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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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Their conversation has also touched on a troubling event, one that foreshadows an even more tragic happening later in the story. The two of them had to run from their last town, Weed, because of something that Lennie did that he has already forgotten about. The event involved "some girls coming by." Exactly what happened is not yet revealed, but you shouldn't let mysterious references such as these slip by unnoticed. They usually have lots of hidden meaning. We learn a little more about the incident a few pages later. Lennie was just feeling a girl's dress when she began to yell, and the two men had to hide and run away. Now they are moving on to a new town and new jobs.

But they are not heading straight to the ranch where they will be working. Instead, they are spending their last night of freedom in the woods. Lennie is concerned about what they will eat, but George's thoughts are on being a free man for one more day. George begins another attack on Lennie, declaring that without the burden of looking after Lennie he could "live so easy." He could get a job, earn his money, and spend it on whiskey and a cathouse. Then why does George stay with Lennie? Because their relationship makes the two of them special.

Under Lennie's prompting George articulates the specialness of the two of them. He begins his declaration in rhythmic tones, "as though he has said [the words] many times before": Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. They come to a ranch an' work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they're poundin' their tall on some other ranch. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to.

But Lennie's excitement at hearing the words and his interjections cause George to change his tone of voice. Little by little, his excitement builds too as he describes the farm they will have and the animals Lennie will get to tend. The words are no longer just oft-repeated words; they have become almost a litany, a kind of prayer. Are you getting caught up in the excitement? Steinbeck wants you to be. He will be working on your emotions throughout the book.

What George is describing is often labeled "The American Dream." This dream involves the desire to have material possessions and the independence that being free from needing things can give you. Most characters in modern American literature are seeking this dream, but few ever achieve it. (The American Dream was defined in the Themes section of this guide.)



Now that Lennie has gotten George into a good mood, Lennie takes the upper hand in the relationship and begins to press it. He threatens to run away if George continues to pick on him. George quickly gives in, and we know his anger with Lennie isn't real. Lennie needs George to look after him, but George needs Lennie just as much. Lennie makes George understand his specialness and keeps the dream alive. These points are dealt with more fully in the discussion of Chapter 3 and earlier in The Characters section of this guide.

The chapter closes with the two men going to sleep around the dying embers of their campfire. Lennie presses once more about the rabbits he will get to tend and threatens to leave one more time. George tells him to "go to hell" with one final moment of mock anger. Everything is peaceful again. The only sounds are those of nature, alive again as it was at the beginning before the two men arrived. One small circle has been completed.

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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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