Of Mice and Men Additional Summary

John Steinbeck


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Late one hot afternoon, two men carrying blanket rolls trudge down the path that leads to the bank of the Salinas River. One man, George Milton, is small and wiry. The other man, Lennie Small, is a large, lumbering fellow whose arms hang loosely at his sides. After they drink at the sluggish water and wash their faces, George sits back with his legs drawn up. Lennie imitates him.

George and Lennie are on their way to a ranch, hired to buck barley there. Lennie had cost them their jobs at their last stop in Weed, where he was attracted by a woman’s red dress. He had grabbed at her clothes. He became frightened by her screaming and then would not let go of her; George was forced to hit him over the head to make him let go. They ran away to avoid a lynching.

After George lectures his companion about letting him talk to their new employer when they are interviewed, Lennie begs for a story he has already heard many times. It is the story of the farm they would own one day. It would have chickens, rabbits, and a vegetable garden, and Lennie would be allowed to feed the rabbits. The threat that Lennie would not be allowed to care for the rabbits if he does not obey causes him to keep still when they arrive at the ranch the next day. In spite of George’s precautions, their new boss is not easy to deal with. He is puzzled because George gives Lennie no chance to talk.

While the men are waiting for the lunch gong, the owner’s son, Curley, comes in, ostensibly looking for his father, but actually to examine the new men. After he leaves, Candy, the swamper who sweeps out the bunkhouse, warns them that Curley is a prizefighter who delights in picking on the men and that he is extremely jealous of any attention given to his slatternly bride.

Lennie has a foreboding of evil and wants to leave, but the two men have no money with which to continue their wanderings. By evening, however, Lennie is happy again. The dog belonging to Slim, the jerkline skinner, had pups the night before, and Slim gave one to simpleminded Lennie.

Slim is easy to talk to. While George plays solitaire that evening, he tells his new friend of the incident in Weed. He has just finished his confidence when Lennie comes in, hiding his puppy inside his coat. George tells Lennie to take the pup back to the barn. He says that Lennie will probably spend the night there with the animal.

The bunkhouse had been deserted by all except old Candy when Lennie asks once more to hear the story of the land they would some day buy. At its conclusion, the swamper speaks up. He has $350 saved, he says, and he knows he will not be able to work many more years. He wants to join George and Lennie in their plan. George finally agrees, for with Candy’s money they will soon be able to buy the farm they had in mind.

Lennie is still grinning with delighted anticipation when Curley comes to the bunkhouse in search of his wife. The men had been taunting him about her wantonness when he spies Lennie’s grin. Infuriated with the thought that he was being laughed at, Curley attacks the larger man. Lennie, remembering George’s warnings, does nothing to defend himself...

(The entire section is 1285 words.)

Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
George Milton: migrant worker who cares for Lennie Small

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....

(The entire section is 2187 words.)

Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Candy: the one-handed ranch custodian

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 entire section is 2608 words.)

Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Whit: one of the common farm hands who also lives in the bunkhouse

Crooks: a stable hand

Later that same Friday, Slim and George return to the bunkhouse. Outside the other men play horseshoes, while inside Slim and George discuss Lennie. According to George, he and Lennie were born in the same town. George knew Lennie’s Aunt Clara who had raised Lennie from infancy. When she died, George became his caregiver. George denies that Lennie is dumb, saying instead that he is simple. He confesses that he played tricks on Lennie in the past but stopped when he realized Lennie’s loyalty was so strong that he would do anything George required....

(The entire section is 2102 words.)

Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

Chapter 4 takes place on the following Saturday night. It is set in the tidy room of Crooks, the Negro stable buck, who tends to the horses and mends the leather items used with the animals. His room, a shed built against the wall of the barn, is decorated in much the same way as the bunkhouse, except he keeps in his room his leather working tools and medicines. His room also contains more personal items, including books. He has a dictionary and a copy of the California civil code. Crooks is himself crooked, bent to the left by a crooked spine. Steinbeck describes him as a “proud, aloof man,” who keeps his distance and demands that the others on the ranch keep theirs.

Crooks is sitting...

(The entire section is 2082 words.)

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,...

(The entire section is 1930 words.)

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...

(The entire section is 1071 words.)