It is evening in the bunkhouse, and George is seen thanking Slim for giving one of his puppies to Lennie. The modest Slim says it was nothing, for he might have wound up killing more of the puppies anyway. Slim then comments that Lennie is a very hard worker and asks about their friendship. George says that they have grown up together, sharing good times. He also tells Slim that Lennie is dumb but not crazy and gives the example of when Lennie jumped into the river without knowing how to swim. Slim listens to George very attentively and adds his own observations about Lennie, saying he is definitely not a mean guy. He then asks George why they had left their previous job. Though hesitant at first, George tells him about the episode when Lennie touched the dress of the young girl, explaining that he was wrongly accused of attempted rape; as a result, they had to run for their lives. When Lennie walks in, George is quick to see that he has a puppy hidden in his shirt. George explains that handling it too much can hurt the puppy and commands him to take it back to the barn; Lennie obeys. The way Lennie behaves makes Slim comment that he is just like a kid. George agrees.
Old Candy walks into the bunkhouse with his old dog and asks for a drink of whisky for his upset stomach. When Carlson arrives, he comments on the stinking smell of the dog in the room. After much conversation in which Candy defends his old dog, Slim and Carlson persuade him to get rid of the dog and promise a new puppy in its place. When Candy agrees, Carlson gets his gun and leads the dog outside into the darkness. A gunshot is heard in the distance, and Old Candy is visibly upset.
When George sits down to play a card game with Whit, Crooks comes in looking for Slim. He complains about Lennie messing around with the pups. George tells Slim to drive Lennie away if he is creating problems. George turns to the card game, but Whit does not seem interested. He talks about Curley’s wife and tells George about their Saturday night jam up at Susy’s place, which has clean chairs and clean girls. George agrees to go with them, but says he will not spend any money on the women. He is saving his money for the farm.
Carlson returns, cleaning his gun, and Lennie is with him. While Whit and Carlson are sharing a joke about Curley’s wife, Curley himself barges into the room, asking the whereabouts of Slim. Curious about what is going on, Whit follows Curley out, leaving Lennie and George together. George inquires about the happenings inside the barn. Lennie assures him that he is not getting into any trouble. Lennie then starts a conversation about their dream, and George describes each and every detail as he sees it.
Listening in on the conversation, Old Candy is interested in their plan and says he will give them his savings, about 300 dollars, if they will let him join them. He does not wanted to be treated like his old dog and promises to do lots of the work. Though George hesitates initially, he accepts Candy’s proposal, for 300 dollars is one-half of the money they need and brings them closer to the fulfillment of their dream.
George decides to send off a down payment on the farm in the amount of one hundred dollars. A clamor outside the room puts an end to their conversation. Slim, Carlson, and Curley enter the room. Slim is quite furious with Curley for wrongly accusing him of talking to his wife. Curley then tries to pick on Carlson, but he also dismisses him blatantly. Candy joins in the fray and laughs at Curley for using a glove full of Vaseline to make his hand soft for his wife.
Unaffected by all the commotion, Lennie smiles as he continues to dream of the farmhouse. Curley misinterprets his smiling and picks a fight with Lennie. Although he hits Lennie repeatedly, Lennie remembers the warnings and does not defend himself against Curley. George is outraged by the situation and encourages Lennie to strike back. Lennie quickly crushes Curley’s right hand and throws him down. When George expresses his fear of losing their jobs, Slim strikes a deal with Curley. He promises not to tell anyone about how Curley is injured if Curley does not tell his dad about the incident. The vain Curley agrees to Slim’s plan before he is taken to he hospital.
Although injured and bleeding himself, Lennie feels guilty about hurting Curley
and repeatedly asserts that the whole thing was not his fault. He begs
George not to be mad at him and wants to make sure he will still get to
go to the farm and tend the rabbits. George is not the least bit angry,
Lennie is further developed in this chapter. Slim says he is likable and compliments him as a hard worker. He wants to know more about George’s friendship with him. George explains that Lennie is slow, but not crazy. He shares a significant incident with Slim. Once George told Lennie to “go jump in a river.” Lennie, not understanding the comment, obeyed his friend literally, even though he did not know how to swim. When George rescued him, Lennie was very appreciative, forgetting that it was George who told him to jump. It is obvious that Lennie has great respect for and child-like trust in George.
Slim is also developed in the chapter. He is a leader amongst the ranch hands, commanding respect. It is also clear that he is mentally superior to the other workers. He appreciates the kind of friendship that George and Lennie share and recognizes its rare quality. He also learns to look at Lennie through George’s eyes, seeing him as a child who must be guided and disciplined. He is also self-confident and is not afraid to stand up to Curley when he falsely accuses him.
A portion of the chapter is devoted to Candy and his dog, and there are many parallels that can be drawn between that pair and George and Lennie. Candy is devoted to his dog, and, in return, it follows its master everywhere. In a similar manner, George is devoted to Lennie, who will follow him anywhere. Candy’s dog emanates an awful odor which goes unnoticed by Candy; they’ve been together for so long that Candy has gotten used to the stench. Similarly, Lennie can be a nuisance and a pain, but George is so used to his presence that he barely notices Lennie’s odd ways. Candy agrees to have his dog killed, for he realizes that it has become a social nuisance. In a similar manner, George will kill Lennie, since he is judged to be a threat to society. After Candy agrees to the killing, he turns toward the wall, unable to face the dog or the people. Before George shoots Lennie, he asks the latter to look away. After his dog’s death, Candy feels lost and alone, foreshadowing how George will feel after Lennie is gone.
Steinbeck portrays the harsher side of life through Carlson. On a superficial level, he seems totally brutal, caring only about his own discomfort in regards to Candy’s dog. In truth, his suggestion that the dog be killed and replaced with a puppy is practical advice, for the animal is very old, blind, crippled, and stinking. Carlson volunteers to shoot the dog to spare Candy from having to do it himself. Later, Candy says he should have shot the dog himself. But Carlson sees it as an act of mercy, just like George’s shooting Lennie is intended to be an act of mercy. The reactions of the men to the two deaths is very different. In honor of Candy, they maintain a respectful silence until they hear the gunshot announcing the dog’s death. Their conversation afterwards is muted and respectful. After Lennie’s death, the men show no sensitivity to George; only Slim appreciates what has happened and shows George any concern. In truth, they seem to value the life of a dog more than the life of Lennie.
Although the dream of the farm is a recurring image in the first two chapters, it takes on a new significance in this chapter. George and Lennie are different from the other workers on the farm because they have a dream, a purpose. Their life has more meaning than going down to Susy’s place. When Candy hears about the plans of George and Lennie, he wants to join them, hoping to find peace and contentment in his last days. Now that he has lost his dog, his faithful companion, he has nothing and belongs nowhere. He offers his life savings of 300 dollars for the chance to go with them and promises to work hard. At first George hesitates to include Candy, but he realizes that Candy’s proposition leads them closer to the fulfillment of the dream and accepts it. The irony is that George and Lennie really do come close to fulfilling the dream. Had they been able to leave the ranch, Lennie’s tragedy would have been avoided.
The first real conflict that Lennie has on the ranch occurs towards the end of this chapter. When Slim and Carlson refuse to fight with Curley, he deliberately picks on Lennie, striking him. Lennie remembers George’s warning and obeys, trying to stay out of trouble and not striking back. When George sees what is happening, he urges Lennie to defend himself. In the ensuing fight, Curley is thrown to the ground and his hand is crushed. Curley agrees to say that his hand was crushed in a machine, not telling his father or the other ranch hands the truth, for he is ashamed of his defeat. The reader is aware, however, that Curley will want his revenge.
After the fight, Lennie feels guilty, for he did not mean to really hurt Curley.
He simply does not know the power of his own brute strength, foreshadowing
the tragedy at the end of the novel. Lennie is also fearful that he has
displeased George. His main concern is that he will not be allowed to
go to the farm or have any rabbits.
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