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By the end of Chapter 1 of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men one theme that is easily identified has to do with the hard lives of itinerant farm workers. Another conspicuous theme is the main characters' dream of owning their own little piece of land where they could be independent. Both of these themes are encapsulated in the story George tells Lennie and Lennie keeps asking him to repeat. It is presented in Chapter 1 as follows:
"Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. They come to a ranch an' work up a stake, and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they're pounding their tail on some other ranch. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to."
When George starts off with "Guys like us," he is indicating that he and Lennie represent itinerant farm workers in general. His story is being told to Lennie and to the reader at the same time. Lennie has heard it before, but it is new to the reader, who will encounter other guys like George and Lennie in subsequent chapters when they move into the bunkhouse and begin the familiar grind all over again.
Lennie is captivated by this story. He says:
"That's it--that's it. Now tell how it is with us."
George goes on to explain how they are going to beat the system by becoming independent subsistence farmers.
"O.K. Someday--we're gonna get the jack together and we're gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an' a cow and some pigs and--"
So these two themes are introduced in Chapter 1 and interwoven throughout the novella. While they are living in the reality of one theme they are making plans to actualize the other theme. At the very end of the novella the poor, naive Lennie believes there might still be hope of finding that little farm and living on the fat of the land. As George brings the Luger out of his pocket and points it at the back of his friend's head, Lennie is saying:
"Go on. How's it gonna be? We gonna get a little place."
This is a touching moment, and it is not overly sentimental. George and Lennie are still representing the unfortunate agricultural workers of the Depression era who have their dreams, like everybody else, but don't have a chance of fulfilling them.
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