Chapters five and six of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men provide the climax, falling action and heart-breaking resolution of the novella. Chapter five is set in the barn as Lennie is mourning his dead puppy, the most recent victim of the big man's inability to control his strength and...
Chapters five and six of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men provide the climax, falling action and heart-breaking resolution of the novella. Chapter five is set in the barn as Lennie is mourning his dead puppy, the most recent victim of the big man's inability to control his strength and anger. He tells the puppy,
“Why do you got to get killed? You ain’t so little as mice. I didn’t bounce you hard.”
Soon, Curley's wife enters the barn and attempts to engage Lennie in a conversation. As she had suggested in chapter four, she is lonely and yearns for companionship. She whines to Lennie,
“You can talk to people, but I can’t talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. How’d you like not to talk to anybody?”
Lennie is at first reticent to speak with her. He remembers that George won't let him tend the rabbits if he associates with the girl. Curley's wife, however, is not to be put off. She claims that all the men have a "horseshoe tenement" going on and that it will be perfectly safe for Lennie to talk to her. Just like Crooks in the previous chapter, Curley's wife is anxious to express her feelings and Lennie is a natural sounding board because of his simple-mindedness.
She tells Lennie about her life before coming to the ranch and how she could have been in the movies if it hadn't been for her mother. She marries Curley as a direct reaction to her mother's supposed withholding of an important letter, but admits that she doesn't even like Curley, saying, "He ain't a nice fella." Lennie, of course, can only speak of the dream of the farm and tending rabbits. He explains his infatuation with petting soft things and Curley's wife agrees with him. Foolishly, she allows him to stroke her hair. Soon, he is being too rough, and when she attempts to scream and break away, he accidentally breaks her neck. He knows he has "done another bad thing" so he flees to the spot by the Salinas River which was the setting of chapter one and the place George has told him to go if there is any trouble.
The killing of Curley's wife is the climax of the book. Candy is the first to discover the dead girl and when he shows the body to George he expresses his worst fear. He questions George and then realizes that the dream of the farm is also dead:
“You an’ me can get that little place, can’t we, George? You an’ me can go there an’ live nice, can’t we, George? Can’t we?”
Before George answered, Candy dropped his head and looked down at the hay. He knew.
In this chapter, Steinbeck uses the imagery of the horses chained to their stalls in the barn as symbolic of the men's fate. Like the horses who will live out their lives in labor and servitude, so too will George and Candy. George will now work away his life as a migrant worker, collecting "fifty bucks" in order to "stay in a cat house all night." Candy will no doubt live out his life swamping out bunks on the ranch and feeling remorse over never getting the opportunity to realize the dream of hoeing in the garden and maybe going to a ball game whenever he wanted to.
In the close of the chapter, Curley is enraged and vows revenge on Lennie, probably more for his crushed hand and pride, than any grief over the death of his wife. Carlson reports that his Luger is missing and Slim suggests to George that allowing Lennie to fall into the hands of Curley or the sheriff is probably a bad idea.
Chapter six opens in the same setting which Steinbeck depicts in chapter one. This chapter, however, opens more ominously as Steinbeck describes the natural violence of a heron killing and feeding on water snakes. This portrayal of the setting is in direct opposition to how it was described in chapter one as benign rabbits sit on the bank of the river. When Lennie arrives he is overcome by two hallucinations which seem to symbolize his distorted sense of conscience. He imagines his Aunt Clara and then a rabbit, who speak to him harshly about how he has been disloyal to George and can't seem to ever do anything right. Rather than regret over killing Curley's wife, Lennie is simply concerned with how George will react to his latest misdeed:
“George gonna give me hell,” he said. “George gonna wish he was alone an’ not have me botherin’ him.”
When George arrives they again talk of the dream, George repeating the story of how the men will "get a little place" and Lennie will be able to "tend the rabbits." George also expresses his wish that the world will somehow be a better place to live:
"Ever’body gonna be nice to you. Ain’t gonna be no more trouble. Nobody gonna hurt nobody nor steal from ‘em.”
Finally, in the only resolution he can think of, George kills Lennie with Carlson's Luger. In the last lines of the book, Slim claims that George had to do it. Slim knows that Lennie would have never understood any punishment and that George's act is one of mercy.