Of Mice and Men Summary – John Steinbeck

Of Mice And Men Summary - John Steinbeck
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Of Mice and Men is a literature novel written by the Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck. It was published in 1937. Of Mice and Men tells the story of two migrant workers, George and Lennie, who begin working on a ranch named Soledad in California during the 1930s. The events of the novel unfold over four days, starting on Thursday night and concluding on Sunday.

Summary of Of Mice and Men Book

George Milton and Lennie Small are two itinerant workers from Auburn, California. As they journey through the harsh landscapes of the state to move from one farm job to another, they take a break by a pond on the Salinas River as they approach a town outside Soledad for a job. While preparing their evening meal and making plans for their arrival at the ranch, the dynamic between the two men unfolds: George is a shrewd and irritable man who aims to save enough money to buy land for a farm and be his own boss. Lennie, on the other hand, is a giant but simple man with short-term memory issues and a fascination for petting soft objects.

This habit resulted in George and Lennie being expelled from a town called Weed, where Lennie, in an attempt to feel the soft edge of a woman’s dress, unintentionally harassed her. George feels burdened by Lennie but knows he needs to keep him around for both of them to survive. He instructs Lennie that if they encounter any trouble at their new farm, this spot by the bushes is where he should hide until George comes for him. As they drift off to sleep, George shares their dreams of a luxurious, secluded farm, including a hutch filled with soft rabbits that Lennie loves.

The next day, the boys arrive at to the ranch. Candy, an elderly one-handed swamper, leads them to the bunkhouse where they will sleep along with other workers. The ranch owner greets them and allows them to stay but is disappointed they are late for their shifts, viewing the two traveling companions with suspicion. Candy informs George and Lennie about the dynamics on the ranch, cautioning them about the boss’s tendency to vent his anger on a black stable hand named Crooks and warning about Curley, the boss’s son, who always seeks to prove his strength through fights. Candy also reveals that Curley’s newlywed wife constantly flirts with ranch hands, being the “eye candy” around.

Indeed, when Candy goes out to prepare the washroom and tend to his old dog, Curley’s wife enters the bunkhouse, peeks in, eyes George and Lennie, and starts inquiring about Curley’s whereabouts. Slim, a skilled mule driver, enters the bunkhouse and orders Curley’s wife to leave. Slim expresses his surprise at the two men who seem to be attached and unordinary. Other ranch hands, Carlson and Whit, enter to wash up, and Slim inquires about Carlson’s new litter of puppies. Lennie gets excited, and Slim offers him the possibility of having one. Curley enters the bunkhouse looking for his wife, and when she leaves, he questions George and Lennie about her whereabouts.

Slim’s Determination and Lennie’s Dreams – Of Mice and Men

After dinner, the men enjoy some leisure time. While George and Slim play cards in the bunkhouse, other workers play horseshoes outside. Lennie plays with Slim’s new puppy in the barn. George thanks Slim for his generosity and explains that he has been looking out for Lennie since the death of their caretaker, Aunt Clara. George expresses his frustration about traveling with Lennie and recounts the trouble they had in Weed to Slim.

The horseshoe game ends, and the other men enter the bunkhouse. Candy brings in his dog, and Carlson suggests mercilessly putting down the dog due to its repulsive smell. Carlson proposes using his gun, and Slim promises Candy a pup from the new litter. After much persuasion, Candy reluctantly agrees. Carlson takes the dog outside, and a gunshot is heard.

Crooks enters the bunkhouse and asks Slim for help with a lame mule in the barn. Slim leaves, and Whit invites George to join the others in visiting a brothel the next night. George declines, saying he is saving money, and Carlson and Lennie return to the bunkhouse. Curley’s wife comes in, looking for Curley and starting a conversation. When she notices Lennie, she becomes flirtatious and curious about his relationship with George.

Slim and Curley start a fight, and when Slim realizes that Lennie is not responding to Curley’s punches, he instructs Curley to claim he got his hand caught in a machine. Curley agrees. The other men take Curley to the doctor, and Slim consoles George, saying he did the right thing. Slim tries to convince George to go to the whorehouse with the others, but George refuses and goes into the bunkhouse. Carlson and Lennie return, and they go to sleep.

George’s Tough Decision and Lennie’s End – Of Mice and Men

Curley’s wife enters the barn looking for company. Lennie is alone inside, holding the puppy. When Curley’s wife sees the dead dog, she offers assurance that Lennie can have another one. Lennie, fearing trouble with George, insists on being left alone. She expresses her loneliness and dissatisfaction with her life, revealing her dream of becoming a movie star. Lennie doesn’t fully understand her words and continues worrying about his future with the rabbits.

Curley’s wife asks why Lennie is fixated on rabbits, and he explains his love for petting soft things. She mentions her fondness for soft feelings too and allows Lennie to touch her hair. Lennie starts petting her hair, but when his touch becomes too rough, she yells at him to stop. In a frightened response, Lennie covers her mouth and nose with his hands. When she continues screaming, he shakes her until her neck breaks. Realizing what he has done, Lennie places her body under some hay and heads to the pond to wait for George.

Candy finds her corpse and fetches George. When they see the tragedy, Candy realizes that their dream of owning a farm is shattered and that the other men will likely seek vengeance. To protect Lennie, George quickly devises a plan with Candy. George goes to the bunkhouse, and Candy gathers all the men to the barn. Carlson and Curley, curious about what’s happening, join them.

George enters the barn, pretending to see Curley’s wife’s body for the first time. He pleads with Curley not to harm Lennie, assuring him that Lennie didn’t mean any harm. Slim, who understands the gravity of the situation, suggests that they say Lennie got his hand caught in a machine. Curley agrees. The other men take Curley to the doctor, and Slim tries to console George, saying he did what he had to do. Slim insists on taking George back to the bunkhouse, but George is visibly shaken.

As they leave the barn, Carlson and Curley, unaware of what happened, ask if they found the two men who stole Carlson’s gun. George says they did, and Slim explains they went down by the river. The novel concludes with George, emotionally devastated, joining the other men as they head back to the ranch.

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