Chapter 2 introduces the reader to the characters as George and Lennie arrive at the bunkhouse and talk with old Candy, the swamper,
As George inspects his bunk, he finds a can of insect spray. But, Candy assures him the previous occupant was very clean. When George asks why the man quit, Candy replies
"Why...the way a guy will.....Just wanted to move....Just says 'gimme my time one night, that way any guy would."
Dispossessed from their homes, the itinerant men are uncomfortable anywhere. Then the latch on the door is raised and the boss enters,
He wore blue jean trousers.... On his head was a soiled brown Statson hat, and he wore high-heeled boots and spurs to prove he was not a laboring man.
Suspicious when George speaks for Lennie, the boss tells George,
"Then, why don't you let him answer? What you trying to put over?....Milton, I got my eye on you."
His son, Curley, soon appears in the doorway. He, too, wears heeled boots as a sign of superiority:
....a young man came into the bunk house; a thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair. He wore a work blove on his left hand, and asks, 'Seen my old man?' he asked.
Glancing at George and Lennie,
His arms gradually bent at the elbows and his hands closed into fists. He stiffened and went into a slight crounch. His glance was at once calculating and pugnacious.
Curley, a former boxer, challenges them by immediately going into the position of a boxer. When Lennie does not answer his questions, and George does, Curley, too, becomes suspicious,ordering Lennie to answer him,
" Well, nex' time you answer when you're spoke to." He turned toward the door and walked out, and his elbows were still bent out a little.
After he leaves, Candy explains that Curley is
"pretty handy....Never did seem right to me S'pose Curley jumps a big guy an' licks him. Ever'body says what a game guy Curley is. And, s'pose he does the same thing and gets licked. Then ever'body says the big guy oughtta pick somebody his own size, and maybe they gang up on the big guy.....Seems like Curley ain't givin' nobody a chance.....Seems like Curley is cockier'n ever since he got married."
Candy's sense of fair play is upset by Curley, who is essentially a bully. Now that he has a pretty wife, he is even more smug. When Candy tells George and Lennie that Curley keeps one hand soft for his wife by putting vaseline in a glove, George says, "That's a dirty thing to tell around," and
The old man was reassured. He had drawn a derogatory statement from George. He felt safe, now.
Candy feels better after he has drawn remarks from George because now he has something that he can use against him. George tells Lennie that if Curley tangles with him they will get fired. "...try to keep away from him..." He tells Lennie to hide in the brush if anything happens. Soon a girl appears,
She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame....She smiled archly and twitched her body.
Just then Slim, the mule skinner appears in the doorway, too.
....he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen....There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke...His hear heard more than was said....his voice gentle.
Slim is very perceptive. Noting that Lennie and George work together, he remarks that most men are by themselves: "Maybe ever'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other."