Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis
This final chapter takes place where the first chapter began, at the green pool of the Salinas River in the late afternoon. As before, Lennie comes to the sandy clearing and goes to the pool to drink.
Sitting on the bank Lennie begins to hallucinate and he talks to his dead Aunt Clara who had raised him. She scolds him, saying the same things George has always said to him at such times. When she disappears, a gigantic rabbit takes her place. It tells Lennie that he isn’t worthy of tending rabbits. It tells him that George is going to beat him and leave him. When George comes out of the brush, the rabbit too disappears.
Lennie, at once, confesses that he has done a bad thing and invites George to scold him. George tries, but only with Lennie’s prompting finishes, going through their usual routine.
When George hears the men closing in on them, he tells Lennie to look across the river. As he describes for the last time the farm that he and Lennie have so long dreamed of, he lifts Carlson’s gun from his side pocket. With great difficulty he points it at the back of Lennie’s head, and as his hand shakes violently, George pulls the trigger.
The men then quickly come out of the brush to join him in the clearing. Slim comes over to where George is sitting and sits beside him, consoling him.
Carlson asks how it happened. George lies and says that he took the gun from Lennie and shot him with it.
Slim, still at George’s side, says again that George only did what he had to do. The two of them depart up the same trail that had first brought George and Lennie into this clearing. Curley and Carlson are left standing in the clearing watching them go.
Discussion and Analysis
Completing their cycle, George and Lennie end this journey where they started it, back at the pond. As it was in the beginning when they arrived, it is the end of day, late afternoon in a “pleasant shade” by the “deep green” pool of the Salinas River. Symbolically, Steinbeck describes a water snake being eaten by a heron. As the “tail waved frantically” down the heron’s beak, a strong gust of wind makes waves in the surface of the water and drives through the tops of the trees. When the wind dies down, the heron is awaiting the arrival of another snake swimming in the water, but the bird flies off because Lennie arrives.
Steinbeck parallels the action of the beginning, but there are contrasts. In the opening chapter Lennie walks heavily, dragging his feet the way a bear drags his paws. He drops his blankets and flings himself down to drink with long gulps, “snorting into the water like a horse.” After he drinks, he dabbles his fingers in the water and splashes it. Then, he imitates George by sitting with his knees drawn up and embraced by his arms. In the opening, Lennie can be noisy, thoughtless, and heedless, secure in the knowledge that George is there to take care of him. It is a sharp contrast to the ending of the novel in which Lennie’s actions are quieter and betray his fear of being caught.
In this scene at the end, Lennie comes quietly to the pool’s edge and barely touches his lips to the water. When a bird skitters over the dry leaves, Lennie’s head jerks up, and he does not finish drinking until he spots the bird. Then, he sits on the bank so he can watch the trail’s entrance. He sits embracing his knees with his arms, waiting for George to come, but this time George cannot rescue him.
When Lennie is visited by the hallucinations of his dead Aunt Clara and the gigantic rabbit, they speak to him in his voice. With these characters he chastises himself, saying the things that George would normally say. Though the comments are negative and harsh, they are still comforting. Lennie knows that when George says those things he doesn’t really mean them. In fact, George has said them so often to Lennie that...
(The entire section is 1,071 words.)