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CHAPTER 3: VIOLENCE ERUPTS
As Chapter 3 opens we are still in the bunk house later the same day. The men have finished working for the day, and there is a calmness in the air.
This scene also opens with a description of the setting. This time the description involves images of light and darkness next to each other. Outside there is "evening brightness," inside there is "dusk." Slim and George enter the dark bunk house together and turn on a "brilliant" light. You have already seen in the first two chapters that the opening description of the setting helps to create an atmosphere for the whole chapter, so you probably suspect that this chapter will deal with opposites. Some of the events will be "dark" and upsetting and some will be "bright" and promising. If that's your feeling, you're right.
George and Slim continue the conversation they began in the last chapter. Once again George is willing to open up his true feelings to Slim. For the first time we learn all the facts about the history of Lennie and George's partnership. Lennie has always been retarded. He was brought up by his Aunt Clara, and when she died Lennie began going places with George. At first George took advantage of Lennie's stupidity and innocence. But when he realized that Lennie would do anything he said, even something dangerous, George stopped kidding him.
Little by little, George has come to realize what Lennie means to him. Lennie makes George feel "God damn smart alongside him." He also helps him avoid the loneliness that is "no fun" and causes a ranch hand to "get mean." Slim understands all of this and supports George's opinions fully.
George feels so secure talking to Slim that he even reveals what happened in Weed that caused George and Lennie to flee. Lennie, with his passion for soft things, began feeling a girl's soft dress. She screamed, Lennie panicked and tore the dress, the girl accused him of rape, and a posse chased after the men. They hid in an irrigation ditch. Water seems always to provide George and Lennie with safety.
Remember this story. In fact, remember all of the events that occur in this chapter. They are part of Steinbeck's foreshadowing technique.
NOTE: STEINBECK'S USE OF FORESHADOWING
Foreshadowing is a writing technique that involves having early events or descriptions in a story give hints about what will happen later. You've probably seen this technique used a lot in mystery stories you have read or seen on television. For example, the wind begins to whistle and a dog howls. Later the hero discovers that a murder occurred at exactly that time. Or a victim reads about a gruesome death in a book and is later killed in just that way. Foreshadowing is used to build drama or suspense.
Steinbeck uses foreshadowing often in his books, particularly in Of Mice and Men. It is one of the main ways that he moves that story along and links one event to another. Watch for the following events in this chapter: the description of the "rape" in Weed, the killing of Candy's dog and Candy's response to it, and Lennie's fight with Curley. Each will be echoed in later parts of the book. All of these events involve violence, so there is sure to be more violence to come.
You can read more about Steinbeck's use of foreshadowing in the section of this guide entitled Form and Structure.