Of Mice and Men Study Guide

Of Mice and Men By John Steinbeck

It's Calforinia, during the Great Depression, and two migrant field workers -- the intelligent but cynical George Milton and the physically enormous but mentally noticeably behind the curve Lennie Small (rather ironically named) - have come to a ranch near Soledad (southeast of Salinas, California) to "work up a stake". They share a dream of settling down on their own piece of land, and they hope that by working, they can earn their own piece of property.

Lennie's part of the dream, which he requires George to describe regularly and never tires of hearing about, is simply to tend to and often pet soft rabbits on their farm. George uses Lennie's simpleness to protect him, often telling him that if he breaks the rules, "they" won't let him "tend them rabbits". The two are trying to escape their reputation; in their last job in Weed, they were run out of town when a misunderstanding of Lennie's love of touching soft things led them to be accused of rape after he was seen fondling a woman's dress.

At the ranch, their dream inches ever closer to reality. An aged and one-handed ranch hand named Candy even offers to pitch in with Lennie and George, to help them purchase the farm by the end of the months. Everything turns bad in a horrible way when Lennie, attempting to stroke the hair of the ranch owner's daughter-in-law, he accidentally kills her.

In no time, Curley, the deceased woman's widower, conjures up a lynch mob. George realizes that he is doomed to a lonely and despairing life like the rest of the migrant workers, and decides to spare Lennie a painful death at the hands of the mob. He begins to recite to Lennie their dreams of owning their own land, and Lennie's dream of touching soft rabbits -- and shoots him in the back of the head.

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