Chapter 5 follows the theme of Lennie’s childishness and lack of understanding of his strength. The chapter begins with Lennie alone inside the barn, stroking a dead puppy. He’s yelling at the puppy as though it’s the puppy’s fault that it’s so small, and it died. He becomes worried that George will find out and therefore won’t let him look after the rabbits, Lennie buries the dead pup in the hay and says that he will claim to have found it dead.
Curley’s wife enters, Lennie who feels very uneasy and tries to explain he cannot talk to her, out of fear that Curley will react badly. She calms Lennie by reminding him that no one will know because all of the other men are outside having a horseshoe tournament. Upon being questioned, Lennie explains that the puppy pretended it was going to bite him, so Lennie pretended he was going to smack it, accidentally he did, as a result killing the puppy. Curley’s wife consoles him and tells him it was just a mutt, and he can get another one.
The two become more comfortable and Curley’s wife explains details from her past, that she could’ve gone into Hollywood. She admits she doesn’t love Curley and only married him to escape her mother. Lennie admits that he likes to pet soft things, so Curley’s wife suggests feeling her hair. Lennie does so she’s worried he’s going to mess her hair up, so she tells him to stop.
Lennie becomes alarmed by her tone of voice and covers her mouth to stop her shouting. As a result she panics and struggle, in doing so she panics Lennie even more so he begins to shake her. Accidentally he turns her head and accidentally breaks her neck. In major panic, Lennie grabs the dead puppy to throw it away and runs toward the brush where George told him to hide if he ever got into trouble again.
Candy enters and immediately sees the dead woman on the ground. After telling George, they both know it could only have been Lennie. George tells Candy to run out and tell the other men, and he’ll run in with them as if he doesn’t know what happened so that the guys won’t think he had anything to do with it. Candy does so, and George re-enters last.
Curley enters and becomes filled with anger, as he also figures out it was Lennie that killed his wife. They want George to come with them so that they ensure he doesn’t try to save Lennie. Slim tries to convince Curley to stay with his dead wife, but he won’t listen, so Candy stays behind, mourning not only the dead woman but also the death of their dream. Curley unable to find his gun believes Lennie has it so becomes even more angry.
The chapter ends with George thinking on the spot, he misleads the group by sending them in the opposite direction to he suspects Lennie has gone.
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.