Setting: An Edenic riverbed in rural California
Characters: George and Lennie
Plot with Commentary: George and Lennie settle on a riverbed in rural California for the evening. George is small and sly. Lennie is big and dumb. George is upset at Lennie and criticizes him for getting them run out of Weed (not to be confused with running out of weed, which has also been known to cause fights among unemployed vagrants; by the way, Weed is a town in California). He warns Lennie not to drink too much water and tells him to stop picking up mice–Lennie has a habit of petting small animals and stroking them to death.
Lennie asks George for ketchup. George yells at Lennie for being ungrateful (kind of like the time your parents gave you the “you’re an ingrate” speech because you wanted pickles on your sandwich; you hadn’t really done anything wrong, but they had had a rough day and you were bugging the hell out of them). George feels bad about his tirade and apologizes. Lennie begs George to tell him about the farm they’re going to have some day.
Foreshadowing Alert: George tells Lennie that if trouble should arise, like in Weed, he should immediately run to the riverbed. Lennie’s propensity for unwittingly killing soft, furry, helpless things portends something bad.
Setting: The Bunkhouse
Characters: George, Lennie, The Boss, Candy, Slim, Curley, Curley’s wife, Carlson
Plot with Commentary: George warns Lennie not to talk. Lennie talks. The boss is angry that Lennie and George have shown up a day late and suspects George of taking advantage of Lennie. Curley shows up looking for his wife. He starts messing with Lennie. Candy tells Lennie and George that Curley is the boss’s son, knows how to box, and likes to pick on big people. George warns Lennie to stay away from Curley. Curley’s flirtatious wife shows up looking for Curley. Lennie thinks she’s pretty. George warns Lennie to stay away from her (job advice: stay away from the boss’s son’s flirtatious wife…unless she’s really hot and you don’t really need the job).
Slim appears followed by Carlson. Slim tells Carlson his dog had nine puppies and he had to drown four of them so there’d be enough food for the others. Carlson recommends that Candy shoot his dog and take one of Slim’s puppies. Lennie asks for a puppy.
Foreshadowing Alert: Curly likes picking fights with big guys. Lennie is big. Figure it out. George tells Lennie to stay away from Curley’s wife. Lennie is dumb. Figure it out. Lennie loves petting soft, furry things. Lennie accidentally kils soft, furry things. Puppies are soft and furry. Figure it out.
Setting: The Bunkhouse
Characters: George, Lennie, Candy, Curley, Curley’s wife, Carlson, Candy’s dog
Plot with Commentary: Slim returns to the bunkhouse with Lennie after work. George tells Slim, who admires the two’s friendship, Lennie’s history, how they became friends, and how they got run out of Weed. Lennie enters the bunkhouse secretly carrying his new puppy. George orders him to return the puppy to its mother.
Carlson urges Candy to shoot his old dog. Slim concurs. Carlson takes the dog outside and shoots it (being a dog on this ranch isn’t such a good thing.). Curley enters looking for his wife. He suspects she’s having an affair with Slim and goes to look for him. George and Lennie talk about their farm. Candy is intrigued and offers his life savings if he can be part of it (financial advice: don’t ever offer your life savings to two suspicious looking guys who you barely know). Everyone’s excited.
Curley returns, still angry, and picks a fight with Lennie. Curley uses Lennie’s face as a punching bag. George orders Lennie to defend himself (bad news for Curley). Lennie grabs Curley’s hand and crushes it with ease. Slim takes Curley to the doctor and tells him if Lennie and George are fired, he’ll be the laughingstock of the ranch.
Foreshadowing Alert: Lennie is often described using animal imagery. Animals die a lot in this book. There’s absolutely nothing in this novel that makes me think there’s gonna be a happy ending.
Setting: Crooks' room alongside the barn
Characters: Crooks, Lennie, Candy, Curley’s wife.
Plot with Commentary: The workers have gone to the cathouse except for Lennie, Crooks, and Candy. Lennie stands at the doorway of Crooks' room, and Crooks tells him to go away. Lennie, not being the smartest man on the ranch, stays. Finally Crooks invites him in and makes fun of him until Lennie gets angry.
Lennie tells Crooks about the farm. Candy comes in and blabs about the farm. Crooks, skeptical but desperate, asks if he can work on the farm. They’re all feeling good until Curley’s wife shows up. She insults the men and threatens Crooks that she could have him lynched if he doesn’t shut his mouth.
Foreshadowing Alert: Everytime people talk about the farm and are happy, either Curley or his wife show up and make people angry. George has warned Lennie several times to stay away from them. I suspect either Curley or his wife is going to ruin this dream.
Setting: The Barn
Characters: Lennie, Lennie’s dead puppy, Curley’s wife, Curley’s dead wife, George, Candy, others
Warning: If you consider yourself manly, find a secluded spot to read chapter 5. I read it on the exercise bike at the gym and started crying. I was approached by 7 steroid salesmen within the next 20 minutes telling me I needed to man up with a boost of testosterone (In an unrelated note, I bench pressed 3 times my weight that day.).
Plot with Commentary: Chapter 5 begins with Lennie stroking his dead puppy (PETA pickets the farm in chapter 7 (just kidding–there is no chapter 7)). He worries what George will say. Curley’s wife comes in (this can’t be good). She tells Lennie about her dreams of stardom. Lennie’s too dumb to follow the conversation.
Lennie talks about rabbits and explains how he likes feeling soft, furry things (he leaves the part out about him always accidentally killing soft, furry things). She offers to let Lennie stroke her hair (this can’t be good). He becomes excited and holds on to it (this can’t be good). She panics ( I’ve a bad feeling). He covers her mouth so he won’t get in trouble (I’ve a really bad feeling). Lennie breaks her neck (not good). Lennie runs to the riverbed
Candy comes in the barn, sees the dead body, and gets George. George leaves so as not to be suspected. Candy alerts the others. George comes in last. Carlson reports his gun missing. The mob suspects that Lennie stole it. The mob searches for Lennie.
Foreshadowing Alert: Carlson’s gun is missing. We know Lennie didn’t take it.
Setting: The riverbed
Characters: George and Lennie
Plot with Commentary: Lennie arrives at the riverbed. He hallucinates seeing Aunt Clara and a giant, talking rabbit. George arrives and reassures Lennie. The mob approaches. George shoots Lennie in the back of the head with Carlson’s gun. The mob arrives. Slim is the only one who understands what happened (Allow yourself a few minutes to collect yourself after reading chapter 6. Don’t read it before a birthday party or any other celebration.)
If you’re a teacher and would like Of Mice and Men lesson plans, follow the link. If you’re a student and your teacher really stinks, follow the same link, print out the lesson plans and set them on his or her desk.
This post is part of the series: Of Mice and Men Study Guide
Avoid the bullet in the back of the head on test day with this Of Mice and Men study guide.