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Free Study Guide-Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck-Free Booknotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES

Chapter 1

Summary

The book opens with a detailed geographic description of the countryside around the Salinas River, a few miles south of Soledad. As two men walk from the dusty road to the cooling stream, the native rabbits scurry away. George, a short man, is seen first. He has sharp features with a thin and bony nose and restless eyes. He also has strong hands and slender arms. George is followed by Lennie, a huge man, built like a bear. His giant arms hang like pendulums at his side. Both men are dressed in denim trousers, denim coats with brass buttons, black hats, and blankets, which are wrapped around round their necks.

Lennie is thirsty and dips his mouth into the green water, drinking like a horse. George stops him, for the stream appears stagnant. George remarks that Lennie would drink from a gutter if he were thirsty. George refreshes himself and lies down to rest. Lennie splashes in the water and then joins George.

When George talks about going to the ranch, the forgetful Lennie does not seem to understand. When Lennie inquires once more about what they are going to do there, George grows impatient. Lennie apologizes, saying that he tries hard not to forget things. George explains to him once again that they are going to work on a ranch, which is located nearby. He warns Lennie to refrain from talking to anyone at the ranch and begs him to behave.

George notices Lennie reaching into his pocket and asks him to hand over whatever he is hiding there. Lennie hands him a dead mouse that he has found along the road and put in his pocket to pet. George throws it away in disgust. He then reminds Lennie that whenever he pets things, it seems to get both of them in trouble, as it did on their last job. Lennie has already forgotten what has happened there.


George sends Lennie to look for some sticks so they can build a fire and prepare dinner. When he returns, George sees that he is wet and carrying only one stick. He immediately knows that Lennie has retrieved the dead mouse from where he has hurled it. George asks for the mouse, and Lennie resists giving it to him. George explains that a dead mouse is not a fit pet and demands that Lennie hand it over, which he does reluctantly. George then sends Lennie off to look for wood again. When Lennie returns with enough sticks, they build a fire and warm up three cans of beans for supper. While the beans are heating, Lennie asks for ketchup to go on his beans, even though it should be obvious that they have none. George is suddenly irritated with his friend’s slowness and angrily explains all the things he could do without Lennie, including going to a “cat house”, drinking lots of whiskey, and keeping a job.

Lennie knows that he has put George in a foul mood. Although he does not understand why George is angry, he still tries to make up, saying that he will go away to some far-off hills and live in a cave if George does not want them to stay together. George is touched by his friend’s simplicity and honesty and reacts in a very understanding manner. He reassures Lennie that he does not want him to go away. Lennie then asks George to tell him again about their dream. George explains how the two of them are going to save their money and buy a ten acre farm, where they can raise rabbits, cows, pigs, chicken, and cherries.

After dinner, George decides they should spend the night by the stream and head to the ranch in the morning. He then reminds Lennie again about not talking to other people on the ranch. He also tells him that if there is ever trouble on the ranch, Lennie should return to this same site and hide in the near-by bushes, where George will come and find him. Lennie promises to remember the place. They drift peacefully off to sleep, thinking about the little farm they want to own.

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