Of Mice & Men
The novel begins near the Salinas River, south of Soledad in the California valley. The Gabilan Mountains rise up on one side and drop to valleys on the other. The river and its banks are alive with animals and plants. A path leads to the banks of the river, and the two main characters, George Milton and Lennie Small, follow this path to the river. While George is small with sharp features, Lennie is a big man with rounded features. He drags his feet when he walks, following George step for step. They are on their way to a job at a nearby ranch, and their ride has left them several miles away. It is hot and they are tired from the walk.
The next day, Lennie and George make their way to the ranch bunkhouse, where they are greeted by Candy, an aging “swamper,” or handyman, who has lost his right hand. The bunkhouse is an unadorned building where the men sleep on “burlap ticking” and keep their few possessions in apple boxes that have been nailed to the walls. George is dismayed to find a can of lice powder in his bunk, but Candy assures him that he’s in no danger of being infested, since the man who slept there before George was remarkably clean. George asks about the boss, and Candy reports that although the boss was angry that George and Lennie did not arrive the previous night as he had expected them to, he can be a “pretty nice fella.” Candy relates how the boss gave the men a gallon of whiskey for Christmas, which immediately impresses George.
At the end of the workday, Slim and George return to the bunkhouse. Slim has agreed to give one of the pups to Lennie, and George thanks him for his kindness, insisting that Lennie is “dumb as hell,” but is neither crazy nor mean. Slim appreciates George’s friendship with Lennie, saying that it is a welcome change in a world where no one ever “seems to give a damn about nobody.” George confides in Slim the story of how he and Lennie came to be companions....
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