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As the novel opens, Lennie and George are walking through the woods near the river. We learn that they have come from the town of Weed, where Lennie was involved in an incident that required them to leave hastily. This, in fact, is why they are running late to their next job--George chose to have the two of them get off the bus somewhere out of the way so they could not be followed.
This is the first of several events revealed in the first chapter that foreshadow later trouble. Lennie's inability to control his impulses ultimately leads to terrible tragedy for not only himself, but for George and others, as well.
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