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The title comes from a poem by Robert Burns (To A Mouse), which contains the line, "The best-laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft a-gley (go oft awry)." George and Lenny's scheme to buy a ranch go awry because Lenny can't seem to stay out of trouble. They keep moving from place to place to try to start over, but everywhere they go, Lenny gets in trouble because of his low intelligence, and they are never able to fulfill their dream (their best-laid or well-planned scheme) of owning a ranch with rabbits and other animals. In the story, Lenny also accidentally kills a mouse by petting it too hard because he doesn't realize his own strength.
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