Index: An Outline of American History

Source: Information USA

Main menu - Smartphone (unfinished)
Introduction John Steinbeck Printing History
Summary Chapter summary Background
Setting Themes Comments
Messages Characters Names
The Plot Point of View Style
Tone 'To a Mouse' by Robert Burns Questions and answers


This information is taken from different Web sites and organized into a relatively thorough source of ideas and suggestions about different aspects of Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'. Occationally, my own (and my students') comments have been added. All sources can be found by checking the URLs in the list below. Unfortunately, many of these links are inactive today...

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John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was born in California, in 1902. He lived the most of his life in California.
He always had jobs on farms during his highschool-years, or, as he was very much interested in science, helped out in local laboratories.
After school he went to college at Stanford University, but he dropped out without a degree to enter journalism in NY.
He returned to California to become a novel-writer after he had worked as a reporter, brick-layer and a jack-of-all-trades.
OfMice and Men was the first novel that got recognition, first published in 1937.
In 1962 John Steinbeck got the Nobel-prize for literature... He died in 1968.

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Printing history:

  • First published in the United States of America by Covici, Friede, Inc. 1937
  • Published by The Viking Press Inc. 1938
  • First published in Penguin Books 1978
  • Reissued in Penguin Books 1986
  • Copyright John Steinbeck, 1937
  • Copyright renewed John Steinbeck, 1965

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Somewhere along the Salinas river in California two men are making their way through the wood to a ranch where they expect to find work.
George, the small and keen one of the two, goes in front. Lennie, a big shapeless man with a feeble mind, but an enormous strength, comes after him.
Lennie has been accused of assaulting a girl and that's why they had to leave town. He merely wnated to stroke her dress, because it seemed soft. Lennie loves soft, furry things, but he can't have a pet animal, for they all die under the pressure of his huge hands. George could not always prevent Lennie from getting into trouble and together they traveled from ranch to ranch, trying to gather as much money as they needed to get their own place, where Lennie could tend rabbits.
Sometimes George feels tempted to go away on his own and leave Lennie, when Lennie has done one of his 'bad' things again. But their lifelong friendship and the devotion of Lennie always strengthened George in his task of acting as Lennie's guardian.

At the ranch they are engaged for the season. When George meets the farmer's son Curley, he immediately senses trouble.
Curley was used to get into fights with big men and beat them at boxing, just to make up his small size. Geroge tries to keep Lennie out of harm's way and maintain peace himself as well. His only wish is to save money so they can one day get their own place and settle. The ideal appeared unattainable to him, but Candy, a disabled farm-hand, offers him his savings, asking to become his partner to a scheme. The dream now comes closer to the reach.

One day Curley's fury is directed against Lennie, because he found his wife making eyes at the men. Lennie of course is forced to defend himself against the boxer, but as he gets hold of one of Curley's hands he crushes all the bones in it in his blind terror.
Luckily for George and Lennie Curley tells everybody that he hurt his hand in a machine, so the case is dismissed.

When Lennie gets a pup from one of the men, he kills it in the same way as all the other furry liitle things he gets into his hands. Lennie sits down besides the body in the barn and is sure that George will be furious at him.
He thinks now George will certainly not let him tend rabbits on their future farm.
Curley's wife joins him in the barn, while he is still figuring out what exactly he has done.
She starts to talk to him and invites him to stroke her soft hair.
Lennie is excited by the softness and his strokes become more intense every time.
Curley's wife is afraid and starts to scream for help.
In a panic Lennie begins to cry with fear, afraid of what Geroge and the others will say.
He tries to stop her screaming and shakes her head, but breaks her neck.
Slowly realizing that she is dead, he escapes to the bushes where George had told him to hide in case anything went wrong.

When the body is found, the ranch-men, and Curley, organize a search for Lennie. But as George knows where to look he finds him first.
They sit down together and talk again about the little farm they are going to have in time.
George reminds Lennie of the fact that they were happier than normal people because of their friendship.
He asks Lennie to look away across the river and turns his head.
He takes a pistol and places it against the back of Lennie's head... and shoots.

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Brief Chapter Summary:

Steinbeck's chapters are unnumbered; shown here are page numbers to the penguin edition

Hot Thursday late afternoon. George and Lennie spend the night by the Salinas River, a few miles south of Soledad. They plan to start work the next day and dream of a future farm where Lennie can tend rabbits.

Friday morning at the bunkhouse. George and Lennie sign up to buck barley. Curley tries to pick a fight with Lennie. Candy tells George Curley's wife is a tart. George reminds Lennie where to hide if there's trouble. They meet Curley's wife, Slim and Carlson. Lennie wants one of Slim's dog Lulu's pups.

Friday evening. George tells Slim Lennie grabbed a red-dressed girl in Weed. Lennie gets a pup. Carlson shoots Candy's old dog with his Luger. Slim goes to the barn to treat a horse. While the rest go to see if Slim's with Curley or Curley's wife, Candy commits his $350 to George and Lennie's $600 dream. When everyone returns, Curley beats on Lennie until George tells Lennie to "get him." Lennie crushes Curley's hand. Slim orders Curley to say it was a machine accident.

Saturday night at Crook's room in the barn. All but Candy and Lennie go to town. Lennie drops in on Crooks who philosophizes about companionship. Candy drops by and talks of their dreams. Curley's wife shows up and insults them all. Candy brags of their ranch. She infers that Lennie is the machine which got Curley. She threatens Crooks with a lynching. George arrives and all leave Crooks' room.

Sunday afternoon. While the rest play horseshoes, Lenny kills his puppy in the barn. Curley's wife shows up. Lennie explains his fondness for soft things, and she encourages him to stroke her hair. When she wants him to stop he breaks her neck out of fear. Candy finds her and brings George. When the men find out Curley goes for his shotgun. Carlson goes for his Luger, but it's missing and he assumes Lennie took it. Whit is sent to Soledad for Al Wilt. Candy stays with the body while all go after Lennie.

Late afternoon. Lennie comes to the river. His dead Aunt Clara appears and scolds him. A huge imaginary rabbit tells him George will leave him. George shows up and reassures Lennie. While they talk of their dream, George puts the Luger to the base of Lennie's skull and fires. When they see Lennie everyone assumes George took the gun from him and shot him. Slim says "You hadda, George," and takes him for a drink.

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The story is set South of San Francisco in the Salinas Valley of California; probably during the Depression of the 1930s; three specific locations - along the banks of the Salinas River near the ranch, in the ranch bunk house, and in the barn

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Background Information:

George Milton has cared for his mentally slow friend, Lennie Small, since the death of Lennie's Aunt Clara. They travel together to work a various amount of jobs so that one day they will have enough money to live on their own and be their own bosses.
Unfortunately, every time they have a job, Lennie gets into some trouble which forces them to run away. This time, they are running from a town called Weed to a ranch where they could work as ranch hands.

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Some suggested themes
  • The American Dream: George and Lennie dream to be able to own a place of their own and be their own bosses
  • Loneliness: e.g. Candy's only companion, his dog, is killed
  • Friendship: George shooting Lennie to help him escape from a brutal lynching
  • Innocence: Lennie's not understanding why he shouldn't enter Crooks' room
  • Discrimination: e.g. Crooks, as a ranch outcast, lives in a room all alone
  • Social protest: Alienation, the treatment of old and/or non-productive ones, racial (+ sexual) prejudice

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Some Comments to the Themes:

Loneliness: Throughout the novel, a main characteristic most of the characters contained was being lonely. The only real friendship is between George and Lennie.
  • Candy has only his dog as his one companion. Upon the killing of the dog, he has no one and therefore, attaches himself to the dream George and Lennie share. Thus, he will not end up an outcast and therefore, completely alone. Even after Lennie kills Curley's wife and cannot return to his life the way it was before, Candy still wants to carry out the dream.
  • Crooks feels "...A guys goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he with you..." He would work for nothing, as long as he could communicate with others.
  • Curley's wife is so overwhelmed by her loneliness, she seeks friendship from other men. She seeks out the friendship of Lennie for all of the others fear Curley and will have nothing to do with her. "Think I don't like to talk to somebody ever' once in a while?"
The American Dream: Everyone has a dream to strive for. The poor ranch hands wish to be their own bosses, and actually have stability.
  • George and Lennie have a dream, even before they arrive at their new job on the ranch, to make enough money to live "off the fat of the land" and be their own bosses. Lennie will be permitted, then, to tend the rabbits.
  • Candy, upon hearing about the dream, wanted to join them so that he would not be left alone, especially after they killed his old dog.
  • Crooks, the Negro outcast, wanted to join them so that he wouldn't be alone.
Friendship: Every man needs someone to make him feel special.
  • George and Lennie share a bond so strong that when one is destroyed, the other inevitably is as well. Steinbeck often stresses how ranchers are loners, and George and Lennie are the only ones who travel in pairs. They seem to be two halves of the same person, and they know how special together they truly are. "Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world...They got no family. They 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 about us..."
  • Candy's need for the companionship of his dog also stresses the importance of true friendship. For, after the passing of his old dog, Candy attaches himself to the dream Lennie and George share.
Social Protest: Certain aspects of the American society are heavily criticized.
  • The novel describes a society in which it is extremely difficult, if not hopeless to succeed in any kind of vertical social mobility. The ownership of the means of production is heavily segmented, and the farmhands will always feel utterly alienated regarding the relationship to the land they are cultivating (i.e. the society in which they live their lives). The farm-worker will never reap what he sows!
  • The demand for efficiency combined with a seemingly non-existent social infrastructure (social benefits, decent retirement pensions, etc.) makes people feel completely worthless the day they are not able to support themselves anymore. This cynical attitude to both people and animals (e.g. Candy and his dog) is an underlying, rather depressive, aspect of the novel.
  • "Crooks obviously illustrates one aspect of racial predudice. He reads books, is intelligent, and, like any human being, needs warmth and companionship. Yet he is denied these, not because of any inherent fault, but because he is a negro." (Source: "York Notes on 'Of Mice and Men'", Longman)

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  • People need others to talk to to survive. (Crooks' statement about needing someone or going crazy, the attachment of Crooks and Candy to the dream Lennie and George share, Curley's wife seduction of the ranch hands as a buffer against loneliness)
  • A man's ability to dream is directly attached to having someone to share the dream with. (George lets go of the dream after Lennie is killed.)
  • Sometimes, even though it's not what you want, you have to do what's best for you and those you love. (George shoots his best friend, Lennie so that Lennie can escape a brutal lynching.)

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Characters :
George Milton small, quick, dark of face and eyes, restless

Lennie Small huge, shapeless, pale eyes, slow moving

Candy old swamper, missing one hand

Whitey previous bunkhouse occupant, overly clean

The Boss owner of a ranch below Soledad

Crooks negro stable buck, had a back injury

Smitty fought with Crooks at earlier Christmas party

Curley Boss' son, short, once a welterweight boxer

Slim jerkline skinner, local authority

Carlson (Carl) a ranchhand

Curley's wife a tart, tease

Whit a young laborer at the ranch

Bill Tenner former pea cultivator operator at the ranch

Susy owns a house in town; two-fifty a go

Clara owns another house; three bucks

Al Wilts deputy sheriff in Soledad

Aunt Clara Lennie's dead aunt, from his Auburn childhood

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- and, a bit more:

George Milton: the small, sharp - witted ranch hand who travels with Lennie, George is a typical, realistic hand who uses his mind to anticipate the future

Lennie Small: a physically large man whose mind is slow; he has a short attention span and acts similar to a child; because of his mental limitations, Lennie never could understand or anticipate the consequences of his actions; travels with and is cared for by George

Slim: a wise, well - respected ranch hand whose word is law; master craftsman who knows things without being told

Carlson: ranch hand who is the exact opposite of Slim; coarse and insensitive, Carlson does not understand the feelings of those around him

Candy: the ranch hand who wanted to join the dream of George and Lennie, Candy's one faithful companion was his dog; anticipates the bleakness of the futures of all the other ranch hands

Crooks: named for his crooked body; proud and independent Negro who also is an outcast on the ranch; bitter against racial discrimination against him, but Lennie and Crooks accept each other as time goes on; also wants to join Lennie and George's dream

Curley: the evil son of the boss, Curley is a small, vicious bully who picks on those smaller than he is and attempts to intimidate those larger than he is

Curley's wife: the bitter wife of Curley attempts to seduce the ranch hands; she has a mean streak and is a vehicle for spreading evil

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The Background of some Names:

Character Name:

Meaning/ Source:

George Milton George= "Farmer" (Greek).

Milton= From a story about "paradise lost," Poet Milton is physically blind. George is spiritually blind to the importance of his friendship with Lennie (p. 114).

Lennie Small Lennie= "Bold lion" (Teutonic).
[On page 8 and 9, Lennie pets mice. This may be an allusion to Aesop's Fable.]

Small= Presents irony. He is actually big, but small-brained. [p. 39]

Curley Typical name for "bully."
[Also "Cur"? Middle English for:
  • "to growl."
  • inferior dog.
  • surly or cowardly fellow.]
Curley's nameless Wife It is significant in it's absence.
[In contrast to the prostitue that has a name: Susy. p. 57-58.]

Curley's wife is called by many other nicknames:

  • "looloo" [p. 56]
  • "rat-trap" [p. 36]
  • "tart" [p. 105, 31,32]
  • "good lookin'" [p. 35]
  • "girl" [p.100, 85, 40]
  • "jail boat" [p. 57]
  • "bitch" [p. 90, 35]
  • "tramp" [p. 35, 104]
Carlson Another word for "Farmer", this time it's in Old German.
Crooks Crooked spine. [p. 22, 74]
Candy "Sweet".
Whitey and Whit "From the white field" (Old English).

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The Plot:

The story opens with two traveling laborers, named George Milton and Lennie Small, on their way to a job loading barley at a California ranch. It is Friday evening, and they spend the night along the Salinas River before arriving at their new place of work, a ranch, the next morning. Here, the reader discovers the main personality differences between George and Lennie. Because Lennie is slow mentally, George acts as Lennie's guardian, taking care of the large child. They've been traveling together for a long time, since the passing away of Lennie's Aunt Clara. Also, it's stressed that Lennie's habit of petting soft things, such as a dead mouse or the dress of a woman, often gets them into trouble - forcing the two men to continuously have to find new work. Their dream is to own their own place and be their own bosses in the future. There, Lennie will be able to "tend to the rabbits".

Upon arriving at the ranch, they are met by an old man named Candy and his dog. It is Candy who explains to them the ways of the ranch and the personalities of the other ranch hands. Soon, the boss enters the cabin to visit with his new workers, quite angry that they had been too late for the morning shift. He asks both George and Lennie questions, which George proceeds to answer. Eventually, Lennie answers one question in his own, unintelligent way. George is angry, but the boss is a bit suspicious.

The reader also meets Curley's seductive wife. As usual, she is "looking for her husband" as an excuse to meet and attempt to seduce the other workers. Of course, George and Candy deny her attempts, but Lennie innocently defends her. As George warns Lennie to stay away from her, Lennie shows that he wants to leave, "It's mean here". George agrees to leave once they have enough money to attain their dream.

Slim enters and announces that his dog has had puppies. He discusses with Carlson the idea of killing Candy's old dog and replacing it with one of his puppies. In addition, George agrees to ask Slim if Lennie can also have one. Later, George confides in Slim his relationship with Lennie. He admits that Lennie isn't bright, but obviously a nice person. Lennie not only provides companionship, but makes George feel smart.

Carlson enters and continues to pressure Candy to allow him to kill his dog. Candy gives in when Slim joins in the argument. Later, he overhears George and Lennie talking about their dream and asks to be part of it, offering to advance half of the money they need. Finally, the dreams appears within reach.

Curley enters and begins to taunt and hit Lennie. Lennie, in turn, refuses to fight back until George tells him to. Lennie grabs Curley's hand and begins to flip him about, until he crushes Curley's hand by accident.

Later that night, while George and most of the other ranch hands are visiting a whorehouse, the outcast Lennie enters the room of the other outcast, Crooks. At first, Crooks objects to this invasion of privacy, but eventually Lennie wins him over. Crooks describes the difficulties of discrimination at the ranch, while Lennie speaks of the dream he, George, and Candy share. When Candy enters and speaks of his part attempting to make the dream a reality, then Crooks wants to join them. Curley's wife, looking for company, enters the room. Crooks and Candy argue with her, but she plays up to Lennie. She leaves when George enters the room. George, in turn is angry to know that another man, Crooks, has entered their dream.

The next afternoon, all of the trouble George predicted begins to come true. Lennie, by handling the puppy too much, has broken its neck. As he tries to hide the animal, Curley's wife enters the barn. She talks to Lennie about her life, seemingly seducing him. When she learns of Lennie's love for soft things, she invites him to touch her hair. He does so, but as always, holds on too tight. The woman begins to struggle and yell. Lennie panics, accidentally breaking her neck, just like his puppy.

After Lennie flees, Candy finds the woman's body. He gets George and asks for reassurance that their dream will still be fulfilled, even without Lennie. But, George has already forsaken the vision. He asks Candy to give him a few minutes head start before telling the others. In that time, he steals Carlson's gun - the same one used to kill Candy's dog. George reenters the barn with the others to discover the body and he attempts to convince the men that Lennie should only be put away because he meant no harm. But, Curley insists on lynching and they all go out to look for Lennie.

The final scene occurs at the same riverbank the book opened. Lennie has remembered to return there after he had gotten into trouble. Several visions taunt him, as he realizes the severity of his actions. Lennie asks George to "chew him out", but George does so only halfheartedly. They discuss their dream one last time....George shoots Lennie in the back of the head with Carlson's gun. The other men arrive, and George agrees with their version of the conflict between George and Lennie that brought about the shooting. The men return to the ranch, some sympathizing, some not.

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Point of View:
The Point of View: of the novel is clearly third person objective. We never enter a person's mind, all the characters are described by the way they act and what they say. This choice of point of view makes Of Mice and Men relatively similar to a play for the theatre.

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  1. Steinbeck uses poetic language to build the imagery of the opening scene of the farm. Steinbeck uses descriptive language to convey to the reader an almost dreamlike image of the settings. Stylistically, instead of concise sentences, he uses long sentences that have slow and languid feel. The beautiful, idealized scenery is a backdrop to the relationship between George, Lennie, and the other workers on the farm. The language Steinbeck uses in the opening scene is in stark contrast to the crass dialogue between the workers. Steinbeck tries to create this contrast between the background and the interactions between characters in order to highlight the roughness that exists on the farm. Through his description of “Golden Foothill slopes”, a river that “runs deep and green” and “sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs”, Steinbeck is showing the natural beauty of the setting. In contrast, the dialogue between Lennie and George uses swear words, as George tells Lennie “Jesus Christ, you’re a crazy bastard!” Through this contrast, Steinbeck also provides a stark backdrop to the violent language and feelings that characters like George have against women.

  2. Steinbeck uses improper grammar in his dialogue in order to demonstrate the backgrounds of the men. Steinbeck used diction that illustrates the uneducated backgrounds of Lennie and George. In their dialogue, he spells words incorrectly to show how the characters pronounce the word. This gives the dialogue a realistic style. The realistic pronunciation shows how the workers talk in usual life. It seems very crass but it is not crass for them. For George and Lennie, wrong pronunciation and other slang words are everyday life. For example, “Jes’” instead of “Just” and “awready” instead of “already” are purposefully chosen to demonstrate how the men speak. Since this story is during the Great Depression, Steinbeck puts lots of wrong spelling and grammar to illustrate the uneducated workers’ life. George and Lennie are described with this background and it is important for the reader to remember that their relationship and the events of story take place within this setting. To understand the story and the significance of the events, readers need to understand this aspect of the characters especially.

  3. Steinbeck uses figurative language to make comparisons between Lennie and animals in the form of metaphors. This stylistic device is used to illustrate Lennie as very docile and childlike in his personality. However, in addition to his simplicity, this type of language also is used to illustrate his innocence. For example, Steinbeck describes Lennie as “snorting into the water like a horse” and “dabbled his big paw in the water.” Throughout the reading, Steinbeck often alludes animals in the surroundings of the farm. Therefore, Steinbeck’s comparisons between Lennie and animals connect Lennie to the nature around them and distance him from the other workers who are not described in this way. The author is trying to describe Lennie as a man who is closer to nature than the other workers in the story. Since Steinbeck stylistically gives Lennie these non-human characteristics, this must be a key element to the conflicts that arise in the story.
Source: Style and Language Analysis from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men

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"Sentimental, tragic, doomed, fatalistic, rustic, moralistic, comic"
Source: Sparknotes

"Steinbeck is sympathetic toward his characters, but he's not going to invent a happy ending for them. Instead, he contrasts the real world of poverty, limited resources, limiting social roles, human intolerance, and violence with the dream world of freedom, autonomy, wealth, friendship, and loyalty. This stark juxtaposition seems an honest attempt to reveal that for some, the American Dream was simply that—a hopeless dream.

Of Mice and Men is written in a naturalist style (See "Genre" for more about that). Since naturalism is about the most depressing literary style ever invented, we understand why the tone is dismal. For naturalist writers, characters are essentially "human beasts," victims of their surroundings. Think about how often Steinbeck refers to Lennie as an animal, comparing him to a "bear" dragging his "paws" (1.4) or "snorting into the water like a horse" (1.5). There's no moralizing about "good" or "evil": the naturalist writers sees his characters as controlled by environment, heredity, instinct, or chance.

Take Lennie: Lennie has some kind of mental disability, which (obviously) influences his actions. Though Lennie inarguably commits a terrible crime, the way Steinbeck portrays him makes us hesitant to pass judgment. Steinbeck presents the characters to us just as they are, never insisting that we think this or that about them. Instead, his approach makes us feel for them as fellow human beasts, caught in the inevitable suffering of existence."

Source: Shmoop Editorial Team. "Of Mice and Men Tone." Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.

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"To a Mouse, on turning up her Nest with the Plough" by Robert Burns, November, 1785

Wee, sleeket, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
Oh, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi' bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve:
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss 't!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here beneath the blast
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble
An' cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promis'd joy.

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But, och! I backward cast my e'e
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!


1. Burns's brother Gilbert is responsible for the story that the poem was composed while the poet was ploughing, after he had turned up a mouse's nest and had saved the mouse from the spade of the boy who was holding the horses.
sleekit: sleek. 4. bickerin brattle: hurrying scamper.
5. laith: loth.
6. pattle: a small long-handled spade for removing clay from the ploughshare.
13. whyles: sometimes.
14. mawn: must.
15. daimen: occasional.
icker: ear of corn.
a thrave: twenty-four sheaves.
17. lave: rest.
20. silly: feeble.
21. big: build.
22. foggage: coarse grass.
24. snell: piercing.
34. But: without.
house or hald: house or habitation; cf. Address to the Deil, 104.
35. thole: endure.
36. cranreuch: hoar-frost.
37. no thy lane: not alone.
40. a-gley: amiss.

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Questions and Answers:

Section I

1. Where does the story begin? What is important about this place later?

The story begins in the grove near the water, where Lennie and George sleep for the night. It is about 5 miles outside of Soledad, California. Lennie and George will come back to this place after the trouble at the end of the story.

2. How does the author establish right away how Lennie is dependent on George?

Lennie drinks too much, out of a still pond, he carries a dead mouse, which he killed, and George must confiscate, and Lennie can’t be trusted to carry his own work card.

3. What town had they come from, and under what circumstances did they leave? What took place there?

They left the town of Weed, after being chased by the ranch hands and boss. Lennie had grabbed the boss’ daughter in order to pet her red velvet dress. She got scared, ran to claim rape or something like that, and the boss chased after George and Lennie, who escaped.

4. Twice during their stay at the pond, lizards skitter by almost unnoticed, a snake and a lizard. What could you suggest is the significance of this?

Steinbeck has a knack for suggesting the presence of evil or doom by placing animals, which are commonly symbols of evil, near the action of the story, though not involved. He uses a parallel existence of this creatures in these stories to provide subtle foreboding. (Examples of this can be found in The Pearl, and The Grapes of Wrath.)

5. How does George feel his life would be different without Lennie? What comment does it make about George’s character, then, that he looks after Lennie? What root reason do you think he has to keep Lennie around?

George remarks that he could lead a typical ranch hand’s life without George to care for. He could go get drunk in town, and hire prostitutes with his pay, but George prevents him from that. Instead, Lennie keeps getting in trouble, and they must always flee for a new job somewhere. On the surface, we can say that George is a good guy with a good heart. He has a sense of universal morals, because he does what is right even though no one makes him. With deeper analysis, we can guess that perhaps George doesn’t want to live the typical ranch hand’s life, because it has no future, no hope. George also keeps Lennie around to force himself to stay straight. This is proven by the fact that when Lennie dies, George supposes he will go to town and get drunk.

6. What is the background story of Lennie and mice?

His Aunt Clara gave mice to him, but he kept killing them by accident.

7. Why does Lennie offer to run off and live in the hills? How does George argue against it? What can we establish about Lennie’s character from this exchange?

Lennie feels ashamed that George is angry with him. Lennie is retarded, but he has a sense of his own rights. He wants to live in the mountains, in a cave, where he can keep mice. George argues that Lennie wouldn’t be able to find food, and might be killed.

8. What is the importance of their plan to get their own place and “Live off the fatta (fat of) the land”? What is the ultimate symbol of this?

Their plan gives them hope. This story takes place during the depression, and ranch hands have little chance of getting ahead with money. The rabbits are the ultimate symbol of this, because rabbits are prey. Keeping prey animals alive has a sense of strength to it.

Section II

9. Candy tells George about the reasons Whitey left. We learn that Whitey was very clean, got dressed up on Sundays, and finally quit about the food. Especially, Candy says that he demanded, “Just ‘gimme (give me) my time’ one night, the way any guy would.” What is important about Whitey’s departure? What do we learn about ranch hands, and their prospects?

Ranch hands can’t have a prosperous life. They can’t stay clean. When Whitey gets dressed up on Sundays, it is because he is observing church day, the Sabbath, in Christianity. He has nowhere to go, showing that with no church to go to, religion and hope are lost on the men. Most importantly, the fact that his sudden leaving is so common shows that ranch hands are transient, with no stability or chance to make a better life. This is important because it shows contrast with George and Lennie’s plan. It gives the reader a reason to have hope for them.

10. What is the significance of the fact that the boss gets angry at Crooks for things that aren’t his fault? What is important about the fight Smitty and Crooks have?

The boss is racist, which is totally normal at this time. The boss is supposed to be pretty nice, but even a nice guy is racist. It illustrates the serious problem of racism, and ultimately, intolerance as a theme in this novel. Smitty’s fight with Crooks is also indicative of this theme. Specifically, the other ranch hands let the fight happen, even though Crooks was crippled. Hatred and anger about the depression and other problems are simply directed at Crooks, because he is black, and no one stops it.

11. What does the boss suspect George is doing, talking for Lennie? Why does he suspect this? What does this tell us about the society they live, specifically, relationships between men?

He suspects George is taking Lennie’s pay. Then he suspects something else which he doesn’t specify, expect that he feels George is cheating somehow, “what you sellin?” He suspects this because men don’t usually travel together. This could be a universal fear of homosexuality, or the appearance of it, which motivates most men to keep a distance from each other. It makes a lonely society where men are stereotyped, expected to be strong, quiet, and independent. Stereotypes are found throughout the novel, and this shows that society really believes in stereotypes, and uses them, which causes many real problems in society.

12. Before Curley even says a word, what is his reaction to Lennie? What does he mean when he says, “Oh, so it’s that way...”? What is significant about George’s response, “Yeah, it’s that way.”?

Upon seeing Lennie, Curley immediately blows himself up, ready to fight. Curley tries to imply that George are Lennie are somehow homosexual, because men do not usually travel together. This shows intolerance, a theme which pervades the novel. George’s response shows that he transcends (is beyond) homophobia (fear of homosexuality), with the ability to have open and honest relationships with other men. We see this again with his friendship with Slim.

13. Why is everybody afraid of Curley (2 reasons)? What is George’s implication about what will happen if he tries to hurt Lennie?

Curley is a boxer, and a fighter. He likes to fight, especially because he is small, and wants to prove that he is tough. He is also the boss’ son. Lennie is unbelievably strong, and though he has the mind of a child, he could tear Curley to pieces.

14. Why does Curley wear a glove, full of Vaseline, on his left hand? What exact reason does he have? Why does Curley brag about it; what does it say about his character?

Curley wears the Vaseline-filled glove to keep that hand soft for his wife. Specifically, Curley is implying that he keeps the hand soft so that he can touch his wife in sexual ways (you figure out the rest...). The fact that Curley brags about this shows that he is very insecure, needing to prove that he is sexually vital, thinking this will earn admiration from the ranch hands. This is a product of the fact that Curley feels insecure about his diminutive size.

15. How does George’s reaction to Curley’s bragging about the glove comment on George’s character?

George judges this to be a dirty, indecent thing to tell about his wife. This shows that George is morally superior to Curley, and has some respect for women. His respect for women is related to the fact that he also has some respect and regard for Lennie. George becomes a protector of the weak. This further established when George showed surprise and dismay when Candy told him that the boss got angry at the stable buck for things that weren’t his fault, simply because he was black.

16. When Candy talks about Curley’s wife for the first time, what does he imply about her?

That she is a “tart”, a woman who is unfaithful, with a seducing nature, sexually uninhibited. He suggests she is evilly sexual.

17. What does George warn Lennie about Curley?

That Curley will want to fight him, but that if Lennie must, he should “let [Curley] have it.”

18. What body language does Curley’s wife use when she first speaks to George? What is the significance of the following passage?

Slim’s voice came through the door. “Hi, Good-lookin’” “I’m tryin’ to find Curley, Slim.” “Well, you ain’t tryin’ very hard. I seen him goin’ in your house.” She was suddenly apprehensive. “ ‘Bye, boys,” she called into the bunk house, and she hurried away.

She is trying to be sexually provocative by showing off her body as much as she can without appearing foolish. She says she is looking for Curley, but we can easily guess that she knows where Curley is, and she is really looking for other people. She is reluctant to leave, because she has no excuse to stay, but wants company.

19. Describe Slim’s first real appearance to George and Lennie.

When Slim comes into the bunkhouse the first time, he is described as being majestic and graceful. He is authoritative on any subject, universally respected, talented, and competent. His mere manner makes him seem almost like a king.

20. Why is Lennie’s last name both ironic and symbolic?

His last name is Small, which is obviously ironic because Lennie is monstrously big and powerful. However, his child like, innocent mind is small. While others, especially Curley, regard Lennie as a threat, Lennie is really small. He is like the mice he pets, weak, at the mercy of society. Therefore, the reader can see Lennie as he really is, not a terrifyingly powerful man, but as a mere child, lost in a cruel world.

21. What insightful thing does Slim day about the fact that George and Lennie travel together? What does his comment say about society, and about his character?

He comments that he doesn’t know why men don’t travel together. He insightfully wonders, “Maybe ever’body in the whole damned world is scared of each other.” Slim sees the problem with society, that men are stereotyped into very competitive, lonely behaviour, and the intolerance that is bred by this style of societal living. It shows Slim as a sort of true king living among the peasants, with power of knowledge and understanding, but being trapped in the society all the same.

22. What does Slim do with four of the pups from his dog, right away? What symbolic meaning does this have?

He drowns four of the puppies right away because his dog can’t nurse that many. This is a perfect Steinbeck-style example of using natural things to explain the nature of humanity, where competition forces some people to perish. The dogs that die are as good as the ones who live, but mere random picking destines those for death. Such is the same with people. Why are the boss and Curley rich and comfortable, while Slim is a ranch foreman? Luck.

23. What does Carlson suggest to Slim about Candy’s dog?

That the dog is too old and smelly, and should be put to death, and replaced with one of Slim’s pups.

24. When Curley returns to look for his wife, how does he look at George? Do all men do this? Is this something society tells men to do when assessing each other?

Curley looks over George to assess how tough he would be in a fight. It is possible that men, who have been socialized greatly towards being physically competitive, “size each other up” when they meet. This might be instinctive or social, but the effect is the same. It is the underlying element of competition between people in our so-called society.

25. What is the dramatic significance of George’s response, “I didn’t watch her go.”

There are many elements to this little interaction between Curley and George. First, we learn from George’s response that Curley was actually trying to trick George, and provoke a fight. Had George known which way Curley’s wife had gone, that would prove that George was looking at her as she walked away. Curley thinks that looking at his wife is enough of an insult to start a fight. Ironically, Curley wants men to look at his wife, so they will admire Curley for having a pretty wife. At the same time, he must appear to be protective of his wife, by challenging men that stare at her. This is quite an instinctive behaviour for men, but Curley is very active about it.

Secondly, we see that George is wise and clever because he understands this is averts it. Perhaps George is quite the same in this way. He knows how men are, maybe even how he is, and this helps him put off Curley.

26. After George and Lennie leave, why does Curley come back and look in?

To check if his wife is hiding in the bunkhouse.

27. Why does Steinbeck show Candy’s dog to the reader at the very end of the section?

To remind us of its age and decrepitude. Steinbeck uses animals as foreshadowing and a background to the plot. The reader sees the old is a nice animal, and begins to care about the dog. This is useful for provoking outrage and sorrow in the reader when the dog is put to death.

Section III

28. During the opening, while George and Slim talk, we hear again the again the clang of horseshoes. We know that the men are playing horseshoes, but what dramatic significance could the clanging sound have? (Hint: what else makes that sound?)

It is certainly possible that the almost rhythmic clanging of the horseshoes is the sound of a bell. This is not a wedding bell in a church steeple, nor a victory bell. It is a knell, a warning of evil, and in this novel, death. The bell is tolling for some characters in this book. (Hemingway: Do not ask for whom the bell tolls...)

29. While talking to Slim, what does ashamedly admit to him about what he did to Lennie as a younger man?

He opens up to Slim and admits that he used to take advantage of Lennie’s child-like mind, playing some dangerous pranks on him. Once he told Lennie to jump into a river, which he did, and nearly drowned. Ironically, Lennie was just glad George saved him.

30. How do George and Slim agree about relationships between men?

They agree that it’s better than what men usually do, stay lonely and get mean.

31. What does Lennie have under his coat when he comes into the bunkhouse?

The puppy.

32. Why does Carlson want to kill Candy’s dog? Is it out of sympathy? What does it say about Carlson’s character, which represents most of the men on the ranch, perhaps even the world?

He complains that the dog is smelly, and too old. Carlson means well enough, but it all boils down to the fact that Carlson is still thinking about himself. The dog is troublesome to Carlson, even though the reader sees that it is harmless. It tells us that we, as people, are alarmingly self-centered, and lack pity and tolerance. Once more, we see how intolerance of things outside the norm is a prevailing aspect of society, and a theme in this novel.

33. Slim supports shooting the dog, which the reader often finds difficult to reconcile with Slim’s nearly god-like status. While putting dogs down (killing them out of mercy) is an accepted practice in real life, it not accepted to do to people. In addition, the attitude of the book does not accept it for Candy’s dog. Why do you think Steinbeck had Slim support killing the dog, and saying that he would want to be killed if he got old and crippled?

This is the one disappointing feature of Slim for the reader. Perhaps its greatest use is to remind the reader that Slim, while a very good person, is neither an angel nor a god. It makes Slim human. In addition, through Slim’s authority, it establishes the unhappy truth that life is filled with suffering and loss, and that people must accept that and go through it.

34. What is the thematic importance of seeing the letter in the magazine, written by someone who once worked on the ranch?

It is a symbol of the pathetic hope for success the men have. Getting that letter in the magazine is similar to fame, but really it is only a passing moment or recognition. The truth, like the guy who wrote the letter (William Tenner), none of the men on that ranch will ever be more than ranch hands. Economic classes ensure that the poor workers will never escape.

35. What does Slim remind Carlson to take with him when he shoots and dog?

A shovel, with which to bury the dog.

36. What dramatic effect does Steinbeck use to really draw out the anxious anticipation of the killing of the Candy’s dog? Why do you think it takes Carlson so long to do it? What evidence is there that Slim is slightly shaken, or at least uncomfortable, in his resolve about the matter?

Steinbeck creates a long pause, and everyone, including the reader, anxiously awaits the terrible sound of death. Perhaps even Carlson, in his doggedly pragmatic resolve to kill the dog, can’t bring himself to kill such a harmless creature so easily, which is why it takes so long. Of course, he also has led the dog far away. Slim tries to excuse himself to put tar on a mule’s hoof, and his voice trails off.

37. What is important about the fact that Slim volunteers to put tar on the mule’s foot, instead of allowing Crooks the Negro to do it?

Slim is an excellent leader. He has the option of being haughty and above the workers, but chooses to do his share of the work, even late at night. This earns him respect from both the reader and the other ranch hands. In addition, he has the option of making Crooks do the job, considering he is the stable buck. However, Slim chooses not to do this because he is not racist and doesn’t make Crooks take responsibility for something that isn’t his problem. This is a contrast to the way the boss gets angry at Crooks.

38. Where does Whit invite George to go to? How is this place different than the other place? What does Susy mean when she says, “There’s guys around here walking bow-legged ‘cause they like to look at a kewpie-doll lamp.”? In general, other than the obvious, why do men go to this place?

Whit invites George to go with the others to Susy’s brothel. It is different from Clara’s brothel because the alcohol is cheaper, and it is cheaper to hire a prostitute. In addition, Susy is a more pleasant woman. By “bow-legged”, Susy is warning the men that the prostitutes in the other brothel have venereal disease. She is actually trying to keep her customers. With no actual chances to find real girlfriends, the men go to the brothel because they are lonely and need company, which is why they like Susy.

39. George decides to go to the brothel, but only to drink. Why?

He wants to save money for their stake to buy the farm, and perhaps Steinbeck is developing George here by showing that he doesn’t use prostitutes. He says he doesn’t want to spend the money because saying that he doesn’t hire prostitutes might draw ridicule from the others. It is important to remember here that intolerance is very strong in this environment; George must appear as normal as possible to avoid being cast out somehow.

40. After Curley comes in looking for his wife, where does he go, and why?

He’s goes to the barn, looking for Slim, suspecting that Slim might be doing something with Curley’s wife in the barn. He’s thinking about fighting Slim. Curley perhaps thinks that nothing would earn him more respect and fear from the men than if he beat up Slim.

41. What comment does Carlson make as Curley leaves, which asserts Slim’s god-like status among the men?

“Nobody don’t know what Slim can do.” Carlson reminds us that Slim is almost mythified in his status. He is above them all, revered as eminently wise and powerful, in more ways than one.

42. Why does George keep questioning Lennie about whether or not he saw Curley’s wife in the barn with Slim?

Perhaps George is afraid to put as much faith in Slim as he would like. Slim seems perfect, and George is afraid of finding out that Slim might not be perfect, were he in the barn with Curley’s wife.

43. Why are George and Lennie so attracted to the farm they want to buy? Why aren’t they happy with what they’re doing on the ranch?

For George and Lennie, the little farm they want to buy promises independence, and prosperity. They won’t have a boss anymore, and can look forward to less work. They will have a feeling of accomplishment for their work. The food they will harvest will be plentiful, which, for now, seems like prosperity.

44. How does Candy agree to contribute to their venture, and why is he motivated this way? What is he afraid of on the ranch?

Candy agrees to put in $350, and without a family, he promises to leave everything to George and Lennie in his will. He is getting quite old, and had lost his hand working on that very ranch. He knows he is not very useful to the boss, and he is afraid they will fire him soon, and he will have absolutely nowhere to go. He is another symbol of the fact that, in society, we cast out what is not normal. In this case, Candy is not normal because he is old, and has only one hand.

45. What is the farm they want a symbol of? Why does this mean they can never achieve it?

The farm is a symbol of freedom, even Heaven. These things are perfect things, which simply do not exist in real life. Here, Steinbeck is using a worldly object (the farm) to illustrate the concept that a perfect world, at least in real life, is unattainable.

46. What does Candy agree to do that shows both his interest in the deal, and his trust of George to handle the money?

He agrees to give George $100 to make a deposit on the farm, to bid the owners in an agreement.

47. What is the importance of Candy’s comment to George, “I ought to have shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to have let no stranger shoot my dog.”? How does this figure in the end of the story?

This realization by Candy is the antecedent for George’s decision to kill Lennie at the end of the story. Candy recognizes the unavoidable need for mercy, but fears that his dog’s death was not as merciful as he would have hoped. He feels it was his responsibility to kill his own dog, out of love. George will remember this lesson at the end of the book, when he too must kill out of love and mercy, in face of the alternative, which is painful death from hatred.

48. What is Curley’s attitude towards Slim as they enter the bunkhouse? What has happened in the bunkhouse? How does Curley’s reaction to Carlson’s threat confirm what we know about Curley’s characteristic faults?

Curley is scared of Slim, apologizing. He challenged Slim in the bunkhouse, and then realized, or feared, that Slim is simply beyond his abilities. Curley is also scared of Carlson’s brazen denial, and is really showing his pervading feelings of insecurity. He is a good fighter, but he doesn’t really feel confident about himself.

49. Why is Lennie smiling during this? What does Curley think Lennie is smiling at? Why does Curley attack Lennie?

Lennie is still thinking about the rabbits, and the ranch. Curley assumes, with his great insecurity, that Lennie is laughing at him. He attacks Lennie to show that he is not afraid, and that he is a real man in control. Lennie is obviously the very biggest and strongest man any of them have ever seen. To beat Lennie in a fight would salvage Curley’s sense of self-worth and re-establish the fear he likes to hold over the men.

50. What is Lennie’s initial reaction to Curley’s attack, and what does this say about Lennie’s nature?

Lennie does not even defend himself, because he is afraid, and because he is not violent. He is a scared child, in spite of his ridiculous size.

51. Who gets angry and decides to attack Curley and defend Lennie?


52. How does Lennie hurt Curley?

He grabs Curley’s fist, and with one hand, crushes Curley’s hand.

53. How does Slim make sure that Curley won’t get George and Lennie fired?

He warns Curley that if he tries to get Lennie in trouble, Slim will tell everyone what really happened, and everyone will laugh at Curley. This is, of course, Curley’s greatest fear, that people will think he isn’t the tough guy he wants them to think he is, so he agrees.

54. How does Slim react to what Lennie did?

Slim is in awe of Lennie’s tremendous strength.

Section IV

55. In what one way is Crooks’ quality of life actually better than that of the ranch hands?

Being a permanent worker, and living alone, he had more space, privacy, and more possessions than the ranch hands did.

56. Why does Lennie visit Crooks, when no one is supposed to visit him?

Lennie doesn’t understand racism, and he is lonely because George has gone to town.

57. What does Crooks reveal about his background, showing how racism against blacks is a problem, not just in the South?

He lived in California as a kid, and played with white kids. He was almost an equal in society. Now he lives as a southern Negro lives, oppressed and cast out. Again, we learn about the theme of intolerance in this novel.

58. What does Crooks suggest to Lennie? What almost happens? Why does Crooks do this?

He tries to scare Lennie into thinking that George might abandon him, or die. Lennie, protecting of George, whom he loves, gets angry and almost strikes out at Crooks. Seeing this, and noticing Lennie’s frightening size, Crooks talks Lennie out of it, calming him down. Crooks is angry at society for oppressing him so severely. Lennie is rare, because though he is a white man, he is still weaker than Crooks, and Crooks takes the opportunity to pass along some abuse, to take it out on someone else. However, in Crooks’ defense, he regrets it later, and accepts Lennie. The reader sympathizes with Lennie, and after considering that Crooks is himself a victim of similar oppressive treatment, the reader also sympathizes with Crooks after Lennie is pacified.

59. What is the importance of Crooks’ comment, “Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody - to be near him.... A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya ... a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.”? What condemning statement about society has Crooks just made?

Crooks articulates the entire problem with the men on the ranch, and men like them. Their need for distance and fear of each other has made them all sick in a way. They can’t be sensitive or emotional. They can’t be human. They must always be strong around others, or be cast out, like Crooks. Crooks desperately needs companionship and equality. He has the intelligence of any of them, but they don’t even listen to him because he’s black.

60. Why does Crooks conceal his pleasure with anger when Candy comes in? What ironic thing does Candy say to Crooks, considering Crooks complaints about loneliness?

Crooks is glad to have visitors. Candy tells Crooks, “Must be nice to have a room all to yourself this way.” It’s ironic because Crooks hates it. Candy doesn’t recognize the significance of why Crooks has his own room, or chooses not to think about it. We see this when Candy quickly changes the subject after Crooks reflects, “Guys don’t come into a coloured man’s room very much...” Steinbeck is also echoing the proverb, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” In both cases, though, both sides aren’t very good.

61. What does Crooks offer to Candy (and Lennie) in regards to the land they want to get? Why?

He offers to work for them only for food and shelter, and offers to work hard. He wants to escape. He also thinks he will have companionship. He is desperate, like the rest.

62. When Curley’s wife says, “They left all the weak ones here”, who is she talking about? How does this strengthen the theme of intolerance in the novel? How are these people in Crooks’ room the same?

She is talking about Lennie, Candy, Crooks, and herself. This collection of people are the cast-offs from society, Lennie because he is retarded, Crooks because he is black (a perceived weakness), Candy because he is old and crippled, and Curley’s wife because she is a woman. They are the same because they are different from the norm.

63. While still in Crooks’ room, what does Curley’s wife complain that men do to her when in groups? How might this transmit into a message about society? What assessment does she make of the men in this story?

She complains that individually, the men are generally nice and good, but in groups, they shun her and are sometimes cruel. This is easily transferred to society, where groups and institutions (banks, companies, governments) do things no individual has the heart to do. This particular idea is specifically developed in The Grapes of Wrath, where the people talk about the banks being vicious entities that no one person is responsible for. Steinbeck illustrates the banks (which in real life actually helped cause the depression, and helped prolong it in order to protect themselves) as machines that plow under people’s lives for profit.

She correctly tells the men that in general, men are scared of each other, afraid that others will get an advantage over them. This is very true of the men on the ranch, and she echoes what Slim said to George about men traveling together.

64. Curley’s wife reveals the truth about why she is always wandering around the ranch, looking for men. What is it?

Curley is a terrible person, always talking about fighting, and little else. She regrets marrying him, and just wants companionship, like Crooks does, like Candy does after his dog died, and like George and Lennie are lucky to have with each other.

65. How does Curley’s wife react when Crooks warns her to leave? What exactly does she threaten to do? Why does she do this? Is it because she is mean, or is there a more complicated reason?

She warns that she could claim that Crooks tried to rape her, and the white men would hang him, without even wondering if it were true. This was the case with blacks in the USA, and it was called “lynching”. This appears to be an ugly side to Curley’s wife’s personality, but it is actually the same as how Crooks provoked Lennie. She struck out for once because she could. Again, it is about power, where Curley’s wife is also oppressed, and lashes out at a target that is actually weaker than her, in this case, Crooks.

66. What did Curley’s wife figure out about Curley’s broken hand? What is her opinion of it?

By noticing the bruises on Lennie’s face, and his tremendous size, she deduces that Lennie broke Curley’s hand, and surely in self-defense. She is glad Lennie did it, because she hates Curley. We might even guess, although only on the basis on Curley’s personality, that Curley beats his wife.

67. What does Curley’s wife think of Candy’s promise that they will get their own land? What does this confirm about men in depression-era situation?

She laughs and says that they will never succeed. Most men have that idea, but they fail. This confirms our fear that the little is a symbol of Heaven, not to be attained for real.

68. Why does Crooks ask the men to leave after Curley’s wife leaves?

He is sad and upset that he has been reminded of how little hope he has as a black man. He wants them to leave so that they will not perpetuate any more wishes Crooks might have of being equal or fairly treated.

69. What does Crooks tell Candy about his part in their plan for a farm at the end of the section, and why?

He doesn’t want the disappointment of being told later that he is not wanted. Crooks thinks that being black, the other three white men won’t want him. He wishes to save himself the disappointment. He is feeling self-defeatist.

Section V

70. Again, we hear the clanging of horseshoes outside the barn at the beginning. What is the symbolic meaning of this sound? What are the men really doing outside?

The sound of horseshoes is coming from the men playing horseshoes on a Sunday afternoon. It is a death knell (or perhaps a funeral bell) for Curley’s wife and for Lennie. Notice that the clanging of horseshoes (the ringing of the bell) finally stops just after Curley’s wife’s death.

71. What has happened to Lennie’s puppy? What does Lennie finally admit to himself about how it happened? What is the dramatic importance of this?

The puppy is dead; Lennie killed it by accident, like the mice. He finally admits that it is his own carelessness that is to blame. The death of the dog sets the tone and suspense, foreboding for the death of Curley’s wife.

72. Who comes to visit Lennie? What does this person complain about to Lennie?

Curley’s wife comes and pleads with Lennie to talk to her because she is lonely. Curley doesn’t let her talk to anyone.

73. What background story does Curley’s wife tell Lennie? What can we guess is the truth behind the story?

Curley’s wife met an actor who came through town with a show. He promised her that she was a naturally good actress, and that he would get her into the movie business. He promised that he would write to her, but she never received the letter. She thought that her mother destroyed the letter before she could read it.

The reader can extrapolate that the actor used his fame and position to have fun with Curley’s wife (before she was married to Curley), and promised to get her into movies to make her happy, so that she wouldn’t feel used. The actor probably never wrote to her, or even remembered her.

74. What can we guess as to why Curley’s wife married Curley? How does this relate to the economics of the time (remember, this book was published 1937, still in the Great Depression)?

When she didn’t hear from the actor, she was probably pressured by her family to find a husband who had money, so that she could move out and relieve her family of the cost of supporting her. In other words, Curley’s wife married him because he had money, and as a woman, she had no way to get a job or support herself. Women weren’t accepted in jobs, especially any good jobs. Consequently, women were very much like property or children in this setting, depending on men for their survival. Curley’s wife is very much oppressed, just lie Crooks and Lennie, and Candy.

75. What does Lennie tell Curley’s wife that he likes to do? What does Curley’s wife let him do?

He tells her that he likes to pet soft things. She lets him stroke her hair, which is a terrible mistake.

76. How do things go wrong?

Lennie begins to get excited as he pets her hair. This may be due to the fact that she is very pretty, and though Lennie may not understand it, he is attracted to her. In addition, he always tends to get excited when petting things, such as with the mice, the dog, and the red dress in Weed. She complains he is petting to hard, but he doesn’t stop right away. She gets angry, and Lennie gets scared, holding onto to her because that is always his reaction when he is scared (the red dress, Curley’s fist). She gets scared too, fearing he will rape her or kill her, though Lennie has no intention of doing either. Lennie accidentally breaks her neck, killing her, as he tries to stop her from screaming.

77. Where does Lennie steal away to?

The hiding place where George made him remember at the start of the book, before they arrived at the ranch.

78. What is the significance of the pigeon which flies out of the barn?

It has two symbolic meanings. First, it symbolizes the spirit of Curley’s wife, who has finally found the freedom she longed for in life. It flies into the open sky, to freedom, Salvation, and Heavenly comfort. In this way, we see the completion of the utopia theme, where Heaven only comes after death, if at all.

Second, it symbolizes the hopes and dreams of Lennie, Candy, and George, flying into the wind, to be lost forever. This is yet another example of Steinbeck’s device of using animals and nature to parallel, and subtly illustrate, the meaning of the plot events.

79. Why does the shepherd dog cringe when she catches scent of Curley’s wife?

She senses the trouble to come. This is more foreboding, because dogs will usually not cringe at dead animals, and might even eat certain dead things (though not usually people).

80. After George finds out what happened, what does he decide? Why?

He decides to let Lennie get away, because Curley would kill him if he caught him.

81. What does George say he will do with his life now? Why does he decide this, when he doesn’t need to? How will his character change?

He decides to abandon the idea of the little place they were going to get, and spend all his money on alcohol and prostitutes. He has abandoned hope, which has died with Lennie, who isn’t dead at this point, but will be soon. This helps prove that Lennie was a reason for George live decently, with a goal. Lennie, in his innocent way, kept George from despair and evil. Now, without Lennie to care for, George will give himself up to the lonely, squalid lifestyle the others lead.

82. Who does Candy blame for what has happened? Why? Is he correct?

He blames Curley’s wife, saying that he thought she might be happy, after she warned them they would never succeed. Her reputation as a tramp, and the fear that she would cause trouble, makes him take his anger out on her. He is technically correct in the way that her unwise move of getting Lennie alone did eventually lead to this trouble. Mostly, though, blaming her is another example of how no one understands her torment. Even in death, she is blamed for being a tramp and a troublemaker, when she only wanted to be treated as a person, not an object.

83. What does Curley specifically state that he will do to Lennie? Why is this important to characterizing Curley?

He promises to “shoot ‘im in the guts”, which is a painful way to die. Curley wants not only to kill Lennie, but to kill him slowly and painfully. The question is: how much of this anger is from the loss of his wife, as opposed to being an excuse for Curley to get revenge on Lennie for the fight?

First, we establish that Curley did not really love his wife. To Curley, she was just an object that he possessed. When Lennie killed Curley’s wife, Curley is angry that someone destroyed his possession, much like if someone destroyed his car. This is important in understanding Curley’s mean character. It also reflects on his wife terrible life under Curley’s roof. Second, we can confidently say that Curley was humiliated by his defeat in the fight with Lennie. Curley lost the fight in front of many of the men. This is the perfect excuse for Curley to get revenge. It is revenge, not justice, that drives Curley, as he promises to deliberately shoot him in the guts.

84. What must George do? How does Slim contribute to this decision?

Slim explains that Curley will be out to hurt Lennie, which George already knows from Curley’s statements in the barn. Slim also explains that even if they do catch Lennie, Lennie’s life will be terrible, much like Candy’s dog was. Slim does not say what George must do, but they both know George must kill Lennie, to put him to death out of mercy and love.

85. The behaviour of the other ranch hands is alarmingly blood-thirsty, in spite of the fact that they know Lennie and probably think he is a nice guy. Give examples. Also, suggest reasons (to do with human nature) why they act this way.

Carlson gladly volunteers to get his pistol, and Whit wants a gun too, when he says that he doesn’t have one. In the end, these men are independent and competitive. The thrill of danger and of the hunt, and of having the power to kill another, interests them more than any humanitarian concerns.

86. How does Slim try to convince Curley not to go on the chase? What is Curley’s reaction, and why?

He tells Curley that he should stay with his wife and care for her body. Curley doesn’t care about her body, likely because she isn’t useful to him anymore, like a broken toaster. Now he wants revenge.

87. What does Curley demand of George, and why?

He insists George stay with them on the hunt so Curley won’t suspect George was involved in killing Curley’s wife.

88. Where is Carlson’s Luger?

George stole it when he went to the bunkhouse after seeing Curley’s wife.

Section VI

89. What is the dramatic importance of the heron eating the water snake? How is this consistent with Steinbeck’s style? How is this event ironic?

The simple act of predator eating prey is foreboding of the death of Lennie. In fact, the beginning of the final section reflects the opening of the first section, but with a malignant undertone. A water snake was at the pond in the beginning, but this time is eaten. In addition, a heron was flying away from the pond at the beginning, now it stays to eat the first snake. It almost eats another but Lennie scares away the heron. It is, of course, very consistent with Steinbeck’s style to use animals to foreshadow and illustrate the plot. The event is ironic because the snake is commonly regarded as evil, and the heron as good. Yet, the reader shudders at the cold, deliberate way the heron eats the helpless, unsuspecting water snake, and waits for the next. When Lennie scares away the second water snake, perhaps he is replacing it. But his killer won’t be a heron, it will be another human (Humans’ only predator is other humans).

The snake is thought of as evil, yet here it is really helpless and we feel sorry for it, even if a good animal, like the heron, devours it. Lennie, too, is the snake, helpless, unsuspecting of his own death, thinking he and George will just run away again. And while the reader must admit that Lennie did a bad thing by killing Curley’s wife (hence, his evil), the reader doesn’t want Lennie to die.

90. What visions does Lennie hallucinate seeing? What do these visions say? What is the real source of these visions?

Lennie sees his Aunt Clara, who scolds him that he didn’t listen to George, and reminds Lennie about how good George is to him, sacrificing his own freedom to care for him. This is likely Lennie’s own mind, feeling guilty about what he has done and having some understanding of how important George is to him. Lennie depends on George for help, and, knowing this, imagines this scene.

The rabbit, the ultimate object of Lennie’s affections and hopes, harshly criticizes and taunts Lennie. The rabbit tells Lennie that he wouldn’t be fit to tend rabbits, and that George is going to leave him this time. This is Lennie having some understanding that he is in much deeper trouble than ever before, and that George might not be able to save him this time. In arguing with the giant rabbit, Lennie pronounces his faith in George, much like he did to Crooks.

Lennie’s visions are also something that comes with clarity and understanding before death. A common idea is that of one’s life flashing before one’s eyes (very quickly remembering your life’s events just before death, something humans naturally do) before death. Lennie is retarded, and is largely incapable of complex thoughts. However, even with his limited mind, he is seeing things in tragic perspective now.

91. What does George hear in the distance?

The men an dogs coming to look for Lennie.

92. What two things does Lennie ask George to talk about? Why are these things comforting to Lennie?

Lennie wants George to “give him Hell”, and to tell him about the rabbits. He does this because these are regular things for George and Lennie. Lennie is afraid that things are different now, that there is no escape from what he has done. But hearing these things from George reassures him that George fix things.

93. How does George distract Lennie while he prepares to kill him?

He tells Lennie to look across the river, so that he can almost see the farm they would get.

94. What admission and reassurance does George make to Lennie, one that he had never done before? Why did he do it? What does this tell us about George’s feelings about his own part in what has happened to Lennie?

George explains carefully and very whole-heartedly to Lennie that he has never truly been angry with him. He wants to make final and complete peace with Lennie before his death. George feels that he has failed Lennie, and loves him. Killing Lennie is purely an act of love and mercy, with no anger or revenge.

95. What story does Carlson, in his excited ignorance, suggest, that George goes along with? What is Carlson’s final comment, and what does it tell us about him?

That Lennie had the gun, but George got it away from him and killed him. This is totally ridiculous, because no man could have taken that gun by force from Lennie. Carlson seems to have absolutely no insight at all. His thirst for adventure and excitement make him incapable of careful observation or understanding. Carlson, so utterly stupid, asks Curley, “Now what the Hell ya’ suppose is eatin’ them two guys?” He really has no idea about mercy, love, relationships, or any of the problems in society. He is a happy participant in a faulty society, much like the character Parsons in Orwell’s 1984.

96. What do Slim and George decide to do? What bond do they have?

Go in and get a drink. Slim understands and sympathizes with George, things that most men don’t do for each other or want to do. They are friends who understand mercy and care. Some critics suggest a latent or underlying homosexual relationship between the two, although most people (like me) dismiss this as extreme and unfounded.

Essay Questions

1. How do being different, and the prevailing attitudes of intolerance, lead to tragedy in this story? Discuss examples of these issues with any and all characters in the novel who are different, and as a result, play tragic roles. Take care to show the relationship between the ways in which each character is different from normal, and how each character is oppressed by the intolerance or disregard of others.

2. How does Curley’s wife suffer from oppression because she is a woman? You may wish to include areas an analysis such as the importance of marriage, stereotyping, women’s roles and power in society, and the common idea of women’s “evil sexuality” when discussing Curley’s wife. You should also consider why Steinbeck did not give her a name, but chose only to refer to her as “Curley’s wife”. Be sure to discuss the position of men related to women.

3. Discuss how the killing of Candy’s dog, and his associated feelings, relate to the death of Lennie, and George’s associated feelings. Be sure to include relevant quotes from characters, including Carlson. You must also discuss the issue of mercy vs. Lost usefulness. For which of these two reason did Lennie and the dog die?

4. Agree or disagree without the statement that Curley’s wife’s death was neither her fault nor Lennie’s, but a product of the society they lived in.

5. How does the idea of lost hope or hopelessness, futility, pervade this story? Give examples of characters that have no hope, or have lost it, and show why this idea is so universal in this book. Explain why the little farm is a vision of utopia, and why it is impossible to reach. Why do the characters know they won’t get it? You may wish to discuss the symbolism of the farm representing Heaven. Consider the economic conditions of the time.

6. Of Mice and Men has an allegorical quality, with each character possessing a specific trait that represents something in society. Identify these traits in the main characters, explain their relevance to the book, and the book’s comment on society. Research “allegory” if you are not familiar with its meaning.

7. Explain the value of relationships in this story, and how this contrasts to the problem of loneliness. Be sure to include insight about the value of this idea in society.

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