Of Mice and Men Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
by John Steinbeck

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Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Candy: the one-handed ranch custodian

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The Boss: runs the barley farm

Curley: the boss’s newly married, hot-headed son

Curley’s wife: the pretty, flirtatious, unnamed wife of Curley

Slim: a jerkline skinner, the respected authority on the ranch

Carlson: an experienced ranch hand

Chapter 2 takes place in the bunkhouse of the barley ranch on Friday morning. George and Lennie enter the bunkhouse behind Candy, the old crippled swamper, an unskilled laborer who cleans up the bunkhouse. He shows them to their two beds and tells George and Lennie about the ranch, about the boss, and about Crooks, the stable buck. When George sees a can of bug killer left by the man who last occupied the bed, a blacksmith, he is concerned about lice. Candy reassures him that the place is clean, and that the boss is a fair man.

After George and Lennie finish making their beds, the boss comes in. When he questions the men about reporting late for work, he notices that George always answers for Lennie. Upon hearing Lennie talk, the man realizes Lennie’s mental state. It makes him suspicious and he interrogates George. He asks George if he is traveling with Lennie just to take advantage of his traveling companion. But George allays his suspicions, at least for the time, and he lies to the boss, saying that Lennie is his cousin who was kicked in the head by a horse when he was younger. When the boss leaves, George scolds Lennie for talking because now the boss is watching them. George tells Lennie to keep his mouth shut and let George do all of the talking.

Shortly after the boss leaves, Candy reappears. George accuses Candy, who was sweeping up the bunkhouse, of listening in on their conversation. Candy says, “I didn’t hear nothing you guys was sayin’. I ain’t interested in nothing you was sayin’. A guy on a ranch don’t never listen nor he don’t ast no questions.” And then their attentions turn to Candy’s old, lame dog.

Candy is followed by the boss’s son, Curley, who barges into the bunkhouse. When Curley sees the size of Lennie, he automatically goes into a boxer’s stance and insists that Lennie talk to him. But when his attempts to pick a fight with Lennie fail, he leaves the bunkhouse.

Candy tells the two new workers that Curley was a boxer and that he tries to pick fights with every man he meets, especially men who are bigger than he. Since Curley is the boss’s son, he is in no danger of getting fired. Candy also tells them about Curley’s new wife of two weeks, who has started hanging around the bunkhouse and flirting with most of the ranch hands.

After Candy leaves, the two of them discuss Curley. George explains to Lennie how Curley is the type who is always looking for trouble. His advice to Lennie is to keep away from him. Lennie is afraid that Curley will hurt him, and George tells him to keep his mouth shut and go to the other side of the room whenever Curley is around. “Don’t let him pull you in,” he advises his friend, “—but—if the son-of-a-bitch socks you—let ‘im have it.” Then he reminds Lennie of their arrangement if Lennie ever gets into trouble. George tells him that he is to go hide in the brush down by the river where they had camped the night before and wait there until George arrives.

Again their conversation is interrupted when they realize someone has come into the room. It is Curley’s young wife who enters the bunkhouse looking for her husband. Though her visit is brief, it is enough for Lennie to decide she is beautiful and for George to decide that she is a troublesome tramp.

When Slim, the ranch authority and sage, comes into the bunkhouse, he interviews the new men as did the boss and his son, but with a gentle and friendly manner. He also introduces them to Carlson, a powerful, big-stomached ranch hand. Carlson asks Slim about his dog and her puppies and suggests giving Candy one to replace his smelly, old dog. Anticipating Lennie’s request, George agrees to ask Slim if...

(The entire section is 2,608 words.)