Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1902 - 1968)

Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck (1902
- 1968)

Type of Work:

Rustic, sentimental novel


Salinas Valley, California; 20th-century
depression years

Principal Characters

Lennie Small, a clumsy, simple-minded
giant of a man

George Milton, Lennie\'s friend and protector

Candy, a ranch swamper

Slim, a farm hand

Crooks, a Negro stable worker

Curley, the ranch owner\'s virulent son

Curley\'s wife

Story Overveiw

George and his ponderous friend Lennie
followed a dusty path leading to the banks of the Salinas River, toting
their only possessions - bedrolls and a few articles of clothing. Slow-minded

Lennie had cost them their previous jobs; his innocent fascination with
a young girl\'s red dress and his awkward attempt to touch it had frightened
the girl, forcing them to flee a lynch mob. Now they were heading for a
nearby ranch to sign on as barley bucks.

George reminded Lennie once again to let
him do all the talking when they met with the ranch owner. Lennie promised
that he would, and then begged George to tell him again about the farm
they hoped to own one day:

"Come on, George. Tell me. Please, George.

Like you done before, " "You get a kick outta that, don\'t you?" George
replied. "Awright, I\'ll tell you, and then we\'ll eat our supper ..." The
dream farm will include all sorts of animals - and Lennie will be assigned
to take care of the rabbits.

The two men neared the ranch. Using Lennie\'s
love of animals as a means of control, George once more warned his friend
that if he didn\'t keep quiet, or if he caused any trouble at the ranch,
they wouldn\'t get the job they so badly needed; then they couldn\'t earn
the money for their dream-farm.

As hiring negotiations began, the ranch
boss questioned George about Lennie\'s quiet and slow manner. But George
was ready with an excuse: "He\'s my ... cousin. I told his old lady I\'d
take care of him. He got kicked in the head by a horse when he was a kid.

He\'s alright. just ain\'t bright."

Once they were hired, both George and Lennie
went right to work. Later, as they waited for lunch to be served, in sauntered

Curley, the ranch owner\'s son. He was there to look over the new men. After

Curley had gone, Candy, the bunkhouse swamper, warned them about the young
man. A former prizefighter, Curley took pleasure in boosting his ego by
picking on others. He was also an insecure husband - he became insanely
jealous of anyone who even got near his wife.

Seeming to sense that Curley would bring
them trouble, Lennie now became agitated and nervous about the job; but
with no money to fall back on, the pair was forced to continue working
at the ranch.

Before nightfall, another ranch hand, a
jerkline skinner named Slim, presented the childlike Lennie with a puppy
from his dog\'s litter. Slim appeared to be a kind and sensitive man, so

George confided in him about the troubles he and Lennie had had. As they
finished their conversation, Lennie shuffled in, smiling, with his puppy
hidden inside his coat. George told him to take it back to the barn to
be with its mother.

That evening, in the deserted bunkhouse,

George, Candy and Lennie still cradling his puppy - quietly talked. Lennie
prevailed on George to tell him still again about their future farm. When

George had finished the story, Candy piped up: it seemed that he had three
hundred and fifty dollars saved up and he would be retiring soon; could
he join George and Lennie in their plan? George happily agreed to Candy\'s
proposal. With the swamper\'s money added to their wages, the three of them
would soon have enough to buy a decent farm.

Excited by this new development, Lennie
was grinning with delight when Curley entered the bunkhouse in search of
his wife. For days the ranch hands had been needling Curley about his wife\'s
most recent wanderings. Now when the ill-humored husband spied Lennie\'s
wide smile, and supposing that Lennie was taunting him, his temper boiled

Curley stepped over to Lennie like a terrier.

"What the hell you laughin\' at?" Lennie looked blankly at him "Huh?" Then

Curley\'s rage exploded. "Come on ya big bastard. Get up on your feet. No
big son-of-a-bitch is gonna laugh at me. I\'l show ya who\'s yella.."

The giant, confused over the violent mmeling,
refused at first to defend himf; George had warned him against making trouble:

Lennie covered his \' face with his huge
paws, and bleated in terror. He cried, "Make \'um stop, George."