for his friend. Lennie offers George the opportunity to lay plans, give advice, and, in general, be in charge.
Candy is "a tall, stoop-shouldered old man … . He was dressed in blue jeans and carried a big push-broom in his left hand." His right hand is simply a stump because he lost his hand in a ranch accident. Now the owners of the ranch keep him on as long as he can "swamp" out or clean the bunkhouse.