Of Mice and Men: Lennie and George
Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck, is the story of two
simple farm hands, Lennie Small, who incidentally, really isn’t very small, and
his better half, George Milton, on their quest to have “a place of their own,”
with plenty of furry bunnies, of course. Sound strange? Read on to get clued
The book opens along the banks of the Salinas River a few miles south of
Soledad, California. Everything is calm and beautiful, and nature is alive.
The trees are green and fresh, lizards are skittering along, rabbits sit on the
sand. There are no people in the scene. Suddenly, the calm is broken. Trouble
is in the air. Animals begin to scatter. Two men have arrived on the scene,
and the environment seems troubled by their presence. For a moment the scene
becomes “lifeless.” Then in walk George and Lennie.
Lennie, a large, retarded, big man who has the mind of a little child,
and who loves to pet soft, pretty things, and George, a little man, who has
assumed the responsibility of taking care of his simpleminded friend Lennie,
are walking on their way to apply for a harvesting job on a nearby farm. The
two had been traveling together for quite some time now, which was very rare,
because most farm workers rarely have companions, but George and Lennie have
been together ever since Lennie’s Aunt had passed away, and Lennie began to
follow George around everywhere.
Instead of hurrying to the farm that night, they stop by a stream to
camp in the open, and they’ll arrive at work the next morning. Why? Well,
Lennie isn’t very bright. George didn’t want him to blow the job opportunity.
The logic between waiting until morning until going to work was, that way, all
the other farm hands would be out working, thus they’d have a better chance of
getting the job, since Lennie wouldn’t have to confront to many people, which
can easily make him “confused.”
During that evening, George had to take a dead mouse away from Lennie, who
had been hoarding it because he liked to pet it. George tried to teach
simpleminded Lennie that you don’t pet dead things, but Lennie had a hard time
George is aware that Lennie has difficulty remembering things, so he has
to remind him every time that they went for a job not to say anything, and to
let him do the talking. He also stresses the importance that Lennie returns to
the particular place and hide in the stream or bushes if gets in any trouble,
which plays an important role later on in the story. Also in the forest, we
here the story of living “off the fatta’ the land,” for the first time. They
dreamed of one day having a place of their very own, in which Lennie could tend
to as many bunnies as he would like. Lennie was apparently obsessed with this
dream, because all throughout the book, he nags George to repeat the story over
and over, like a child. The next morning during the job interview, the boss of
the farm becomes suspicous when George answers every question for Lennie.
George told him of the situation, how he isn’t very smart, but he makes sure
the boss realizes that he is an excellent worker. The boss is a little
suspicious, and believes that George is taking advantage of Lennie, so he had to
lie, and he told the boss that they were cousins, in order to get rid of any
suspicion. Then they were hired.
That night in the bunkhouse, which is were Lennie and George were
staying, there is a conflict over whether or not the old dog which Candy, an
old crippled farm hand, owned should be killed or not, because it smelled so
terrible. After much argument, Candy agrees to let Carlson, another farm hand,
kill the old dog. After making sure that the dog had his head turned, Carlson
shot him. Candy later regrets letting someone else shoot his own dog like that,
and wishes he would have put him out of his misery himself. This is
foreshadowing an event that takes place with Lennie and George later in the
Later that night, after the old dog had been killed, Candy realized that
he to would soon be old and unwanted like the dog was, so, wanting to have
companions, he decided to join Lennie and George in their dream of having their
own place, where they could all be together. This becomes an important theme
throughout the book, the idea that all people have dreams, and also that fact
that all people need companionship to get along.
Meanwhile, Curley, the arrogant son of the boss, who likes to try and
pick on bigger people that he is, was trying to find his wife, and he couldn’t
find her anywhere. When he walked into the bunkhouse and saw Lennie grinning,
about the dream of the place that they would one day have, of course, he began
to hit him, thinking that Lennie was grinning towards him. Lennie did nothing
for self defense until George told him to. He then, almost mechanically,
reached out and crushed Curley’s hand, with no apparent difficulty at all. This
gets Curley all steamed, and would eventually push him over the edge later in
That weekend, everyone is in town but Lennie, Candy, and Crooks, who is
a Negro stable keeper who keeps to himself, and has no friends. After being
really rude towards Lennie when he tried to walk into his quarters of the
bunkhouse, he saw that Lennie was generally friendly, and let he and Candy in.
They talked about their dream of their own place, and Crooks decided he’d like
to join them. He said he’d work for his keep. They all agreed on it, and now
Crooks too was in on the deal, that is, until Curley’s wife, who is also just as
lonely as the farm workers, is bored and comes in and begins to harass him, and
he realizes that he really has no hope of these things really happening.
The next day, Lennie receive’s a puppy after begging George, but
accidentally kills it by playing too hard with the puppy. Curley’s wife, who
is really bored, sees what he is hiding, and tries to talk to him about it,
explaining that it was okay, it was only a “mutt.” After she discovers his
obsession with petting things, she lets him pet her soft hair. He enjoys it,
but doesn’t know how to be gentle, and pets it to hard. She struggles to get
loose, but he held her closer. When she tried to yell, he held her even
tighter, because he was tensing up, afraid that he had done something bad, and
if anyone found out about it (he wasn’t even supposed to be talking with her in
the first place), he’d get in big trouble, and not get to tend to the bunnies
one day, which was his big goal in life. Knowing this, and not knowing what to
do, he grasped her tighter and tighter, until his strength had snapped her neck,
leaving her dead. He was all confused, and afraid. He knew this was bad.
Luckily, he remembered to run to the forest and hide if he was in trouble, so
When Candy discovered her body, they new immediately that it was Lennie.
Curley, was furious, and in addition to this, he was already mad about Lennie
crushing his hand, so he ordered that all the men go with him to find Lennie and
kill him. George was concerned for his friend, so, while he stalled, he stole
Carlson’s gun so he wouldn’t have it to go after Lennie with. Then he ran
ahead of the gang to the forest to check on Lennie.
Meanwhile, Lennie was seeing strange things. He saw a huge image of his
Aunt, and she was scolding him for messing things up, and always being a hassle
for George. Then he saw the image of a large rabbit. The rabbit told him that
George would beet him, and that he’d never be able to take care of the rabbits.
Lennie, having complete faith in his good friend George, denied all this, saying
that George would never do such a thing.
After a little while, George showed up, and Lennie was relieved. He
told Lennie that everything would be alright. But not even George could deny
that Lennie had done something very wrong this time. While Lennie had George
repeat the story of the place that they would one day have, and Lennie’s back
was turned, he pulled out the gun and shot Lennie, killing him. The rest of
the workers then caught up and congratulated him for his doings.
Why had George killed his dear friend Lennie? Well, think back to when
Candy had to part with his dog, and he let Carlson do it for him. This was the
same type of situation, but George decided that he’d rather put Lennie out of
his misery himself rather that see him mutilated by the vengeful Curley. It
was mainly for his own good, and at least he died happily, thinking of his long
life dream. But George had sacrificed his companion, and he too, like the other
farm hands, would now have to live a life alone in misery, with nobody who cares