Of Mice and Men Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis
by John Steinbeck

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Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis


Lennie sits alone in the barn, staring at a dead puppy. It is clear that he accidentally killed the puppy when he says, “Why do you got to get killed? You ain’t so little as mice. I didn’t bounce you hard.”

Lennie considers lying to George and telling him he found the puppy dead, but he realizes that George would see through the lie. He worries that because of the accident with the puppy, George may forbid him to have rabbits when they buy their farm.

As Lennie laments the death of the puppy, Curley’s wife enters the barn and tries to engage Lennie in conversation. Lennie resists at first, saying that George says he shouldn’t talk to her, but he eventually gives in when Curley’s wife notices the dead “pup.” Lennie confesses to accidentally hitting him too hard, but Curley’s wife tells him, “Don’t you worry none. He was jus’ a mutt.”

Lennie again mentions that George will be angry with him for talking to Curley’s wife. This angers her. She asks, “What’s the matter with me?” She confesses that she is unhappy with Curley and wishes she had been able to pursue her dream of becoming an actress instead of marrying him.

Curley’s wife asks Lennie why he’s so “nuts about rabbits,” and Lennie explains, “I like to pet nice things with my fingers, sof’ things,” like rabbits and velvet. Curley’s wife mentions how soft and fine her hair is, and she places Lennie’s hand on her head so he can feel it. When he holds on too tight, she asks him to let go, and Lennie freezes with panic.

Curley’s wife screams, and Lennie closes his hand over her face. He asks her not to scream. This panics her all the more, and she struggles to break free of Lennie’s grip. Anger overtakes Lennie, and he shakes her, breaking her neck and killing her.

“I done another bad thing,” Lennie cries when he sees her limp body. He flees to the brush beside the riverbank where George told him to hide, leaving the body of Curley’s wife lying on the hay.

After a time, Candy enters the barn, calling for Lennie and instead finding the body of Curley’s wife. “I didn’t know you was here,” he says, at first not realizing that the woman is dead. When he realizes what has happened, he fetches George, who understands immediately that Lennie is responsible. “I should of knew,” he says. “I guess maybe way back in my head I did.”

Candy asks George what they should do now. George stammers, “Guess . . . we gotta tell the . . . guys.” He knows Lennie will be punished, but he hopes they will simply lock him up and “be nice to him.” Candy, however, warns George that Lennie will surely be lynched. He realizes that their dream of buying a farm together is over, and George admits that perhaps he always knew it was impossible.

George and Candy concoct a plan to absolve George of guilt in the eyes of the other men: when Candy delivers the news of Curley’s wife’s death, George will pretend not to have known. George then departs the barn, leaving Candy alone with Curley’s wife’s body. Candy sits alone with the knowledge that the plan to buy a farm has been destroyed. “I s’pose you’re glad,” he says to the dead woman. He calls her a “tart” and accuses her of ruining his life.

Candy goes to tell the news to the other men, who rush into the barn. Slim feels Curley’s wife’s neck and determines that she is dead. Curley immediately blames Lennie, “that big son-of-a-bitch.” Slim agrees that Lennie probably killed the woman. He looks at George and says, “Maybe like that time in Weed you was telling me about.”

Carlson discovers that his pistol is missing and believes Lennie must have taken it. Curley, meanwhile, organizes a lynching party and instructs the men to fetch Crooks’s shotgun. George begs Curley not to shoot Lennie, but Curley replies that of course he will, because Lennie is armed.

Candy stays in the barn with the dead woman while the others leave. He lies down in the hay and...

(The entire section is 1,154 words.)