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Of Mice And Men Essay Research Paper

attempted rape.

After she leaves, George arrives, looking for Lennie. He is upset to find Candy and his friend in

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the black man’s room, telling him about the plans for the farm. He insists that they leave. As they

walk back to the bunkhouse, Crooks shouts to Candy that he can forget about him going with

them to the farm. The black realizes that his dream of comradeship can never be realized with a

white man.

Notes

This chapter emphasizes the theme of loneliness. Crooks, the only black man on the ranch, is

forced to live in isolation in a shed in the barn. Because of his race, no ranch hand has ever come

to visit him at his room, and he is routinely excluded from their activities. Because he feels the

prejudice of the other workers towards him, he has grown proud, aloof, and defensive.

Because of his simplicity, Lennie does not “see” Crooks’s color. He accepts him only as another

human being and thinks nothing about going to his room, looking for his pup. At first, Crooks

will not allow Lennie to come inside, saying that black and white do not mix. When he first hears

Lennie talk about the plan to buy a farm, he scoffs at the idea. When Candy reveals that they

almost have enough money saved for the land, Crooks wants to join them, hoping to escape his

isolation and loneliness.

Curley’s wife is also shown to be a lonely woman in this chapter. She craves an emotional

attachment with somebody who is understanding. When she protests against the unfriendly

attitudes of the men on the ranch towards her, she is actually complaining about the sense of

isolation in her life. She obviously dislikes her husband and stays with him only because she

does not have any alternative. She is also shown to be a very prejudiced woman. When Crooks

demands that she leave his room, she threatens to charge him with rape, which would mean

certain death for a black man.

Steinbeck, through the comments of Crooks and Curley’s wife, states that most great American

dreams are shattered, foreshadowing that George’s dream will not become a reality. Crooks tells

Lennie about the thousands of ranchmen who dream of owning a piece of land and who fail to

save the necessary money. Curley’s wife complains about the man who did not live up to his

promise of obtaining her dream, getting her into the movies. It is important to notice that when

Curley’s wife enters the room, she prevents the men from talking about their dream, just as her

death at the end of the novel prevents them from obtaining their dream. She is also indirectly the

cause of George having to face loneliness — without Lennie for a friend and companion.

CHAPTER 5

A sad Lennie is alone in the barn on Sunday afternoon. He indulges in a monologue with his

dead puppy. He has accidentally killed it while they were playing. He is afraid that now George

will not let him have any rabbits on the farm. He thinks about burying the pup and not telling

George about it; but he knows that George, as always, will sense the truth.

Curley’s wife walks into the barn. Lennie takes a defensive stance against her, for George has

warned him to stay away from her. She, however, forces herself on him, growing emotional

when Lennie refuses to talk to her. She notices the dead puppy and tells him not to worry about

it, for no one will be upset. She also talks about her childhood and tells him about her loneliness.

She explains her story about the guy who promised to get her into the movies and failed to do so.

She even tells Lennie about how much she dislikes her husband. As she talks about her broken

dreams, she occasionally checks to see if Lennie is listening.

Lennie keeps telling Curley’s wife that he is not supposed to talk to her, but she ignores him.

When he tells her that he wants to raise rabbits, she asks why he likes them so much. Lennie

explains how he loves soft things. She asks Lennie if he would like to stroke her soft hair. When

Lennie does so, she grows fearful at the strength she feels in his hands. Raising her voice, she

asks him to stop. Lennie is scared that George is going to hear her, so he covers her mouth with

his huge palms in order to quiet her. He begs her to be quiet and bemoans the fact that she is

going to get him into trouble. She struggles to get away, but his strength is far too great for her

fragile body. With no intention of harming Curley’s wife, he shakes her and accidentally breaks

her neck, just as he has accidentally killed his puppy.

Lennie realizes the terrible mistake he has committed. He then remembers what George has

asked him to do in case of trouble. He picks up the dead puppy, quickly leaves the ranch, and

heads to the stream to hide in the bushes.

Old Candy comes searching for Lennie and finds Curley’s wife, who is dead. He is stunned by

the sight and runs out to tell George about it. On seeing the body of Curley’s wife, George is

dumbfounded. He realizes that Lennie is responsible for her death; but he also knows that it had

to have been an accident. Lennie is incapable of intentional murder. He also knows that Curley

and the other ranch hands will have no mercy on Lennie. George must think and act quickly. He

asks Candy to inform the others about the incident, and he heads back to the bunkhouse. Before

he looks for Curley, Candy curses the dead body, blaming her for ruining his plans for the farm.

When summoned, Curley is quick to guess who the culprit might be. He swears to kill Lennie as

soon as he is found. He organizes a search party, and tells the men to grab their guns. George

begs Curley not to shoot Lennie, but he does not agree. The men set out, armed with their

shotguns. Carlson reports that his gun is missing, and everyone assumes that Lennie has it.

Notes

The accidental death of the puppy in Lennie’s strong hands is intentional foreshadowing to

prepare the reader for the accidental death of Curley’s wife in Lennie’s strong hands. As the

chapter opens, Lennie is seen in the barn, grieving over the dead pup. He senses that he has done

something wrong, but feels it is not bad enough to cause him to hide in the bushes. At the same

time, he knows that George will not be pleased with him and worries that he might not be able to

have any rabbits.

Curley’s wife happens to appear in the barn when Lennie is most sad and vulnerable and, in spite

of Lennie’s opposition, sits next to him. She tells him not to worry about the dead puppy and

talks about her unrealized dreams and the loneliness she feels on the ranch. Lennie talks about

the farm that he and George are going to buy and the rabbits he is going to raise. When she

learns how much Lennie likes soft things, she flirtatiously asks him if he wants to stroke her soft

hair.

Unfortunately, Lennie does not know how to be gentle; his large hands are just too powerful.

Curley’s wife grows fearful, screams for him to stop, and struggles to get away. To silence her,

he covers her mouth and shakes her. As always, Lennie does not realize his strength and breaks

her neck. When he feels her limp body, he knows he has done something really terrible. He picks

up the dead pup and heads for the stream to hide in the brush.

Even though the scene in the barn must have been a violent one, Steinbeck is careful not to

convey that image. He simply shows Lennie whimpering as he covers the mouth of Curley’s

wife, begs her not to scream, and shakes her. Then he reveals her death with total simplicity,

stating, “And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck.” The style is remarkable, for the

words capture the suddenness of the act and the stillness of the moment.

In earlier chapters, the author has carefully developed Lennie as a totally naive innocent. He

remains the same innocent character, even after Curley’s wife is killed. It is clear to the reader

that Lennie intended no harm, and there was no malice. In fact, he is totally perplexed over what

has happened in the barn. The only thing he knows is that this is “trouble,” and he needs to go

and hide in the bushes. He also knows that when George finds out that he was talking to Curley’s

wife and what has happened to her, he will be angry and probably not let him have any rabbits.

When Curley rightly guesses who the culprit is, he wants revenge on Lennie — for his wife’s

death and for his crushed hand. He tells all the men to arm themselves for a search party. Carlson

reports that his gun is missing, and the assumption made by all is that Lennie has taken the pistol.

The reader, however, knows that Lennie has headed straight to the bushes and realizes that

George had a purpose in going to the bunkhouse alone.

It is important to realize that the death of Curley’s wife causes yet another shattered dream.

Candy is first to realize what will happen to their plans for the farm and curses her dead body for

destroying his hopes. George also knows that nothing will ever again be the same. He begs

Curley not to kill his friend, but there is no agreement. Ironically, George had earlier complained

that Lennie’s presence in his life prevented him from doing normal things; now he will find that

life without Lennie causes the real abnormality for him. He, like the other ranch hands, will learn

to live a life of loneliness.

CHAPTER 6

Waiting for George, Lennie feels proud that he has remembered about coming to the stream, but

he feels terrible about Curley’s wife. He suddenly has a vision of his Aunt Clara talking to him.

She scolds him for his irresponsible behavior and for causing George trouble. When she

disappears from his sight, a giant rabbit appears in her place. Like Aunt Clara, the rabbit also

reprimands Lennie and adds that he is not worthy of tending rabbits. It also relays that George is

very upset with him and is going to beat him, but Lennie refuses to believe it, for George has

never been cruel. He screams out for George, who soon appears and quiets him. Lennie

confesses his mistake, and George tries to reassure his upset friend that everything is going to be

all right. In the conversation that follows, George repeats the dream to Lennie, who gets excited

and asks George to buy their farm right away.

When the voices of the ranch hands come closer, George asks Lennie to look away and try to

picture the farm in his mind. As Lennie stares out across the stream, George continues to talk

about the rabbits and tells Lennie he will soon be in a place where no one can hurt him. As he

speaks, George takes Carlson’s pistol and raises it behind Lennie’s head, without the latter

noticing. George pulls the trigger, and Lennie falls down dead. Hearing the gun shot, the men

rush towards the sound. They are surprised to find the dead Lennie with George standing next to

him. The men ask if Lennie had Carlson’s gun, and George nods a ‘yes’. The men praise George

for a good job. Only Slim has any understanding of what has really happened. He tells George

that sometimes things just have to be done and insists upon buying George a drink. As they

leave, Slim assures George that “you hadda. . .I swear you hadda.”

Notes

Steinbeck has masterfully and powerfully created the last chapter. The novel ends by the stream,

in the same place it began. The repetition of the setting binds the story together. The pastoral

setting by the stream, however, is not as peaceful at the end of the novel. Between the start and

finish of the book, there have been a series of deaths. Candy’s dog has been shot to put it out of

its misery, and Lennie has killed his puppy by petting it too hard. Most importantly, Lennie has

accidentally killed Curley’s wife, which he knows is a terrible thing. As he sits by the stream

waiting for George, he is very troubled, and his imagination runs wild. He has visions of his

Aunt Clara and of a giant rabbit. Both scold him for his irresponsible behavior and the trouble

that he has caused George.

The chapter is filled with pathos. Lennie knows he has done something bad, but his simple mind

is unable to grasp the depth of trouble that he is in. He has no idea that his act is punishable by

death. His only concern is that George will be angry with him and might not let him tend the

rabbits. He even thinks again about going off and living by himself in order to save George from

having to put up with him. When the big rabbit in his vision taunts him, saying he is not worthy

of tending rabbits and that George is going to beat him for his behavior, Lennie cannot take it.

He tells the rabbit that George would never be mean to him. Not wanting to hear more, Lennie

then covers his ears and screams for George.

When George arrives at the stream, he already knows what he must do. He cannot allow the

ranch hands to cruelly kill his friend; instead, he will use Carlson’s pistol to do the horrible deed

himself. He does not want to be like Old Candy, regretting that he allowed someone else to kill

his best friend, his old dog. George also knows he will perform the act as quickly, kindly, and

mercifully as possible. First, however, he wants to calm Lennie down. He paints for him a

picture of their planned farm and asks Lennie to look away and imagine it. George wants Lennie

to die in happiness, believing the dream will come true. He also does not want Lennie to realize

what is happening to him; he does not want his friend to feel betrayed. It is important to realize

that Steinbeck shows George’s action to be one of mercy and kindness. He is faithful, loving, and

compassionate to Lennie to the very end, selflessly doing the thing that is hardest for him to do

in life.

Curley is furious, almost irrational, in this last chapter, but ironically the death of his wife wins

him great sympathy and support from the ranch hands. Until her murder, everyone on the ranch

had hated Curley. Now everyone rallies around him against Lennie. They also rally around

George when they realize he has killed Lennie. Earlier the men had shown great concern for

Candy over the killing of his dog. Unfortunately, they do not show the same respect and concern

to George over losing his companion and friend. Slim is the only one who understands how

George feels. As they walk away together for a drink, the mood is tragic. All hope for a better

future for George or Candy is lost, for the dream has died with Lennie.

OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTERS

George

George is the protagonist and one of the two main characters in Of Mice and Men. A

compassionate, kind, responsible, patient, and understanding man, he faithfully watches out for

Lennie, his retarded friend and constant companion. When Lennie gets into trouble, George

always helps him find a solution or get away. George is also shown to be a thinking person. He

knows he must discipline Lennie in order to help him, and he is often seen telling Lennie what he

has done wrong and what he must do to improve. He is also a planner, telling Lennie where he

should go if there is trouble on the ranch. He also works hard to make the dream of owing a ten-

acre farm become a reality. Unlike the other ranch hands that squander their money on women

and drink, George refuses to spend a dime frivolously, saving everything to make the dream

come true. He wants to buy the farm so that he and Lennie can live there, free from problems and

constraints caused by society.

Sometimes George is portrayed as an angry man, for he gets frustrated with Lennie’s slowness.

Although he scolds and even screams at him, he is never intentionally mean or cruel. Several

times George thinks about what he could do if Lennie were not around, but they are just idle

thoughts. George is legally free to desert the retarded man at any point in time; emotionally,

however, he is entirely bound to Lennie, as his protector and companion. Lennie also keeps

George from feeling the isolation and loneliness that possess the other ranch hands.

Because George cares for Lennie so deeply, he cannot allow him to die brutally at the hands of

Curley and the angry ranch hands. After painting the picture of the farm in Lennie’s mind one

last time, he takes Carlson’s pistol and mercifully shoots his friend, in a totally selfless act of

kindness. It was a terribly difficult thing for George to do, and at the end of the book, Steinbeck

paints him feeling lost and alone without his faithful companion and without a dream to keep

him going.

Lennie

Lennie is George’s friend and constant companion, who is mentally retarded and highly

dependent on George. He suffers from a child’s mentality within a giant’s body. He is innocent

and forgetful like a child. He is also attracted to small, soft things because of his child-like,

gentle nature. Unfortunately, he often harms the things he loves accidentally. As a huge man

with heavy arms and powerful hands, he does not know or understand his own strength.

Lennie idolizes George, his kind caretaker, almost like a god. In Lennie’s eyes, George is totally

kind, faithful, and good. He tries hard to remember everything George tells him to do and obeys

him implicitly without asking any questions. Even though Lennie did not know how to swim, he

jumped in a river one time when George jokingly told him to do so. Because Lennie is slow,

forgetful, and powerful, he causes trouble for George wherever they go. They had to leave the

last job because Lennie reached out and grabbed the dress of a little girl and would not let go.

When she screamed, the townspeople came and blamed Lennie for attempted rape.

Lennie never means to cause problems. He did not mean to kill his puppy and greatly regrets that

it is dead. He tries to stay away from Curley and his wife, as George suggested. She, however,

comes to Lennie in the barn and tells him he can stroke her hair. When he is too rough, she

begins to scream and Lennie panics. When he covers her mouth and shakes her to be quiet, he

accidentally breaks her neck.

Throughout the book Lennie is portrayed as a dreamer. He longs to go and live on a farm with

George, away from the pressures and frustration of a society that always gets him in trouble. He

constantly dreams of raising soft rabbits to be his pets on the farm. He senses that there are

problems on the ranch and with Curley and begs George to take him away to the farm. At the end

of the novel, when he and George talk by the stream, Lennie again senses trouble and begs

George to get the farm quickly. When George pulls the trigger, Lennie is dreaming about the

farm and the rabbits, therefore, dying happily.

Candy

Candy is a very old ranch hand who is crippled and lonely. Steinbeck paints him as the sad,

stereotyped symbol of old age, a man whose life is void of friends and hope. His dog, who is his

only companion, is very much like him, old and crippled; but he also stinks and is blind. As a

result, the ranch hands insist that Candy allow them to shoot the old mutt. When the dog is dead,

Candy truly has nothing, no reason for existence. Then he overhears George and Lennie

discussing their dream of owning a farm. Candy asks permission to join them and offers his life

savings to help purchase the land. He wants to live his last days with a feeling of peace and

belonging. At the end of his days, Candy does not want to be treated like his old dog.

When Candy finds Curley’s wife dead, he is emotionally devastated and curses her body, not

because she has been killed, but because she put an end to his dream. He instinctively knows

who has killed Curley’s wife and what will happen to Lennie. As he realizes there will not be a

farm without Lennie, “His eyes are blinded with tears.” He is left only with the reality of his

lonely and isolated existence on the ranch.

Curley’s wife

Curley’s wife, the only woman on the ranch, is really a minor character in the story. In fact, she is

never actually named in the course of the book. She serves only as the instrument of the

destruction of Lennie and the dream. Steinbeck is not kind in his brief portrayal of her. She is a

coarse, vulgar woman who wears too much make-up and flirts with every ranch hand. She has

married Curley only because she had no other offers. Her true dream was to become an actress,

but the man who was supposed to help her get in the movies failed her.

Like all the characters on the ranch, other than Lennie and George, Curley’s wife feels very

lonely and isolated. She seems to hate her husband, as evidenced when she compliments Lennie

for crushing Curley’s right hand and granting permission for him to crush the other if need be.

She constantly looks for company and longs for an emotional attachment, seeking it in all the

wrong ways. It is strongly hinted that she has committed adultery, for Curley is always on the

lookout for her whereabouts, as if fearful of her disloyalty. It is her loneliness and her flirtatious

ways that lead her to her death. She sits beside Lennie in the barn, even though he protests

against it. Then she asks him to stroke her hair. It is a fatal mistake for her, because Lennie

cannot be gentle. When she screams out of fear for his strength, Lennie panics. He covers her

mouth and shakes her to be quiet; in the process he breaks her neck.

Curley

Curley is the boss’ son, who has a short stature and a large temper. To make up for his small size,

he became a lightweight boxer. Now he constantly tries to pick fights, especially with people

bigger than himself, gaining great pleasure over their defeat. Curley’s attitude suggests that he

has a grudge against everyone whom he meets. He is overly possessive of his wife and suspects

that every man on the ranch desires her. He wears a glove full of Vaseline to keep his hand soft

for her and it becomes a source of constant jokes amongst the ranch hands. Though he seems to

love his wife, he is an immoral character, visiting brothels on Saturday nights.

When Curley picks a fight with the giant Lennie, he bites off more than he can handle. Lennie

quickly crushes his hand, and Curley has to be taken to the hospital. He vows to get revenge on

Lennie. His opportunity comes quickly. When Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife, her

husband shows no mercy. He quickly organizes a search party to look for Lennie and promises to

kill him immediately. Although Curley has been hated for his meanness throughout the book, the

ranch hands now rally round him.

Armed and ready, they go off with Curley to search for Lennie, eager for blood. Ironically,

George stands in the way of Curley’s being able to get his revenge, for he mercifully kills Lennie

to save him from Curley’s wrath and a brutal death.

Slim

Compared to his co-workers, Slim is confident in his conduct and clear in his speech. As a result,

he is treated with respect on the ranch. Steinbeck portrays him as a thinker, “His ears heard more

than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding

beyond thought.” He is quite surprised to see the loyalty and companionship of George and

Lennie and comments, “Ain’t many guys travel around together, I don’t know why. May be

everybody in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” He is a good judge of people and

quickly understands, that in spite of his size, “Lennie ain’t mean”. When Lennie crushes Curley’s

hand, it is Slim who convinces him not to tell anyone about his fight with Lennie. He is also the

only one to understand why George has shot Lennie at the end of the novel and reassures him

that he had to do it. He then insists upon taking George into town and buying him a drink.

PLOT (Structure)

Of Mice and Men is almost a long short story, divided into six chapters. Steinbeck takes great

care to develop the tragic plot in a classical fashion. The first two chapters are largely expository,

describing the isolated setting, introducing the characters, and developing the relationship

between Lennie and George. The rising action begins in the third chapter with the confrontation

between Curley and Lennie. When the huge man easily crushes Curley’s hand, his strength is

actually seen for the first time and foreshadows that there will be trouble on the ranch. The fourth

part of the book focuses on the theme of loneliness and develops Curley’s wife, who is shown to

be a lonely woman, constantly seeking company. In the fifth chapter, her loneliness leads her

into the barn, where she engages Lennie in conversation. It has been clearly foreshadowed that

nothing good can happen in this encounter. In fact, Curley’s wife is the instrument causing the

tragic ending of the book. In a flirtatious manner, she asks Lennie to stroke her soft hair. When

she feels his powerful hands that do not know how to be gentle, she panics, screams for help, and

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