Together in the bunkhouse, Slim and George talk about Lennie, with George thanking Slim for giving Lennie a puppy as understands how happy it has made Lennie. With George now trusting Slim he opens up to him and for the first time tells somebody about Lennie’s struggles. As Slim questions their inseparable friendship, because most of the ranch hands he’d seen were always alone.
George reveals he takes care of Lennie because he grew up with him and knew his Aunt Clara, upon her death, George began looking after Lennie. George outlines Lennie’s lack of intelligence in the form of a childhood story. The story outlines a time when he told him to jump into the Sacramento River with Lennie unable to swim. George came to the conclusion that he could no longer joke with Lennie.
Having enjoyed getting details off his chest, George in confidence tells Slim about what happened in Weed with Lennie touching the woman’s dress. Even though the woman claimed she had been raped, Lennie never hurt her. Slim agreed that Lennie isn’t mean, he just isn’t clever.
Candy joins them in the bunkhouse followed by his dog, immediately Carlson that the dog is suffering, and it’s best to put it out of its misery. Candy doesn’t want his dog to die, but he finally agrees to let Carlson shoot it.
We are introduced to Crooks; Crooks is a black stable worker who cares for the horses. He is crucially a symbol of racial injustice, as Crooks is isolated from the other ranch hands because of his skin colour. He peeks in soon after to call for Slim, so George is left talking to Whit (another ranch hand), who tells George about ‘Susy’s place’, a location where the men sometimes go for male entertainment.
Lennie re-enters and announces that Slim and Curley were discussing his wife in the barn, so Whit and Carlson think there might be a fight. We learn real details in description of the farm the duo hope to acquire for $600. Lennie asks George to once again describe the little farm that he knows about that they someday hope to own. George says it’s ten acres with pigs and a nice stove. There are all kinds of foods that they could grow and animals they could own. Candy sits up and asks how much a place like that would cost, George tells Candy of the $600 valuation, despite having been unaware of Candy’s presence.
We learn about how Candy lost his hand on this exact ranch a long time ago, so they gave him two hundred and fifty dollars as compensation, he reveals he saved up fifty more since then plus he has fifty more coming to him at the end of the month. He offers to help George and Lennie buy the place. Candy has no relatives and doesn’t expect to live a great deal longer, so he would will his share of the property back to Lennie and George.
George is overjoyed by this news as he and Lennie have never been able to save up a significant amount of money, nor had this kind of opportunity or generosity. With a smile he decides to accept the offer. George believes he can convince the old people who own the property to sell it to him for $450. George makes them both promise not to tell anyone their plan, so that no one can ruin it or try to get them fired.
Lennie is still overjoyed at his dreams being made more viable. Curley storms in and asks Lennie what he is laughing at. Lennie doesn’t know how to respond, so Curley punches him in the face. Curley continues to punch him. Lennie is a bloody mess by the time George tells Lennie to fight back. Lennie grabs Curley’s swinging fist and smashes every bone in his hand. George realising Lennie is much bigger and stronger than Curley gets Lennie to release him.
George realises they could be sacked so has Slim convince Curley not to tell anyone what Lennie did but instead to say he got his hand caught in a machine. Later on in the day, Lennie cries to George about how he didn’t want to hurt Curley and asks if he can still tend the rabbits on their ranch, so George assures him that he can.
Of Mice and Men is centred around two ranch workers, George and Lennie. The story is based in California in the 1930s as they start work on a ranch in a place called ‘Soledad’ (a Spanish word meaning ‘solitude’). The entire story takes place over a period of just four days, starting on a Thursday evening and ending on the Sunday. Throughout this time George and Lennie meet other characters, who emphasise the isolation and difficulty of life for the people working and in these places.
George is a small, intelligent man who looks after his friend Lennie, a large, strong man who has a learning disability. Lennie’s disability and failure to understand his strength prove to be a huge problem. The constant theme throughout the story, is the two men discussing their dream of owning their own ranch and working for themselves, however by the end of the book Lennie has accidentally killed a woman and George’s only option is to shoot him before he is caught, which as a result ends their dream.
This brief novel touches upon many important societal issues, including the plight of the migrant workers during the Great Depression, racism and sexism during that time as well as the lack of care or facilities for the disabled.