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While talking to Slim in the bunk house later that day, George describes his relationship with Lennie. He admits that Lennie isn't bright, but he is a nice guy. Lennie provides companionship and makes George feel smart alongside him. When Lennie walks into the bunk house with his puppy hidden under his shirt, George prophetically warns Lennie that handling the pup so much might kill it.
As all the men gather in the bunk house, Carlson begins pressuring Candy to let him put his dog out of its misery. He explains that he will shoot the dog in the back of the head so it will feel no pain. When Slim joins in the pressuring, Candy finally gives in. Later, Candy overhears George telling Lennie once again about the farm and the rabbits. He asks to be part of the venture and offers to advance half of the money they need to buy the farm. Suddenly the impossible dream seems within reach. Candy confides to George that he should have shot his dog himself, not let a stranger do the task.
Curley walks in, looking for his wandering wife. When he spots Lennie still smiling from the memory of his rabbits, Curley thinks the big man is making fun of him. He begins taunting and hitting Lennie, who refuses to fight back until George tells him to. Then Lennie grabs Curley's hand and begins flipping the smaller man about until he crushes his hand.
Later that night, while George and some of the others are in town at a whorehouse, Lennie comes into the room of Crooks, the black stable worker. Crooks at first objects to this invasion of his privacy, but Lennie's innocent good humor wins him over. Crooks describes the difficulties of being a black man on the ranch, and Lennie talks about the future farm. When Candy comes in and tells that he has offered to put up some of the money, Crooks asks to be included, too. Curley's wife, looking for company, also invades Crooks' sanctum. Crooks and Candy argue with her, but she begins playing up to Lennie. She leaves when George comes in. George is annoyed to learn that Lennie and Candy have shared the dream with someone else.
The next afternoon, all of the trouble that George predicted begins to come true. Lennie has handled his puppy too much and has broken its neck. As he tries to hide the animal, Curley's wife comes into the barn. She talks to Lennie about her life and seems to be seducing him. When she learns that Lennie likes soft things, she invites him to touch her hair. He does so, but, as always, holds on too tight. The woman begins to struggle and yell, and Lennie panics, breaking her neck just as he had done to the puppy. After Lennie flees, Candy finds the woman's body. He gets George and asks for reassurance that the two of them can make the dream of the farm come true, even without Lennie. But George has already forsaken the vision. He asks Candy to give him a few minutes' headstart before telling the others. In that time, George steals Carlson's Luger, the same gun that was used to kill Candy's dog. George reenters the barn with the others to discover the body, and he tries to convince the men that Lennie should only be put away because he meant no harm. But Curley insists on a lynching, and they go out looking for Lennie.
The final scene occurs on the same riverbank where the book opened. Lennie has remembered to return there after he got into trouble. Several visions taunt Lennie as he realizes that he has done something very bad this time. George finds him there. Lennie asks George to chew him out, but George does so only half-heartedly. They discuss the farm and rabbits one last time. George tells Lennie to look across the river and see the farm. Then he shoots Lennie in the back of the head with Carlson's gun. The other men come running up and George agrees to their version of a struggle between the two men that ended in the shooting. All of the men walk back to the ranch, some sympathizing with George, others unable to decide what he's so upset about.