Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws.
The narrator employs animal metaphors throughout the story, and in this first description of Lennie, suggests both his bear-like brute strength and his “heavy,” “dragging” psychological simplicity.
His huge companion . . . flung himself down and drank from the surface of the green pool; drank with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse.
This simile comparing the way Lennie drinks water from the pool to a horse further demonstrates Lennie’s unrefined instincts and his simple nature, and when George then reminds him to avoid drinking water that will make him sick—as Lennie has just done the night before—the narrator is indicating that Lennie is not someone who easily learns from his mistakes.
A water snake slipped along on the pool, its head held up like a little periscope.
This simile, in which the narrator compares the water snake’s head to a submarine’s periscope stealthily raised to pan around in search of potential threats, strikingly foreshadows one of Lennie’s most persistent physical movements: turning his head back and forth between a threat and George, in order to know how he ought to respond to a given situation.
What the hell kind of bed you giving us, anyways. We don’t want no pants rabbits.
This colorful metaphor, in which George indignantly demands to know whether there are lice in the bedding, unexpectedly evokes the rabbits that Lennie so desperately longs to tend, since, as George says, they are not interested in “pants rabbits.”
“Well—she got the eye.”
“Yeah? Married two weeks and got the eye? ...”
“I seen her give Slim the eye. Slim’s a jerkline skinner. Hell of a nice fella. Slim don’t need to wear no high-heeled boots on a grain team. I seen her give Slim the eye. Curley never seen it. An’ I see her give Carlson the eye.”
In this metaphorical exchange, Candy warns George that Curley’s wife of two weeks is dangerous because she keeps trying to engage with the other workers, especially Slim. Candy suggests that she is looking for an opportunity to be unfaithful to Curley, who is possessive and insecure.
His hands, large and lean, were as delicate in their action as those of a temple dancer.
In this simile describing Slim—who by virtue of his physical stature, his unquestionable prowess driving the mule team, and his faultless character is accorded the greatest respect and authority on the ranch—the narrator compares the movement of his large and powerful hands to that of a dancer, in stark contrast to any description of Lennie’s large hands, which are often referred to as paws.
Curley stepped over to Lennie like a terrier.
In this simile, the narrator aptly compares Curley’s approach to engage Lennie in a fight to that of a terrier, a dog bred to hunt vermin and renowned for its fearless and relentless pursuit, no matter how big its opponent. However, Curley, who was spoiling for a fight with anyone, didn’t account for how he might counter Lennie’s defense of himself once George gave Lennie the go-ahead.
Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego—nothing to arouse either like or dislike. He said, “Yes, ma’am,” and his voice was toneless.
In this metaphor—which immediately follows Curley’s wife’s threat to have Crooks lynched because he told her to leave his room—the narrator observes as Crooks erases himself, comparing him to “nothing” that would elicit any kind of response. This description deftly demonstrates how precarious his place as the lone Black man on the ranch is.
And then her words tumbled out in a passion of communication, as though she hurried before her listener could be taken away.
This metaphor describes Curley’s wife’s desperation to be seen and heard for longer than a moment; the words come out of her mouth so fast because she needs someone to hear her, and Lennie is the person who gives her the space and attention to speak and be heard.
“Don’t you go yellin’,” he said, and he shook her; and her body flopped like a fish.
In this simile, which echoes the description of Lennie crushing Curley’s fist, the narrator compares Curley’s wife’s death throes under Lennie’s suffocating hand to those of a fish out of water. Just as a fish would behave out of water, Curley’s wife desperately and uselessly gasps for air, but Lennie does not recognize that his attempt to silence her screaming is killing her.