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Of Mice and Men Plot Summary by Chapter
Learn all you need to know about the chapters in Of Mice and Men with our plot summary and take a look at the hand picked selection of essay examples.
The story begins quietly in a rural setting. The physical and mental differences between George and Lennie are immediately apparent. Lennie’s obsession with the dead mouse and the story of him wanting to feel the girl’s dress in Weed, where they previously worked, anticipate major events in the plot. George shows his exasperation with Lennie’s dependency on him. But he agrees to repeat the story of their dream – their own land and Lennie gets to tend the rabbits! “We got a future,” George says. But he reminds Lennie to find the same spot by the river if, like before, he gets in trouble.
All the other main characters except Crooks are introduced at the ranch. The boss assumes George is exploiting Lennie, since their friendship is so unusual. We meet the aggressive Curley, resentful of Lennie’s size and strength, looking for his flirtatious wife, to whom Lennie is clearly attracted. Slim, however, is a standard of decency in the novel, treating the newcomers fairly. George promises to ask Slim if Lennie can have one of his puppies but this is overshadowed by Carlson wishing to get rid of Candy’s old dog. Another ominous note is the reappearance of Curley.
Lennie is happy with his puppy while Slim carefully encourages George to talk about their relationship. George explains he knew Lennie’s Aunt Clara and has been with Lennie since she died. He also recounts the episode in Weed but says there’s no real malice in Lennie. Carlson takes Candy’s old dog away to shoot him with Slim’s tacit approval. The heartbroken Candy overhears George and Lennie discussing their dream and has enough money to contribute to make George think it might be realised. Immediately, Curley picks a fight with Lennie whose tremendous strength enables him to crush Curley’s hand.
The action centres around Crooks, segregated from everyone else, as the only black person on the ranch. Recognising a fellow outsider in Lennie he gets him talking and taunts him about George not returning. He mocks Lennie’s dream but begins to believe it himself when Candy tells him the three of them are saving money together. But as always, events take an ominous turn with the entry of Curley’s wife. She reminds Crooks of his place as a black man. Knowing Curley is at a brothel with the others she realises it’s Lennie who injured her husband.
A peaceful scene at first hides the terrible drama of this chapter. Lennie has accidentally killed the puppy, not knowing his own strength. Curley’s wife finds him a willing audience as she speaks of the dreams she once had of Hollywood stardom, ending up married to Curley instead. Their shared love of soft things leads her to invite him to touch her hair, with fatal consequences. Lennie panics and with his colossal strength inadvertently breaks her neck. He runs away and when the body is discovered, Curley vows a terrible vengeance. George steals Carlson’s gun, with which Candy’s dog was shot.
We find Lennie hiding in the same peaceful place where the novel began. Lennie’s visions of his Aunt Clara and a giant rabbit, express his guilt and anxieties. He is surprised when George appears that his friend is not angry with him. In a powerful and moving scene George makes Lennie look across the river to the promised land of their dream while drawing Carlson’s gun. “The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied. He pulled the trigger.” Devastated by what he has had to do, we now understand where the best laid plans end.