In Of Mice and Men, how does an innocent longing for human contact lead to catastrophe in Chapter 5?

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jennifer-taubenheim | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Curley’s wife finds George in the barn alone stroking the puppy he accidentally killed. He is worried that George will be mad at him and that he will now not be allowed to tend the rabbits on the farm. Lennie announces that he will not talk to her because he is not supposed to, but she stays anyway. She says she could have been an actress in movies and that she does not like her husband. His focus stays on the dead puppy. He says that maybe if he just got rid of the puppy that George would not know what happened and he would still be allowed to tend the rabbits. Curley’s wife asks why he likes rabbits so much. He says he likes to pet them because they are soft. Curley’s wife takes Lennie’s hand and puts it on her head so that he can touch her soft hair. He strokes it a little harder and she starts to get upset with him and tells him not to mess it up, and starts to scream. He asks her to please be quiet and he shakes her. She gets still and quiet and he realizes that she is dead. He is afraid that this will be another reason that he will not be allowed to tend the rabbits, so he covers her partly with hay and goes to the river to wait in the bushes for George.

In my opinion, Lennie is obviously the innocent, but it was Curley’s wife who was longing for human contact, not Lennie. He was actually just focused on the puppy and the rabbits he hoped to care for in the future.

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dswain001 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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In this Chapter, Lennie and George have found their way onto a ranch owned by a man named Curley.  Lennie is a large, burly oaf of man who does not seem to know his own strength. We know from the beginning of the novel that Lennie has a child-like preoccupation with petting "nice things", things that are soft like mice, rabbits and...uh oh! puppies. In his eagerness to care for these things, he often ends up injuring or killing them.

There is a horseshoe tournament going on at the ranch and while the rest of the men are out enjoying the games, Lennie is in the barn grieving over a puppy that he has accidentally killed. Curley's young bride comes in and starts a conversation with Lennie who is at first reluctant to talk to her (George had warned him not to). Eventually, the two fall into a conversation and the woman makes the mistake of inviting Lennie to feel how soft her hair is. Lennie eagerly accepts, but when the touching gets too rough, Lennie panics and covers her nose and mouth so that George would not hear her. A struggle ensues and Lennie accidentally breaks the woman's neck. He scrambles to cover her dead body with hay (like he did to the puppy) and leaves the barn to tell George of the "very bad thing" that he has done .

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