Of Mice and Men Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
by John Steinbeck

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Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

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George Milton: migrant worker who cares for Lennie Small

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Lennie Small: mildly retarded migrant worker, George’s companion

Following a worn path from the highway, George Milton and Lennie Small come upon the peaceful banks of the Salinas River and stop to rest. After drinking from the river, George reminds Lennie of their destination, a ranch just up the highway where they will work bucking barley.

Sitting in this haven along the banks of the river, George notices Lennie has something in his pocket. When he makes Lennie give it to him, he discovers it is a dead mouse. Lennie says he has been petting it as they walked along. George throws the dead mouse away.

In the evening, George sends Lennie to collect firewood and hears him splash in the water. When he returns, George demands that Lennie hand over the dead mouse. Lennie had retrieved it from the brush pile where George had thrown it.

When Lennie begins to cry, George promises him a fresh mouse. In his frustration, he openly laments being burdened with the responsibility of Lennie. When Lennie offers to go off by himself, George recants and says they have to stick together. Together they have someone to care about them and they have a future, a dream of owning their own farm with rabbits that Lennie will tend.

Before retiring George asks Lennie to try to remember what this place looks like. If Lennie gets into trouble at the new job, he is to hide here in the brush until George comes for him.

Recalling their dream, they drift to sleep on the banks of the river beside the dying fire.

Discussion and Analysis
Setting is the physical location for the story, as well as the general time frame when it takes place. It includes the specific duration of time it takes the author to unfold his plot. Most of Of Mice and Men takes place on and about a ranch in the Salinas Valley, near the town of Soledad, south of San Francisco. The story begins and ends at a clearing near a pool about a quarter of a mile from the ranch, and spans only four days. Although the book was published in 1937, Steinbeck does not allude to the Depression in the novel. His characters are engaged in their smaller, private economic struggles, giving the work a sense of timelessness and universality.

Point of view refers to the vantage point from which the story is told. It is the “eyes” through which the reader sees the unfolded events, the “voice” used by the narrator to tell the tale. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses the omniscient or all-knowing point of view. He gets into the minds of his characters, revealing their inner thoughts, and he describes things that the characters themselves do not know. This omniscient point of view allows the reader a broader insight into people and events. In the opening chapter, Steinbeck describes the clearing by the pool before the arrival of George and Lennie.

The setting of the opening chapter is described in lyrical detail by Steinbeck. A few miles south of Soledad (“loneliness”), the river “runs deep and green” and the water is “warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight.” On the valley side of the Gabilan mountains, the water is lined with graceful sycamores and willows. Lizards, ‘coons, dogs, and deer come to the pool, and there is a path beaten by boys come to swim and tramps come to rest. This is a place of peace, a refuge from heat and work. To this green pool come George and Lennie, and Steinbeck has his two main characters enter in single file. Although both are dressed in nondescript denim clothes of working men, the one takes charge and the other follows. George is small, quick, nervous, and sharp. Lennie, who walks behind George even in the open, is large, shapeless, and strong. Lennie flops down and begins to gulp water, prompting George to shake his companion lest he drink too much and “get sick like you was last night.” To Lennie’s simple mind, the water is good and he does not worry if it...

(The entire section is 2,187 words.)