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

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Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis

Chapter 5 takes place in the barn on the following Sunday afternoon. As the men are playing horseshoes outside, Lennie sits alone in the barn. He is thinking and worrying about his dead puppy, upset that he accidentally killed it even though he didn’t bounce it very hard. He debates with himself over whether this is a bad thing. It is not bad enough to mean he must go and hide at the clearing, but it may be bad enough to make George so mad he won’t let Lennie tend the rabbits when they buy their ranch. Deciding that George will be angry, he throws the puppy across the barn. Shortly thereafter he retrieves the puppy and buries it in the hay.

When Curley’s wife comes into the barn, Lennie declares that he will not talk to her because George has told him not to. If he does, Lennie will not be allowed to take care of the rabbits. Curley’s wife stays, saying that she just wants someone to talk to, and she insists that the others won’t be mad because they will not know.

With Lennie listening, she tells him in detail how she could have been an actress in the movies. She even confesses, as she hasn’t before, that she doesn’t like her husband.

Lennie, stroking his puppy throughout her discourse, shows no signs of listening to her. When she finishes talking, he begins speaking on the subject which has occupied his mind, escaping punishment for killing the puppy and being allowed to tend the rabbits.

Curley’s wife asks him why he likes rabbits so much. He tells her that he likes to pet them because they are so soft. She says that she feels the same way about silk and velvet. Deciding aloud that he is “nuts” but “like a big baby,” she takes Lennie’s hand and lets him stroke her soft hair.

When he strokes harder, she angrily tells him not to mess it up. As she tries to jerk her head away, he closes his fingers and hangs on to her hair. In a panic to silence her scream, he closes his hand over her mouth, asking her to please be quiet, so George won’t be mad and forbid him to tend the rabbits. With one hand over her face and the other at the back of her head, he shakes her. When he lays her on the ground, she is still and quiet. He has broken her neck. He realizes that she is dead and that he has done another bad thing. He covers her partly with hay. Listening to the men at horseshoes, he remembers that George has told him to go back to the river and wait in the bushes if something like this happens. Taking the puppy with him, he sneaks out of the barn.

After Lennie has left, Candy comes into the barn looking for him. Instead he finds Curley’s wife. He runs out again and comes back with George. George realizes what has happened and says that they will have to tell the others and have Lennie locked up since he’d starve out on his own. Candy suggests letting Lennie escape since Curley will want him lynched. George agrees that the others will want Lennie lynched. Both men recognize that their dream of the ranch is dead along with Curley’s wife.

Declaring that he will not let the men hurt Lennie, George tells Candy that he is going back to the bunkhouse. Candy is to give George some time to return to the bunkhouse and then go tell the others about Curley’s wife. George is going to act as if he didn’t already know. When George is gone, Candy curses Curley’s dead wife for messing up everything.

Following their plan, Candy calls the men into the barn. Curley at once decides that Lennie is responsible. Showing more concern for getting Lennie than for his dead wife, Curley and Carlson go for their guns. Slim, left alone with George in the barn, convinces George that locking Lennie up would be no better an alternative than what Curley and Carlson have planned.

When Carlson returns, he announces that his pistol is gone and proclaims that Lennie has taken it. Arranging quickly for another gun, and for someone to get the deputy sheriff, Curley asks George whether he plans to join in the chase. George agrees to come, but...

(The entire section is 1,930 words.)