Outline of the plot. This can be very useful for revision or to secure the important parts of the story in the students minds.
George Milton and Lennie Small appear in a woody clearing by the Salinas River. We learn that they are travelling (itinerant) farmworkers heading for a job on a ranch, and that George is in charge of Lennie who is of very limited intelligence. Lennie likes ‘petting’ soft things, and is obsessed with rabbits. We also learn that they had to leave Weed because Lennie was accused of molesting a girl. George tells Lennie to come and hide in the brush if there is any trouble. They have supper, talk of their dreams of owning a farm, and go to sleep.
George and Lennie have arrived at the bunkhouse where the men of the ranch sleep. They meet Candy ‘the swamper’, an old man with one hand who looks after the bunkhouse. They settle in. Then the Boss arrives, he is angry that they are late, and suspicious because George does not let Lennie speak. Candy comes back with his old dog, and then Curley, the boss’s aggressive son also looks in and tries to bait Lennie. Candy later explains that Curley likes to fight bigger men, and that he has just got married. Curley’s wife then appears briefly. The men, including Slim and Carlson return from the fields. Slim’s dog has just had puppies; George says that he will ask if Lennie can have one.
It is now evening, and the men are playing horseshoes outside in the yard. Slim and George are talking in the bunkhouse. Lennie comes in with his new puppy under his coat, but George makes him take it back to the barn. The other men come in. Carlson complains about the smell of Candy’s dog, and offers to shoot it. Despite Candy’s protests Slim agrees that this should be done, but that he can have one of his puppies. Everybody leaves except Candy, George and Lennie. Lennie starts talking to George about their dream farm. Candy, who has been grieving for his dog, starts listening, and asks if he can join in the scheme. He has money – $350 – saved. The rest of the men come back, talking about Curley’s wife. Then Curley comes in, and picks a fight with Lennie, who crushes his hand.
The scene is set in Crooks’ room. He does not live with the other men because he is black. He is a bitter, solitary man, and is not pleased when Lennie comes to talk to him, but he realises that he can say what he likes to Lennie, and that Lennie will not gossip, or remember what has been said. Candy comes in to look for Lennie, to talk about the farm. Crooks is very interested, and thinks that he might be able to join them. Curley’s wife then appears, and flirts with the men. When Crooks stands up to her, and tries to get her to leave, she threatens him, saying that she could get him lynched. The other men come back from town.
Lennie is in the barn. He has accidentally killed his puppy by petting it too hard. All the other men are playing horseshoes outside. Curley’s wife comes into the barn. Lennie tries to ignore her, as George has told him not to speak to her, but he ends up telling her what happened to the puppy. Curley’s wife starts telling him about her life and dreams. She invites Lennie to feel her soft hair. When Lennie starts to stroke it too hard, she becomes frightened and struggles. Lennie panics, and in an attempt to quieten her, breaks her neck. Realising that he will be in serious trouble, he half-hides the body in the hay, and escapes. Candy comes in to look for Lennie and sees Curley’s wife. He goes and gets George. George tells Candy to give him a few moments to think, and then to go an tell the men. They all burst in, including Curley, who says he will shoot Lennie, and rushes to get his gun. Slim realises that they will have to find Lennie, and asks George where he might have gone. Some of the men are sent for the Sheriff, At the end, Candy is left alone with the body and his broken dreams,
The scene is the same as Chapter 1. Lennie is hiding in the brush, as George had told him to do. He has visions or hallucinations of his Aunt Clara and a gigantic rabbit telling him off for letting George down. George finds him, and the sound of the other men can be heard in the distance. George sits down beside. Him. Lennie expects George to give him hell, but they just talk. Lennie asks again to be told about the farm. As they talk, George shoots him in the back of the head with Carlson’s gun. The men appear, very excited. Slim realises straight away what has happened, that George had no choice and leads him away from the clearing.