Of Mice and Men Summary. it is a novella written by John Steinbeck. Published in 1937, it narrates the experiences of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in California in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in the United States.
Steinbeck based the novella on his own experiences working alongside migrant farm workers as a teenager in the 1910s, before the arrival of the Okies that he would describe in his novel The Grapes of Wrath. The title is taken from Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse": "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley" ("The best laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry").
|Of Mice and Men Summary
Of Mice and Men Summary
Of Mice and Men Chapter 1 Summary: Chapter 1 opens with an idyllic scene south of nearby Soledad, California. A warm river is nestled between the Gabilan mountains and a lush valley. There is a beaten path that leads through the sycamores down to a green pool. Men and animals alike find reprieve from the blistering sun in this shady nook.
Two men—George Milton and Lennie Small—approach the water. George is small and resolute, whereas Lennie, who has an intellectual disability, is big and lumbering. The men, dressed identically in denim, walk closely together. Eager to cool himself, Lennie gulps down the water without thought.
George chastises Lennie and warns that drinking stagnant water could make him sick. Satisfied, George dampens his face and neck before sitting sternly on the bank. Lennie imitates him and looks to George for approval, but George is bitterly preoccupied and audibly complains about the bus driver who left them miles from Soledad.
When Lennie meekly asks George where they are heading, George snaps in frustration and reiterates that they are traveling to a ranch to work. The men are hastily leaving a farm in Weed to evade the allegations of rape against Lennie. Lennie, guileless and sweet, unwantedly held onto a girl’s soft, red dress and frightened her. On the lam, George and Lennie are making their way to Soledad. Lennie quietly apologizes for forgetting and frantically checks his pockets for his work card.
George has the men’s work cards but instructs Lennie to reveal the contents of his pocket. Lennie timidly reveals a dead mouse, which George confiscates and tosses into the brush. Concerned that Lennie will cause more trouble at the new ranch, George instructs Lennie not to speak to the new ranch boss once they get there. Eager to please his companion, Lennie emphatically assures George that he won’t do any “bad things” at the Soledad ranch.
Before the men can settle in for a supper of beans, George discovers that Lennie has reclaimed the dead mouse. Lennie cries when George castigates him, but George is unrelenting. Exasperated, he explains that Lennie’s Aunt Clara, who used to give Lennie mice to pet, has passed away. As Lennie’s sole caretaker, George is frustrated with Lennie’s inability to understand consequences and exclaims that Lennie is a burden he would be better off without.
When Lennie offers to leave and go live in a cave, George feels remorse and softens. He promises to get Lennie a puppy, which he assures Lennie would be more difficult to kill than mice. Lennie seeks comfort and reassurance and asks George to tell him “about the rabbits” (15). George begins the rote story, explaining that men like them—ranch workers—have no place in the world; they have no family and no future. Lennie interjects his favorite part of the story, in which he and George are different because they have each other. George continues and describes the farm he and Lennie will have one day, and Lennie happily daydreams about raising rabbits.
Of Mice and Men Chapter 2 Summary: the duo reaches the ranch. Candy, referred to as an “old swamper,” gives George and Lennie the lay of the land. The ranch workers bunk together in a modest whitewashed building that is decorated with dust and flies. The workers’ humble beds line the walls, and in the center of the building is a table for playing cards. Candy shares stories of the ranch workers—including Crooks, the Black man who works in the stables—until the boss, donned in high-heeled boots with spurs, arrives.
The boss conducts the preliminary intake of the men and sharply questions why George speaks for Lennie. George quickly explains that Lennie isn’t “bright” but that he is a strong worker. When the boss interprets this as George swindling Lennie, George lies, claiming that Lennie, his cousin, was kicked in the head by a horse as a kid. The boss reluctantly accepts George’s explanation. After he leaves, George scolds Lennie. Candy, with his elderly half-blind dog in tow, returns and pretends that he wasn’t eavesdropping.
George and Lennie meet the boss’s son, Curley, who is a small, hot-headed, and posturing man with a coquettish wife. Like his father, Curley dons high-heeled boots and spurs. Curley bullishly dominates the room and targets Lennie. After he leaves, Candy shares gossip about Curley—who keeps one hand protected in a glove with Vaseline for his wife—and Curley’s wife, a “tart” who has eyes for Slim.
George, fearful that Curley has it out for Lennie, tells Lennie to stay away from Curley. George is worried that they will lose their employment, and Lennie is worried that he will lose his chance to raise rabbits. George instructs Lennie to go back to their spot at the river and hide if any trouble arises.
They soon meet Curley’s wife, a beautiful woman with red lips and red nails. Lennie, mesmerized by her prettiness, receives a warning from George to stay away from that “rattrap” as well. The men also meet the “prince of the ranch,” Slim, whose dog just had puppies (33). Lennie gets excited at the prospect of owning a pup.
Of Mice and Men Chapter 3 Summary: In Chapter 3, George thanks Slim for giving Lennie a pup. Slim remarks that he would’ve had to drown some of the puppies, so it wasn’t putting him out to give one away. He then commends Lennie’s brute strength and work ethic before commenting on the peculiarity of George and Lennie’s friendship. Slim notes that most men travel and work alone, so it’s unusual that George and Lennie, who he describes as “smart” and “cuckoo,” respectively, are companions. George corrects him, explaining that Lennie is “dumb” and not “crazy.”
When Lennie was a baby, Lennie’s Aunt Clara took him in, and George reminisces about his childhood growing up with Lennie. He fondly thinks of Lennie’s loyalty to him. George confides in Slim and relays what happened in Weed—how the men tried to lynch Lennie for allegedly raping the girl in the red dress. Lennie enters with a day-old pup hidden in his shirt. George scolds him for being negligent when Carlson, another ranch hand, enters.
Carlson complains about the smell of Candy’s old dog and pressures Candy into putting the dog down. Carlson offers to take care of the dog with his Luger, which he assures Candy will be painless. Candy looks to the other men for help, but they are busy playing cards and gossiping. Candy acquiesces to Carlson, who takes the dog outside and mercy kills it. Meanwhile, Candy, heartbroken and ashamed, stares at the wall from his bed.
Crooks enters the bunkhouse to alert Slim that Lennie is in the barn with the pups again. Slim dismisses him and says that Lennie won’t hurt them. The men continue bantering about the local brothel when Curley bursts in, anxious to find his wife. Worried that there will be a fight, George tells Lennie to stay away from the drama. Lennie asks George when they will have their dream farm, prompting George to describe the farm in extravagant detail.
Candy overhears and asks how much it would cost to buy a farm. George guesstimates it would cost $600, and Candy offers to put in money towards the purchase. Since George and Lennie barely have any money saved, Candy’s money would ensure their dream comes true. For the first time, George’s eyes glow with hope and possibility. The three men continue to daydream together about their future. In this moment of shared friendship, Candy confesses that he should not have let a stranger put his dog down.
Curley enters the bunkhouse, and the men mock him for trying to intimidate Slim. With no recourse, Curley attacks Lennie, who is peacefully daydreaming about the farm. Lennie only defends himself when George commands him to fight back, and in doing so, Lennie crushes Curley’s prized hand. Slim threatens Curley to lie about the injury, and Curley acquiesces. Lennie innocently asks if he is still allowed to tend to the rabbits, and George assures Lennie that he did nothing wrong.
Of Mice and Men Chapter 4 Summary: Chapter 4 opens in Crooks’s room, a modest accommodation attached to the barn. As the only Black man on the ranch, Crooks bunks alone. With George out of town at the brothel, Lennie visits Crooks for companionship. However, Crooks states that since he “ain’t wanted” in the bunkhouse with the other men, the men aren’t welcome in his space.
Dejected, Lennie comforts himself with stories of the dream farm. Crooks, disillusioned and cynical, remarks that pipe dreams don’t come true until Candy enters and confirms that they have the money to buy property. Hopeful, Crooks offers to lend a hand at the dream farm. Soon after, Curley’s wife, bored on a Saturday night, interrupts the men and subtly flirts with Lennie for beating Curley. When Crooks rebukes her, she threatens to have him lynched, implying that she’d alleged rape. She further cautions that no one would believe Candy, Lennie, or Crooks due to their lack of status. After she leaves, Crooks rescinds his offer to join Candy at the dream farm.
Of Mice and Men Chapter 5 Summary: Lennie receives a newborn puppy, but he accidentally kills the animal just as he had accidentally killed the small mouse. Fearful that George won’t let him tend to the rabbits, Lennie hides the puppy in the hay as Curley’s wife enters the barn. She discovers the dead puppy and consoles Lennie. Lonely and starved for attention, Curley’s wife confides in Lennie. She tells him about her dream of becoming an actress in Hollywood but how she resigned to marry Curley once her dream never came to fruition.
Distracted, Lennie starts rambling about getting rid of the puppy so that he will still be able to tend to the rabbits. Lennie explains that he likes to pet soft things, and Curley’s wife allows him to stroke her soft hair. Lennie holds firmly onto her hair, frightening her, and he then covers her mouth to conceal any screams. Again, unaware of his strength, Lennie breaks the woman’s neck and attempts to conceal her body in the hay. He decides to get rid of the puppy’s body and resolves to head down to the brush by the river.
Candy discovers the body of Curley’s wife and alerts George. The men realize that Lennie is responsible, and Candy half-heartedly suggests that he and George can still get the dream farm. It’s evident that the dream is over, and George instructs Candy to tell the other men about Curley’s wife. Carlson goes to get his Luger, and Slim acknowledges that the unfortunate outcome was preceded by the events in Weed. George accepts that there is no way out of this trouble for Lennie, especially with Curley’s likely vengeance. Carlson returns, claiming that Lennie stole his gun.
Of Mice and Men Chapter 6 Summary: Lennie waits in the brush near the green pool. He thinks about leaving George and living in a cave, just as he had in Chapter 1. Lennie sees a vision of his Aunt Clara, who scolds him for doing bad things and being a burden on George. Then Lennie envisions a giant, derisive rabbit who tells him he’s not fit to tend to rabbits. George finds Lennie in the brush, just where he had instructed Lennie to go in the event of something “bad” happening. George tells Lennie to look out over the water and calms him with the sweet tales of their dream farm. George then raises the Luger to the back of Lennie's head and kills him out of mercy. Slim and the men arrive, and Slim comforts George. As the two walk off to get a drink, Carlson, oblivious, questions why Slim and George are bothered.
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Of Mice and Men Themes
The American Dream: The novel delves into the allure and fragility of the American Dream, particularly for marginalized individuals like George and Lennie, Their dream of owning their own land and living a life of independence represents a yearning for control and stability in a harsh and unpredictable world. However, the tragic ending underscores the difficulty of achieving the American Dream in a society marked by economic hardship, prejudice, and violence.
Loneliness and Isolation: Of Mice and Men poignantly portrays the profound loneliness and isolation experienced by migrant workers during the Great Depression. Characters like George, Lennie, Candy, and Crooks all lack meaningful connections and struggle to find a sense of belonging. The novel emphasizes the human need for companionship and the devastating consequences of isolation on mental and emotional well-being.
Friendship and Brotherhood: Despite the pervasive loneliness, George and Lennie's bond serves as a beacon of hope and resilience. Their friendship offers mutual support and a sense of purpose in a world that often feels hostile and unforgiving. The novel explores the different forms of friendship and brotherhood, demonstrating their power to provide solace and meaning in the face of adversity.
Power and Vulnerability: Of Mice and Men examines the dynamics of power and vulnerability, particularly in the context of physical strength and mental limitations. Lennie's immense physical strength combined with his childlike innocence makes him both dangerous and dependent on others. The novel raises questions about how we treat those who are different and the responsibility we have towards the vulnerable.
Fate and Free Will: The cyclical nature of events and the tragic ending of the novel suggest a strong sense of determinism. Characters like Lennie and Candy seem trapped by their circumstances and destined to repeat past mistakes. However, George's final act of mercy can also be interpreted as an assertion of free will, albeit limited in its scope.
Innocence and Loss of Innocence: Lennie's childlike innocence and tragic demise symbolize the loss of innocence in a harsh and unforgiving world. His inability to control his own strength and understand the consequences of his actions makes him a victim of both himself and the world around him. The novel explores the fragility of innocence and the tragic consequences of its loss.
Prejudice and Discrimination: Of Mice and Men portrays the prejudice and discrimination faced by migrant workers, people with disabilities, and women during the Great Depression. Characters like Lennie, Candy, and Crooks experience marginalization and exclusion based on their perceived differences. The novel highlights the devastating impact of prejudice and discrimination on individuals and society as a whole.
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Of Mice and Men Characters
Lennie Small A migrant worker who is mentally handicapped, large, and very strong. He depends on his friend George to give him advice and protect him in situations he does not understand. His enormous strength and his pleasure in petting soft animals are a dangerous combination. He shares the dream of owning a farm with George, but he does not understand the implications of that dream.
George Milton A migrant worker who protects and cares for Lennie. George dreams of some day owning his own land, but he realizes the difficulty of making this dream come true. Lennie's friend, George gives the big man advice and tries to watch out for him, ultimately taking responsibility for not only his life but also his death.
Slim The the leader of the mule team whom everyone respects. Slim becomes an ally to George and helps protect Lennie when he gets in trouble with Curley. Slim has compassion and insight, and he understands George and Lennie's situation. He alone realizes, at the end of the novel, the reason for George's decision.
Candy Sometimes called "the swamper," he is a old handyman who lost his hand in a ranch accident and is kept on the payroll. Afraid that he will eventually be fired when he can no longer do his chores, he convinces George to let him join their dream of a farm because he can bring the necessary money to the scheme. He owns an old sheep dog that will become a symbol of Lennie before the novel ends.
Crooks The black stable worker who cares for the horses. A symbol of racial injustice, Crooks is isolated from the other hands because of his skin color. He also convinces Lennie to let him join their dream of land, but he must give up that dream.
Carlson The insensitive ranch hand who shoots Candy's dog. He owns a Luger, which George later uses to mercifully kill Lennie.
Curley The son of the ranch owner, Curley is a mean little guy who picks fights with bigger guys like Lennie. He is recently married and extremely jealous of any man who looks at or talks with his wife. Lennie crushes his hand, earning Curley's future enmity.
Curley's wife The only character in the novel who is given no name, she is Curley's possession. She taunts and provokes the ranch hands into talking with her, an action that causes Curley to beat them up. George sees her as a "tart," but Lennie is fascinated by her soft hair and looks. She is unsympathetically portrayed as a female tease until the final scene, in which the reader hears about her earlier dreams. Lonely and restless, she married too quickly to a husband who neglects her.
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Questions and Answers about Of Mice and Men Plot
What is the main point Of Mice and Men? As a novella, Of Mice and Men is a text that preaches the dangers of believing in dreams, specifically in the American Dream, while teaching us the value of friendship and companionship. The title is our first indication of the theme of the novella, taken from Robert Burns' poem Ode To A Mouse.
What is the end summary Of Mice and Men? At the end of Of Mice and Men , George spares Lennie from Curley's wrath by shooting Lennie in the back of the head after reciting their shared dream of owning a farm one final time.
Why was Lennie killed? at the end of the novella, George is forced to kill Lennie after Lennie kills Curley's wife. Because of these events, George will not follow their dream of living off the land despite the fact that the dream was achievable when Lennie was alive.
Why is it called Of Mice and Men? The novel takes its title from Robert Burn's poem "To a Mouse, on Turning Her up in Her Nest with the Plough" (1785) in which Burns writes, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/ Gang aft agley" (Burns).
What is the main idea Of Mice and Men in Chapter One? The main problem in Chapter 1 of Of Mice and Men is that George and Lennie lost their last job because Lennie grabbed a girl's dress, causing them to get run out of town. Lennie has an intellectual disability, which means that he is not always able to follow directions.
What are 4 major themes in mice and men? In sharing his vision of what it means to be human, Steinbeck touches on several themes: the nature of dreams, the nature of loneliness, man's propensity for cruelty, powerlessness and economic injustices, and the uncertainty of the future.
What animal is Lennie compared to? Steinbeck compares Lennie to a bear, a potentially very dangerous animal. Lennie drags his feet the way a bear drags his paws.
What happens after George kills Lennie? He raises Carlson's gun, which he has removed from his jacket, and shoots Lennie in the back of the head. As Lennie falls to the ground and becomes still, George tosses the gun away and sits down on the riverbank. The sound of the shot brings the lynch party running to the clearing.
Is of mice and men a happy ending? no Its ending is unhappy, yet much in it is optimistic. George's care for Lennie, Lennie's adoration of George and the natural dignity of Slim are all positive, good things.
What does George say when he kills Lennie? "No, Lennie, I ain't mad. I never been mad, an' I ain't now. That's a thing I want ya to know." - This is the last thing that George ever says to Lennie before he kills him.
Who killed Curley's wife? Lennie kills Curley's wife because of his inability to control his own strength and emotions.
Who found Curley's wife dead? Candy finds Curley's wife and runs out to find George, who, upon seeing the body, knows what happened. George considers what will happen to Lennie: They could lock Lennie up, but he'd starve, and people would be mean to him.
Why was mice of men banned? Challenges have included complaints about “profanity,” “morbid and depressing themes,” and the author's alleged “anti-business attitude.” Others have called it “derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled”.
What was wrong with Lennie? The character of Lennie has learning difficulties and also as identified by some researchers exhibits many characteristics of autism.