Of Mice and Men

by: John Steinbeck

Section 3

“We’d just go to her,” George said. “We wouldn’t ask nobody if we could. Jus’ say, ‘We’ll go to her,’ an’ we would. Jus’ milk the cow and sling some grain to the chickens an’ go to her.”

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Nearly all of the characters in Of Mice and Men are disempowered in some way. Whether because of a physical or mental handicap, age, class, race, or gender, almost everyone finds him- or herself outside the structures of social power, and each suffers greatly as a result. Inflexible rules dictate that old men are sent away from the ranch when they are no longer useful and black workers are refused entrance to the bunkhouse. While the world described in the book offers no protection for the suffering, there are small comforts. Lennie and George’s story is one such reprieve. The power of their vision of a simple life on an idyllic little farm rests in its ability to soothe the afflicted. In the opening chapter, this vision acts like a salve for Lennie and George after their tumultuous departure from Weed; now, it rouses Candy out of mourning for his dog. As soon as the lonely old man overhears George and Lennie discussing their plans, he seems pitifully eager to join in this paradise. Talking about it again also manages to calm and comfort Lennie after his upsetting run-in with Curley. Despite the fact that with Candy’s help the possibility of purchasing the farm grows more real for George and Lennie than ever before, it is clear that tragic events will intervene. George’s story will prove to be only a temporary escape from the world’s troubles, not a cure.

Steinbeck advances the narrative toward the inevitable tragedy through many instances of foreshadowing in this section. The story of Lennie’s behavior in Weed and his performance in the fight with Curley establish his tendency to exert great strength when confused and frightened. Combined with George’s earlier observation that Lennie kept accidentally killing mice while petting them, these events heavily anticipate Lennie’s deadly interaction with Curley’s wife in the book’s climactic scene. Furthermore, the method by which Carlson kills Candy’s dog, with a painless shot to the back of the head, sadly mirrors the way George will choose to murder his dearest friend. It is no coincidence that soon after George confides in Slim that he has known Lennie since childhood, Candy pathetically says that he could never kill his dog, since he has “had him since he was a pup.” Most significant is Candy’s quiet comment to George that he wishes he had shot his old dog himself and not allowed a stranger to do it, a distinct foreshadowing of the decision George will make to kill Lennie himself rather than let him be killed by Curley and the others.


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