Why do George and Lennie run away from Weed in Of Mice and Men?

George and Lennie have to flee Weed after Lennie touches a girl's dress, which he is attracted to because it looks soft and he likes to touch soft things. The girl became worried that Lennie was trying to rape her, and so the townspeople formed a posse trying to catch Lennie and lynch him.

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In the first chapter of the novella, George gets upset with Lennie and comments that he would get along better without him. George then brings up the incident in Weed, which put them in serious danger and led to their current situation. George mentions that Lennie always keeps him in hot water and briefly describes the incident in Weed by mocking Lennie. George says,

Jus' wanted to feel that girl's dress—jus' wanted to pet it like it was a mouse—Well, how the hell did she know you jus' wanted to feel her dress? She jerks back and you hold on like it was a mouse. She yells and we got to hide in a irrigation ditch all day with guys lookin' for us, and we got to sneak out in the dark and get outta the country.

Later in the story, George describes the incident in Weed in further detail during a private conversation with Slim. George confides in Slim by telling him that the girl in Weed was wearing a red dress and that Lennie impulsively touched it. Lennie has an affinity for petting soft things and never asked permission to feel the girl's dress. Unfortunately, Lennie startled the girl, who let "out a squawk" and tried to pull away. Instead of letting go, Lennie panicked and held on tighter. George had to hit Lennie over the head with a fence picket to make him let go.

After the girl ran away, she told the authorities that Lennie raped her, and George and Lennie had to hide in an irrigation ditch all day to avoid a lynch mob. Fortunately, George and Lennie were able to escape later that night and traveled to Soledad, where they found work. Slim recognizes that Lennie never intended to harm the girl, and the incident foreshadows Curley's wife's death.

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Weed was actually named after a man named Weed. It is still a very small town in a mountainous, heavily forested region, with a population of just under 3,000 by the last census. It would have been smaller in 1937. It is located just below the Oregon border. It was an unlikely place for George and Lennie to be working, but Steinbeck wanted to put it as far away as possible because he didn’t want anyone around Salinas to have heard the real truth about the incident. That real truth was probably that Lennie attacked a very young girl without really understanding what his sexual motivation was. Something similar happened with the idiot Benjy in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Jason had to have Benjy castrated. The girl Lennie molested started screaming and attracted a mob of local men who intended to lynch both Lennie and George. George was not present when Lennie molested the girl. They were immediately on the run, so George only got the story from Lennie--and Lennie shows in Chapter One that he lies to George all the time. Furthermore, Lennie didn't understand his own motives because (1) he is mentally retarded, (2) his sex drive is new to him. When George sees the dead body of Curley's wife, he will understand what was really happening in Weed. Lennie didn't just want to feel the dress. He might have torn the dress right off the girl if George hadn't intervened.

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In the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, the part of the plot where George and Lennie run away from Weed is very important. This is because it shows the beginning or continuation of a behavioral pattern. It also shows that George is beginning to cotton on to that fact and that it is beginning to cause him anxiety. Indeed, the lines "All the time somethin like that, all the time." are foreshadowing the events that are to come. George does his best to shelter himself and Lennie from the consequences of the unusual behavior, but will soon realise that they are going to occur again and again, over and over, becuase learning-challenged Lennie has difficulty learning and remembering the lesson of past experiences. When the end finally comes, we may speculate that these thoughts are in his mind when he makes his tragic and terrible decision.

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With his focus on the alienation of the itinerant workers in California during the Great Depression, John Steinbeck has his main characters emerge from Weed much as Moses was found is the bullrushes/weeds of the Nile:  alone and without a home.  Like Moses, they, too, flee oppression, for Lennie has gotten them into trouble in Weed by grabbing onto a girl's dress that he "Jus' wanted to feel--jus' wanted to pet it like it was a mouse."

When the Samson-like Lennie holds onto the dress, the girl panicks, sensing his strength.  George relives the scene with Lennie:

She jerks back and you hold on like it was a mouse.  She yells and we got to hide in a irrigation ditch all day with guys lookin' for us, and we got to sneak out in the dark and get outta the country.  All the time somethin' like that--all the time.

The women in this novella, "Of Mice and Men," are, indeed, somewhat like Delilha of the Bible, for they tempt the men and interfere with the masculinity of the male characters.  There is no place for them in the fraternity of men, for they cause conflict and pose danger constantly, certainly for George and the unsuspecting and childlike Lennie.

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George and Lennie are forced to run away from Weed because Lennie frightened a girl so much, she accused him of trying to rape her. When George tells the story to Slim, George explains that Lennie just likes to touch soft things and the girl was wearing a dress made of soft material. When he asked to touch it, the girl said "yes" but became frightened when Lennie would not let go. The more she tried to escape, the tighter Lennie held on to her dress. She assumed Lennie was trying to rape her and the men of Weed formed a posse to try to catch Lennie. Both Lennie and George were able to escape by hiding in a ditch and then leaving the area.

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Weed is the location of the previous ranch "up north" that George and Lennie had worked at. It is quickly made apparent that Lennie had done something bad in Weed to necessitate their sudden departure, but he can't remember what it is. Lennie has a simple mind, and this failing of his memory is not without precedent.

George reminds Lennie that they had to run out of Weed and evade capture due to his actions with a girl in a red dress. Lennie's ongoing desire to touch soft things led him to grab her dress. He meant her no harm, but the girl became terribly frightened and began to scream. This led Lennie to get confused and to hold tighter still to the dress in his state of fear. The situation escalated, and George eventually had to hit Lennie over the head with a picket fence to get him to let her go.

Unfortunately for George and Lennie, the girl then lied and accused Lennie of raping her. This led to a party being put together to lynch Lennie. He and George subsequently hid and left Weed at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, history repeats itself when Lennie gets himself into trouble again—this time with Curley's wife.

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Weed is a small town in northern California near the foothills of Mt. Shasta. In chapter one and chapter three, George mentions the incident with the girl in the red dress. When he brings it up in chapter one, Lennie remembers that they were run out of the town. In Weed, George and Lennie were working on a ranch when Lennie saw a girl wearing a red dress. He grabbed the dress and held on, causing the girl to fear for her life and start screaming. Lennie has an obsession with touching and petting soft things, such as mice, rabbits and puppies. The red dress was just another object which played on this temptation. George gives Slim the details of the incident in chapter three:

“Well, he seen this girl in a red dress. Dumb bastard like he is, he wants to touch ever’thing he likes. Just wants to feel it. So he reaches out to feel this red dress an’ the girl lets out a squawk, and that gets Lennie all mixed up, and he holds on ‘cause that’s the only thing he can think to do. Well, this girl squawks and squawks. I was jus’ a little bit off, and I heard all the yellin’, so I comes running, an’ by that time Lennie’s so scared all he can think to do is jus’ hold on. I socked him over the head with a fence picket to make him let go. He was so scairt he couldn’t let go of that dress. And he’s so God damn strong, you know.” 

The girl accuses Lennie of raping her and the men in Weed go after George and Lennie, who have to hide in an irrigation ditch in order to avoid capture. The scene proves to be foreshadowing for the later incident with Curley's wife. When Curley's wife allows Lennie to stroke her hair, he again becomes too rough and holds on, eventually breaking her neck.

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