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Having cut down the other two men, she begins in on Lennie. She is not trying to attack him, however. She is trying to seduce him. She says, "I like machines," referring to Lennie's strength. She adds, "I might get a couple of rabbits myself," an obvious sexual comment. Doesn't it seem a little strange to you that Curley's attractive young wife should be after Lennie? He certainly doesn't seem like someone sexy or even interested in sex. Perhaps she sees in Lennie what the others have found, a way out of her loneliness. Or perhaps Steinbeck is showing us that man-woman love in this ranch microcosm is as empty as all the other relationships. There is still a third possibility. Perhaps Steinbeck is trying to re-create an Adam and Eve-type situation. A woman is going to topple the vision of Eden by bringing evil into the world. Whether you see Curley's wife as a real person or as a symbol, one thing is clear: she seems pretty dangerous. Is this another case of foreshadowing? We will find out in the next chapter.
When George comes back to the ranch, he once again takes over control from Lennie. He takes on each of the three men in Crooks' room in turn. He tells Lennie he shouldn't be in the room. He is angry that Candy has told someone else about the dream. And he attacks Crooks in an unspoken way. George seems just as bigoted as the other men on the ranch. Crooks senses this and asks to be removed from his place in the vision.
The three men leave Crooks alone, and the black man seems to remember his crippleness. He begins rubbing liniment on his crooked back. All the hopefulness the outcasts have felt, and the new-found manhood that Lennie has helped them achieve, seem lost.
How have your feelings changed during this chapter? Have you gained new respect for Lennie and lost a little respect for George? Does the vision of the ranch seem closer or farther away than it did at the end of Chapter 3? Think about these questions as you head into Chapter 5.
One thing is interesting to note before you go on. In the play version of Of Mice and Men, Chapters 3 and 4 make up the second act of the play. In a three-act play, the first act usually sets up the dramatic situation and introduces the characters. The second act presents slow development of the themes. And the third act brings everything to a climax and conclusion. Think about all the ideas that have been developed in Chapters 3 and 4. What do you think the climax to come in the next act is going to involve? All of the hints Steinbeck has given seem to point to a painful rather than a hopeful ending. Candy's dog has been killed. Lennie has fought with Curley. Lennie hasn't been able to avoid Curley's wife completely. George has gotten very nervous and possessive about the dream. He doesn't want to share it with anyone else. It is almost as if he believes in the superstition that telling someone your wish will keep it from coming true. And Lennie has told everyone about it.