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Free Study Guide: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Free BookNotes

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OF MICE AND MEN: FREE BOOK NOTES

CONFLICT

Protagonist

The protagonist of the story is George. He is the kind-hearted ranch hand who is concerned about his friend Lennie and watches out for him.

Antagonist

The antagonist of the story is George’s trying to care for the handicapped Lennie. Because he has a giant’s body and a child’s mind, Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife; at the same time he kills the dream of owning a farm that has kept George and Lennie positive about the future

Climax

The climax occurs when Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife. George knows that he can no longer save Lennie, for Curley will want revenge.

Outcome


Of Mice and Men ends in tragedy. George feels compelled to mercifully kill his friend and companion, Lennie, in order to save him from a brutal death. The death of Lennie also marks the death of the beautiful dream they have been nurturing.


MOOD

The dominant mood of the story is that of expectation. This mood is developed through the dreams of the major characters. The other mood that prevails is premonitory, of impending doom. There are also other moods evoked through the actions of the characters reflecting sorrow, pity, and brutality. The novel ends on a tragic note. The mood at the end is definitely one of depression and frustration.


SHORT SUMMARY (Synopsis)

One evening, two men, on their way to a ranch, stop at a stream near the Salinas River. George, who is short and dark, leads the way. The person following him is Lennie, a giant of a man with huge arms. During their conversation by the stream, George repeatedly asks Lennie to keep his mouth shut on the ranch, suggesting that Lennie has some kind of problem. After supper and before going to sleep, the two of them talk about their dream to own a piece of land.

The next day, George and Lennie travel to the ranch to start work. They are given two beds in the bunkhouse. Then Old Candy introduces them to almost everybody on the ranch. They meet the boss and the boss’s son Curley, who is quite rude. They also meet Curley’s wife when she comes looking for her husband. She wears heavy make-up and possesses a flirtatious attitude. George warns Lennie to behave his best around Curley and his wife. He also suggests that they should meet by the pool if anything unfortunate happens to either of them on the ranch.

George and Lennie are assigned to work with Slim, who is sensible and ‘civilized’ and talks with authority. George finds Slim an understanding confidante, and a bond forms between the two of them. When Curley wrongly accuses Slim for talking to his wife, Slim gets very angry. Curley apologizes to him in the bunkhouse in front of everybody, but his apology is rejected. Curley vents his frustration on Lennie, trying to pick a fight. Lennie does not hit back initially, but when George asks him to, Lennie obliges and crushes Curley’s hand. Curley agrees that he will not tell anyone about his hand, for it would mean losing his self-respect.

While working on the ranch, George and Lennie continue to dream about owning their own piece of land and make plans accordingly. Old Candy, one of the ranch hands, overhears their planning and asks to join them. He even offers to contribute all of his savings to purchase the land. George and Lennie accept his proposal.

One evening, Lennie, looking for his puppy, enters the room of Crooks; since he is the only black man on the ranch, Crooks lives alone, segregated from the other ranch workers. Candy enters, looking for Lennie; the two of them tell Crooks about their dream of owning their own ranch, but Crooks tells them that it will never happen, foreshadowing the truth. Curley’s wife comes in and interrupts them. When Crooks objects to her presence in his room, she threatens him with a false rape charge.

Later on, Lennie is seen alone in the barn, petting his dead pup. He has unintentionally killed it by handling it too hard. Now he is grieving over the loss. Curley’s wife walks into the barn and strikes up a conversation with Lennie. As they talk, she asks him to stroke her hair. She panics when she feels Lennie’s strong hands. When she raises her voice to him, Lennie covers her mouth. In the process, he accidentally breaks her neck and she dies. Knowing he has done something terrible, he leaves the ranch. When the ranch hands learn that Curley’s wife has been killed, they rightly guess the guilty party. Led by an angry Curley, they all go out to search for Lennie. They plan to murder him in retribution.

George guesses where Lennie is and races to the pool. To save him from the brutal assaults of the ranch hands, George mercifully kills his friend himself. Hearing the gunshot, the searchers converge by the pool. They praise George for his act. Only Slim understands the actual purpose of George’s deed.


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