In the second chapter of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, what is George's reaction to Candy's description of Curley's wife?  

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Candy is obviously a great gossiper. George listens to what he tells him about Curley and Curley's wife, but he is guarded in his responses. The following except from their conversation is an example:

The swamper stood up from his box. "Know what I think?" George did not answer. "Well, I think Curley's married . . . a tart."

"He ain't the first," said George. "There's plenty done that."

George doesn't answer Candy's rhetorical question, "Know what I think?" He doesn't want to engage in gossip with the old man because anything he says might get back to Curley and cause him trouble. He is noncommital and laconic throughout his conversation with Candy--but George is a good listener and obviously a man with practical wisdom derived from painful experience.

Candy leaves the bunkhouse, saying he has to set out wash basins for the men who will be coming back from the field. As soon as he leaves, George turns to Lennie and tells him:

"Look, Lennie! This here ain't no setup. I'm scared. You gonna have trouble with that Curley guy. I seen that kind before. He was kinda feelin' you out. He figures he's got you scared and he's gonna take a sock at you the first chance he gets."

In Chapter 2 Steinbeck is introducing most of the important characters, including the boss, Candy, Curley's wife, Slim, and Carlson. Steinbeck has made Candy a great gossiper because this is a convenient way to impart information to the reader. Everything Candy has told George about Curley's character and Curley's flirtatious wife intentionally foreshadows the troubles that are to come for George and Lennie. George warns Lennie to stay away from Curley, and in the same chapter he urgently warns him against Curley's wife.

"Don't you even look at that bitch," he said fiercely. "I don't care what she says and what she does. I seen 'em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be."

Once again, George reminds Lennie of what he is to do if he gets into any trouble on the ranch.

"Hide till I come for you. Don't let nobody see you. Hide in the brush by the river."

Chapter 2 quickly sets up the essential elements of the plot. Curley's wife will be responsible, either indirectly or directly, for much of what happens in the rest of the story. Nothing serious has happened yet, but the reader can almost predict what is going to happen in subsequent chapters. It is inevitable that Lennie will get into a fight with Curley. It is inevitable that Lennie will have some involvement with Curley's wife. It is inevitable that Lennie will "get into trouble" and will end up hiding in the brush by the river. Steinbeck does a masterful job of introducing all the characters and foreshadowing the troubles that are coming for George and Lennie.

According to the eNotes Introduction to this work in the Study Guide (see reference link), Steinbeck intended to adapt the novella to a stage play. It should be noted that he uses little prose exposition and conveys essential information through some action and mainly through dialogue, making it a simple matter to transpose the novella to a script. Candy is a man who loves to talk, and he is extremely useful in imparting information about the people on the ranch to George and at the same time to the reader as well as to the future theater audience. Virtually everything we learn about the ranch in Chapter 2 comes through the characters' words and actions, and their words and actions even foreshadow the future.


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