What was the fight about when Lennie broke Curley's hand?

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Curley is initially upset because he cannot find his wife and believes that she has been sleeping with Slim. When Curley enters the bunkhouse, he is agitated because he could not intimidate Slim, who stood up to Curley when he confronted him about his wife. In the bunkhouse, Carlson and Candy begin to ridicule Curley for being afraid of Slim and Lennie happens to laugh as the men make fun of Curley. As soon as Curley sees Lennie smile, he approaches him and begins to take his anger out on Lennie. Curley sees Lennie as someone he can easily intimidate and back down after looking ridiculous in front of the other men. He then attacks Lennie, who initially backs down and does not fight back. After George commands Lennie to fight back, he grabs Curley's fist in mid-air and crushes his hand. Overall, Curley attacks Lennie because his pride has been hurt and he sees Lennie as a defenseless person he can whoop in order to regain his dignity. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned for Curley, who ends up getting his hand crushed by Lennie during the fight.

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Curley has a bit of a little man complex. As a result, he is always trying to prove himself physically against bigger guys. On this particular occasion, Curley is fighting mad because he cannot find his wife. He needs someone to take out his frustration on, so he foolishly picks on Lennie, who just happens to be in the vicinity. Lennie is a gentle giant, so Curley figures that he will be an easy target who will not fight back. At first, he is proven right; Lennie does not initially respond to the vicious punches that Curley rains down on him. But George does not like to see Lennie getting whupped; he vowed to Lennie's Aunt Clara that he would protect him, so he urges the big man to fight back. Lennie does as George advises and crushes all the bones in Curley's hand.

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