1. Where does the story begin? What is important about this place
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
Lennie drinks too much, out of a still pond, he carries a dead mouse,
which he killed, and George must confiscate, and Lennie canât 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 bossâ 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
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 Georgeâs 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 handâs 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 doesnât want to live the typical ranch handâs 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 Lennieâs 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 wouldnât be
able to find food, and might be killed.
8. What is the importance of their plan to get their own place and
âLive off the fatta (fat of) the landâ? What is the ultimate symbol of
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.
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, âJust âgimme (give me)
my timeâ one night, the way any guy would.â What is important about Whiteyâs
departure? What do we learn about ranch hands, and their prospects?
Ranch hands canât have a prosperous life. They canât 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 Lennieâs 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 arenât 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. Smittyâs 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 Lennieâs pay. Then he suspects something
else which he doesnât specify, expect that he feels George is cheating
somehow, âwhat you sellin?â He suspects this because men donât 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, âOh, so itâs that way...â? What is significant
about Georgeâs response, âYeah, itâs that way.â?
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. Georgeâs 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
13. Why is everybody afraid of Curley (2 reasons)? What is Georgeâs
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 bossâ
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 Georgeâs reaction to Curleyâs bragging about the glove
comment on Georgeâs 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 werenât
his fault, simply because he was black.
16. When Candy talks about Curleyâs wife for the first time, what
does he imply about her?
That she is a âtartâ, 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
âlet [Curley] have it.â
18. What body language does Curleyâs wife use when she first speaks
to George? What is the significance of the following passage?
Slimâs voice came through the door. âHi, Good-lookinââ âIâm tryinâ to
find Curley, Slim.â âWell, you ainât tryinâ very hard. I seen him goinâ
in your house.â She was suddenly apprehensive. â âBye, boys,â 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 Slimâs 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 Lennieâs 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 doesnât know why men donât travel together. He insightfully
wonders, âMaybe everâbody in the whole damned world is scared of each other.â
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 canât 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
23. What does Carlson suggest to Slim about Candyâs dog?
That the dog is too old and smelly, and should be put to death, and
replaced with one of Slimâs 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, âsize each other upâ 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 Georgeâs response, âI didnât
watch her go.â
There are many elements to this little interaction between Curley and
George. First, we learn from Georgeâs response that Curley was actually
trying to trick George, and provoke a fight. Had George known which way
Curleyâs 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
To check if his wife is hiding in the bunkhouse.
27. Why does Steinbeck show Candyâs 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.
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 Lennieâs
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 itâs better than what men usually do, stay lonely and
31. What does Lennie have under his coat when he comes into the bunkhouse?
32. Why does Carlson want to kill Candyâs dog? Is it out of sympathy?
What does it say about Carlsonâs 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 Slimâs 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 Candyâs 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
Slimâs authority, it establishes the unhappy truth that life is filled
with suffering and loss, and that people must accept that and go through
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
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 Candyâs 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, canât 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 muleâs hoof, and his voice trails off.
37. What is important about the fact that Slim volunteers to put
tar on the muleâs 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 doesnât make Crooks take responsibility for something
that isnât his problem. This is a contrast to the way the boss gets angry
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, âThereâs guys
around here walking bow-legged âcause they like to look at a kewpie-doll
lamp.â? In general, other than the obvious, why do men go to this place?
Whit invites George to go with the others to Susyâs brothel. It is different
from Claraâs brothel because the alcohol is cheaper, and it is cheaper
to hire a prostitute. In addition, Susy is a more pleasant woman. By âbow-leggedâ,
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 doesnât use prostitutes.
He says he doesnât want to spend the money because saying that he doesnât
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,
Heâs goes to the barn, looking for Slim, suspecting that Slim might
be doing something with Curleyâs wife in the barn. Heâs 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
Slimâs god-like status among the men?
âNobody donât know what Slim can do.â 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 Curleyâs 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 Curleyâs wife.
43. Why are George and Lennie so attracted to the farm they want
to buy? Why arenât they happy with what theyâre doing on the ranch?
For George and Lennie, the little farm they want to buy promises independence,
and prosperity. They wonât 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 Candyâs comment to George, âI ought
to have shot that dog myself, George. I shouldnât ought to have let no
stranger shoot my dog.â? How does this figure in the end of the story?
This realization by Candy is the antecedent for Georgeâs decision to
kill Lennie at the end of the story. Candy recognizes the unavoidable need
for mercy, but fears that his dogâs 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 Curleyâs attitude towards Slim as they enter the bunkhouse?
What has happened in the bunkhouse? How does Curleyâs reaction to Carlsonâs
threat confirm what we know about Curleyâs 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 Carlsonâs brazen denial, and is really showing
his pervading feelings of insecurity. He is a good fighter, but he doesnât
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 Curleyâs sense of self-worth and
re-establish the fear he likes to hold over the men.
50. What is Lennieâs initial reaction to Curleyâs attack, and what
does this say about Lennieâs 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 Curleyâs fist, and with one hand, crushes Curleyâs hand.
53. How does Slim make sure that Curley wonât get George and Lennie
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, Curleyâs greatest fear, that people will think he isnât
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 Lennieâs tremendous strength.
55. In what one way is Crooksâ 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
Lennie doesnât 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 Lennieâs 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 Crooksâ
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
59. What is the importance of Crooksâ comment, âBooks ainât no good.
A guy needs somebody - to be near him.... A guy goes nuts if he ainât got
nobody. Donât make no difference who the guy is, longâs heâs with you.
I tell ya ... a guy gets too lonely anâ he gets sick.â? 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 canât be sensitive or emotional. They canât
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 donât even listen to him because
60. Why does Crooks conceal his pleasure with anger when Candy comes
in? What ironic thing does Candy say to Crooks, considering Crooks complaints
Crooks is glad to have visitors. Candy tells Crooks, âMust be nice to
have a room all to yourself this way.â Itâs ironic because Crooks hates
it. Candy doesnât 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, âGuys donât come into a coloured
manâs room very much...â Steinbeck is also echoing the proverb, âThe grass
is always greener on the other side of the fence.â In both cases, though,
both sides arenât 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 Curleyâs wife says, âThey left all the weak ones hereâ,
who is she talking about? How does this strengthen the theme of intolerance
in the novel? How are these people in Crooksâ 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 Curleyâs wife because she is a woman. They are the
same because they are different from the norm.
63. While still in Crooksâ room, what does Curleyâs 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 peopleâs 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. Curleyâs 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 Curleyâs 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 âlynchingâ. This
appears to be an ugly side to Curleyâs wifeâs 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 Curleyâs wife is also oppressed,
and lashes out at a target that is actually weaker than her, in this case,
66. What did Curleyâs wife figure out about Curleyâs broken hand?
What is her opinion of it?
By noticing the bruises on Lennieâs face, and his tremendous size, she
deduces that Lennie broke Curleyâs 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 Curleyâs personality, that Curley beats his wife.
67. What does Curleyâs wife think of Candyâs promise that they will
get their own land? What does this confirm about men in depression-era
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 Curleyâs 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 doesnât want the disappointment of being told later that he is not
wanted. Crooks thinks that being black, the other three white men wonât
want him. He wishes to save himself the disappointment. He is feeling self-defeatist.
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
Curleyâs wife and for Lennie. Notice that the clanging of horseshoes (the
ringing of the bell) finally stops just after Curleyâs wifeâs death.
71. What has happened to Lennieâs puppy? What does Lennie finally
admit to himself about how it happened? What is the dramatic importance
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 Curleyâs wife.
72. Who comes to visit Lennie? What does this person complain about
Curleyâs wife comes and pleads with Lennie to talk to her because she
is lonely. Curley doesnât let her talk to anyone.
73. What background story does Curleyâs wife tell Lennie? What can
we guess is the truth behind the story?
Curleyâs 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 Curleyâs wife (before she was married to Curley), and
promised to get her into movies to make her happy, so that she wouldnât
feel used. The actor probably never wrote to her, or even remembered her.
74. What can we guess as to why Curleyâs 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 didnât 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, Curleyâs
wife married him because he had money, and as a woman, she had no way to
get a job or support herself. Women werenât 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. Curleyâs wife is
very much oppressed, just lie Crooks and Lennie, and Candy.
75. What does Lennie tell Curleyâs wife that he likes to do? What
does Curleyâs 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 doesnât 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, Curleyâs
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
It has two symbolic meanings. First, it symbolizes the spirit of Curleyâs
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
Steinbeckâs 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 Curleyâs
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 doesnât 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 isnât 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 Curleyâs 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 âshoot âim in the gutsâ, 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
First, we establish that Curley did not really love his wife. To Curley,
she was just an object that he possessed. When Lennie killed Curleyâs wife,
Curley is angry that someone destroyed his possession, much like if someone
destroyed his car. This is important in understanding Curleyâs mean character.
It also reflects on his wife terrible life under Curleyâs 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 Curleyâs statements in the barn. Slim also explains that even
if they do catch Lennie, Lennieâs life will be terrible, much like Candyâs
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 doesnât 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 Curleyâs reaction, and why?
He tells Curley that he should stay with his wife and care for her body.
Curley doesnât care about her body, likely because she isnât 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 wonât suspect
George was involved in killing Curleyâs wife.
88. Where is Carlsonâs Luger?
George stole it when he went to the bunkhouse after seeing Curleyâs
89. What is the dramatic importance of the heron eating the water
snake? How is this consistent with Steinbeckâs style? How is this event
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 Steinbeckâs 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 wonât be a heron, it
will be another human (Humansâ 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 Curleyâs wife (hence, his evil),
the reader doesnât 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 didnât listen to
George, and reminds Lennie about how good George is to him, sacrificing
his own freedom to care for him. This is likely Lennieâs 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 Lennieâs affections and hopes, harshly
criticizes and taunts Lennie. The rabbit tells Lennie that he wouldnât
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.
Lennieâs visions are also something that comes with clarity and understanding
before death. A common idea is that of oneâs life flashing before oneâs
eyes (very quickly remembering your lifeâs 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 âgive him Hellâ, 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
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 Georgeâs 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 Carlsonâs 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, âNow what the
Hell yaâ suppose is eatinâ them two guys?â 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 Orwellâs 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 donât 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.
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 Curleyâs wife suffer from oppression because she is a woman?
You may wish to include areas an analysis such as the importance of marriage,
stereotyping, womenâs roles and power in society, and the common idea of
womenâs âevil sexualityâ when discussing Curleyâs wife. You should also
consider why Steinbeck did not give her a name, but chose only to refer
to her as âCurleyâs wifeâ. Be sure to discuss the position of men related
3. Discuss how the killing of Candyâs dog, and his associated feelings,
relate to the death of Lennie, and Georgeâs 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 Curleyâs wifeâs death
was neither her fault nor Lennieâs, but a product of the society they lived
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 wonât get it? You may wish to discuss the symbolism
of the farm representing Heaven. Consider the economic conditions of the
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 bookâs
comment on society. Research âallegoryâ if you are not familiar with its
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.