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Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

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Of Mice and Men | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


Why is the ever-cautious George's thriftiness with money so unusual among migrants, as revealed in Chapters 3 and 4 in Of Mice and Men?

In Chapter 4 Crooks claims that most migrant workers dream of getting land of their own. He says, "They're all the time talkin' about it, but it's jus' in their head." The reason, Crooks explains, is that "ever' time a whore house or a blackjack game took what it takes." Migrant workers, therefore, are not normally able to save enough money to buy land because they spend their money on amusements; they have a self-destructive tendency and entrap themselves in an unending cycle. In the previous chapter George indicates that he earns enough to eventually save the money he needs to buy a farm. To do this, however, he has to be careful with his money and not spend it on amusements. "If me an' Lennie work a month an' don't spen' nothing, we'll have a hundred bucks," he says.

In Chapter 4 in Of Mice and Men, how does Crooks show that he needs friendship?

At first Crooks is antagonistic toward people entering his room. When Lennie wants to visit, "Crooks scowled, but Lennie's disarming smiling defeated him." Later when Candy wants to visit, the narrator says, "It was difficult for Crooks to conceal his pleasure with anger." Steinbeck implies that underneath his gruff exterior Crooks really wants friendship. Also when Crooks realizes that Candy has some money to buy a farm, Crooks offers to work on the farm: "If you ... guys would want a hand to work for nothing ... why I'd come." Crooks wants the companionship of working on a farm with friends.

In Chapter 4 in Of Mice and Men, how does the isolation of Curley's wife compare to the isolation experienced by Lennie, Candy, and Crooks?

Crooks, Lennie, and Candy are all outsiders because of how they are viewed by others at the ranch. However, they are able to find companionship in each other's company, as in Chapter 4. Curley's wife, on the other hand, is isolated in Chapter 4 because of the way she views herself. She considers herself better than Crooks, Lennie, and Candy. When she enters Crooks's room she remarks, "They left all the weak ones here." Curley's wife does not see herself as a "weak one." She thinks she is superior to Crooks because she is white and he is black. At the end of Chapter 4 when she gets angry at Crooks, she exclaims, "Well, you keep your place then ... I could get you strung upon a tree." Her sense of isolation is compounded by the fact that, unlike the three men, she has no possibility of companionship on the ranch with a woman who could become a friend.

Why does Crooks try to scare Lennie in Chapter 4 in Of Mice and Men?

Crooks scares Lennie by telling him that George might never return from town. If this happened Lennie would be abandoned, and that's scary for Lennie. Crooks says these things because he wants to share some of the pain of abandonment and isolation that he feels. Despite the cruelty of his words Crooks is, in a way, attempting to form a connection with Lennie. After scaring Lennie Crooks says to him, "Maybe you can see now. You got George ... S'pose you didn't have nobody." Then Crooks admits that he was talking about himself when he scared Lennie. Crooks says that a man could go crazy if he is alone long enough without having anyone to talk to and check what is real and what isn't. Crooks scares Lennie in a desperate attempt to relate to another person.

In Chapter 5 in Of Mice and Men, how does the need for affection by Lennie and Curley's wife lead to tragic results?

Lennie craves the affectionate connection he gets from petting soft animals, so he often pets the puppy that Slim gave him. Curley's wife wants affectionate companionship as well, and so in Chapter 5 she tries to form a friendship with Lennie. Curley's wife, however, is unaware of the danger that Lennie poses because of his brute strength. And of course Lennie is not aware of his own strength. When he accidentally kills the puppy he becomes sad and worried. Curley's wife feels sorry for him and invites Lennie to stroke her hair. She likewise wants the gentle attention she thinks Lennie can provide. "You're a kinda nice fella," she says. "Jus' like a big baby." Lennie loves petting soft things so he willingly strokes her hair. But when Lennie messes her hair Curley's wife gets upset and tries to get loose from Lennie, who then panics and clutches her hair, making Curley's wife frantic. Lennie shakes her and accidentally breaks her neck, leading to her tragic death and ultimately to Lennie's as well.

In Chapter 5 in Of Mice and Men, how do Lennie's prospects as a mentally challenged man contribute to the theme of entrapment?

When George, Slim, and Curley find the dead body of Curley's wife, they realize that Lennie killed her. Curley becomes enraged and organizes a lynch mob to kill Lennie. George considers the possibility of arresting Lennie and not killing him. Slim, though, says, "An' s'pose they lock him up ... put him in a cage. That ain't no good." Slim knows that Lennie would be treated cruelly if he was arrested. George agrees. Society's abuse of the mentally handicapped limits the options George has in dealing with Lennie. In this way society's treatment of the mentally challenged contributes to the entrapment of George and Lennie.

After Lennie dies in Chapter 5 in Of Mice and Men, what truths become clear about George's dream?

After Lennie kills Curley's wife and runs off, George and Candy could theoretically still buy a farm and achieve their dream. However, George says this will not happen after Lennie is killed, and when he earns money, he'll spend it on prostitutes and gambling. "I'll take my fifty bucks an' I'll stay all night in some lousy cat house," he says. George's friendship with Lennie and desire to protect him are what had given George the motivation to save money to buy a small farm. When Lennie kills Curley's wife, George knows there can be no good outcome, and the dream quickly dies. George will adopt the lifestyle of most migrant workers who don't have a friend. George's dream was centered on the safety of his friend rather than on his own ideals about life.

How does Steinbeck use symbolism and foreshadowing in Chapter 5 in Of Mice and Men?

At the beginning of the chapter Lennie stares mournfully at a puppy he has just accidentally killed. Like the mice, rabbits, and other soft vulnerable animals, the puppy suggests the thin line that exists with Lennie between affection and death. Lennie likes the vulnerable animals and doesn't mean to harm them, but he doesn't know his own strength. He says to the dead puppy, "You ain't so little as mice. I didn't bounce you hard." The death of the puppy foreshadows something ominous that is going to happen, and soon Curley's wife arrives in the barn. Like the puppy, Lennie pets her and then accidentally kills her. Lennie realizes he's "done a real bad thing" and decides to hide near the pool—a symbol of safety and refuge—as George told him to do if he did something bad.

In Chapter 5 in Of Mice and Men, what contrast is set up by the scene of the men playing horseshoes?

Chapter 5 takes place on a Sunday, a day when the migrant workers can relax and enjoy themselves. The narrator says that the sound of the men shouting as they play horseshoes can be heard from inside the barn: "From outside came the clang of horseshoes ... the shouts of men, playing, encouraging, jeering." Meanwhile inside the barn a tragedy is taking place as Lennie accidentally kills his puppy and then Curley's wife. Steinbeck deliberately contrasts the happiness of the men playing outside with the sadness within. He returns to this contrast intermittently as he describes the tragic events in the barn.

What is Steinbeck's purpose in Chapter 5 in Of Mice and Men in describing the barn for several paragraphs after Lennie leaves?

By describing the barn Steinbeck creates a funereal mood of quiet and stillness: "It was very quiet in the barn ... the quiet of the afternoon was on the ranch." Because of this quiet, details come to the forefront. A dog smells the dead body and jumps in the box with the puppies. The simple face of Curley's wife contrasts with her expressions of meanness and discontent when she was alive. The stillness emphasizes that something significant and tragic has just happened in the barn. "A moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment." Steinbeck is giving the reader time to reflect on and contemplate the tragic event.

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