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In Steinbeck's novella, there are strong indications of the tragic ending in all the chapters.
- Chapter 1
In this expository chapter, the reader is introduced to George and Lennie, two "bindle stiffs" who ride and work together because Lennie is mentally diminshed and George has promised his Aunt Clara that he will look out for him. Because of his child-like mentality and massive strength, Lennie has already created problems for George and himself.
As they camp by the water in a clearing, George coaches Lennie to not say anything when the boss questions them the next day. And, he also urges Lennie,
"And you ain't gonna do no bad things like you done in Weed, neither."
Here George alludes to an incident he later relates to Slim, as well as foreshadowing Lenny's doomed contact with Curley's wife.
- Chapter 2
After Curley's appearance in Chapter 2, it becomes apparent that this son of the boss is a belligerent man. Fearing a confrontation, George warns Lennie and reminds him of the plan to run and hide in the brush by the river.
Curley's seductive wife appears in the doorway also in Chapter 2, and Lennie is fascinated with her. After she leaves, George warns, "she's a ratrap if I ever seen one." Fearful of what can occur, Lennie cries out,
"I don' like this place, George. This ain't no good place. I wanna get outa here."
These conflicts also foreshadow the incident of Chapter 5.
- Chapter 3
In this chapter, George relates what occurred in Weed with Lennie and a girl in a red dress. This incident of Lennie's strength while he held so tightly to the girl's dress when she screamed clearly foreshadows the incident of Lennie with Curley's wife, which is the cause of George's actions towards Lennie.
Another incident that foreshadows Lennie's tragic end is that of Candy's dog that is shot to be put out of its misery. For, as a Naturalistic writer, Steinbeck suggests a certain determinism in his narrative, a certain struggle for survival in a world for both man and animal that is determined by fate. That there is a fatalism in this chapter is evidenced when George says of Curley's wife,
"She's gonna make a mess. They's gonna be a bad mess about her. She's a jail bait all set on the trigger...."
Again there is the mention of a gun--"trigger"--suggesting a shooting.
Suggestive of George's feeling that it is his duty to shoot Lennie is a remark made to George by the old swamper, Candy:
"I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog."
This remark does, indeed, foreshadow George's sad responsibility at the end of Chapter 5.
Lennie's fight with Curley also indicates Lennie's tremendous strength that later proves fatal to Curley's wife. After Curley's hand is crushed, Slim regards Lennie "with horror," a reaction that foreshadows problems ahead for Lennie.
- Chapter 4
When Curley's wife talks to Lennie, he worries,
"If George sees me talkin' to you he'll give me hell," Lennie said cautiously....
"Well, George says you'll get us in a mess."
These lines foreshadow the incident that ends the life of Curley's wife. And, in more foreshdowing, Candy finds Curley's wife and then the other men arrive, among whom is Carlson, who runs for his Kruger; Candy "lay down in the hay and covered his eyes with his arm," just as he previously has done when Carlson shot his dog.
- Chapter 5
This chapter returns to the clearing, but this time a water snake is eaten by a heron "while its tail waves frantically." Again the naturalistic design of nature is indicated, and Lennie's fate is foreshadowed.
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