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A sad Lennie is alone in the barn on Sunday afternoon. He indulges in a monologue with his dead puppy. He has accidentally killed it while they were playing. He is afraid that now George will not let him have any rabbits on the farm. He thinks about burying the pup and not telling George about it; but he knows that George, as always, will sense the truth.
Curley’s wife walks into the barn. Lennie takes a defensive stance against her, for George has warned him to stay away from her. She, however, forces herself on him, growing emotional when Lennie refuses to talk to her. She notices the dead puppy and tells him not to worry about it, for no one will be upset. She also talks about her childhood and tells him about her loneliness. She explains her story about the guy who promised to get her into the movies and failed to do so. She even tells Lennie about how much she dislikes her husband. As she talks about her broken dreams, she occasionally checks to see if Lennie is listening.
Lennie keeps telling Curley’s wife that he is not supposed to talk to her, but she ignores him. When he tells her that he wants to raise rabbits, she asks why he likes them so much. Lennie explains how he loves soft things. She asks Lennie if he would like to stroke her soft hair. When Lennie does so, she grows fearful at the strength she feels in his hands. Raising her voice, she asks him to stop. Lennie is scared that George is going to hear her, so he covers her mouth with his huge palms in order to quiet her. He begs her to be quiet and bemoans the fact that she is going to get him into trouble. She struggles to get away, but his strength is far too great for her fragile body. With no intention of harming Curley’s wife, he shakes her and accidentally breaks her neck, just as he has accidentally killed his puppy.
Lennie realizes the terrible mistake he has committed. He then remembers what George has asked him to do in case of trouble. He picks up the dead puppy, quickly leaves the ranch, and heads to the stream to hide in the bushes.
Old Candy comes searching for Lennie and finds Curley’s wife, who is dead. He is stunned by the sight and runs out to tell George about it. On seeing the body of Curley’s wife, George is dumbfounded. He realizes that Lennie is responsible for her death; but he also knows that it had to have been an accident. Lennie is incapable of intentional murder. He also knows that Curley and the other ranch hands will have no mercy on Lennie. George must think and act quickly. He asks Candy to inform the others about the incident, and he heads back to the bunkhouse. Before he looks for Curley, Candy curses the dead body, blaming her for ruining his plans for the farm.
When summoned, Curley is quick to guess who the culprit might be. He swears to kill Lennie as soon as he is found. He organizes a search party, and tells the men to grab their guns. George begs Curley not to shoot Lennie, but he does not agree. The men set out, armed with their shotguns. Carlson reports that his gun is missing, and everyone assumes that Lennie has it.