George Milton and Lennie Small are the dual protagonists of the John Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men. Although close friends, they form something of an odd couple, in that George must serve as guide and protector for the mentally challenged Lennie, whose sizable frame contradicts his name.
As chapter 5 begins, Lennie has found a dead puppy in a barn and is stroking it—more to console himself than for any other reason. He worries that if George finds out about the puppy, he won't let him take care of the rabbits on the farm of their dreams. At first, he tries to hide the pup, but then he angrily hurls it across the room, believing that George will eventually find it anyway.
Curley's wife, an unhappy woman who George has warned Lennie to avoid, finds him in the barn, and begins to pour out her tale of woe. The bewildered Lennie, still petting the dead puppy, tells her that he likes to pet soft things. Hearing this, she invites him to stroke her hair. When he does, her hair becomes tangled, and she angily demands that he stop, but he continues, clutching her even more tightly. When she screams to be released, he covers her mouth, and unaware of his own tremendous strength, accidentally suffocates her to death.
While George and the others search for Lennie, he has fled to the Salinas River. He imagines first his Aunt Clara and then a giant rabbit scolding him for not listening to George, who he knows will be mad at him. He knows he has done something very wrong and now won't be allowed to tend the rabbits on their farm.