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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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NOTE: THE NONHUMAN SIDE OF LENNIE

Lennie has been compared to various animals since the first chapter in the book. Yet his animal nature never really seemed dangerous before. Now we are struck with the idea that Lennie cannot fit in human society; he is a more primitive form of life. This idea will be reinforced by Slim's statement at the end of this chapter that if Lennie is left alive he will be strapped down and put in a cage.

Steinbeck created a similar character in his earlier novel, The Pastures of Heaven. The character's name was Tularecito. People try to "civilize" Tularecito by sending him to school and beating him until he behaves like a normal boy. But he never does. Instead he strikes back violently when he thinks people are trying to block him from communicating with his real ancestors, the gnomes who live within nature. You might want to read "The Origin of Tularecito" in The Pastures of Heaven and see if he is a model for Lennie.

After the killing, everything becomes still and quiet. Slim's dog is the first one to sense death in the air, and she cringes in with her puppies. Meanwhile Curley's wife lies in the barn. She looks more peaceful and lovelier than ever before. In death, she has regained her innocence.

Then all hell breaks loose. Candy discovers the body and brings George. They discuss what will happen to Lennie now, but Candy is more interested in their dream. He says that he and George could still get "that little place" and "live nice there." George doesn't even bother to answer. Without Lennie to keep reminding him to discuss the dream and to keep making him feel needed, the dream cannot come true. George has become just another lonely, rootless ranch hand. He says, "I'll work my month an' I'll take my fifty bucks an' I'll stay all night in some lousy cat house." Remember, these are the same words he used to describe the "loneliest guys in the world" in Chapter 1. Lennie is no longer going to be there to chime in, "But not us.... Because I got you to
look after me, and you got me to look after you!"



What do you think about this exchange between Candy and George? Some readers think that it is powerful and emotional; others think that it is overly sentimental. Do you think the exchange is really necessary to get across Steinbeck's message about loneliness being at the heart of life in the 1930s? Or do you think the author is trying to knock you over the head with the message? Your opinion here will probably determine whether or not you like Of Mice and Men.

The action continues with the other ranch hands arriving on the scene and setting up a search party (or lynching party) to find Lennie and bring him to "justice." Curley is all for lynching Lennie or shooting him in the guts. After all, Curley has his manhood to defend. Lennie has beaten him in a fight and has now taken away his wife. Slim suggests to George that he not allow Lennie to be captured and caged like an animal (see the previous note). But George already knows this. And we suspect that it was George who stole Carlson's Luger, the gun that was used to kill Candy's dog.

The chapter draws to a close. Candy, who has been left behind, lies down on the hay and covers his eyes with his arm. This is the same pose his dog used to take. There is more death in the air.

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