Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Chapter 2 Summary (pages 17-37)

The second chapter opens in the bunkhouse of the ranch where George and Lennie are seeking farm work. Although the bunkhouse is where all the field hands live, it’s deserted, indicating that the men are already out in the fields. An old man who’s missing one hand enters the bunkhouse with a broom. He is later identified as Candy, and his only friend is an old, blind, foul-smelling sheepdog that follows him around the ranch.

George and Lennie enter and first encounter Candy, who provides some description of the ranch, including a reference to the African-American named Crooks. Named as such due to a crooked back that resulted from being kicked by a horse, Crooks is the only black ranch hand, and his job as “stable buck” is to care for the horses and mules in the stables. Shortly thereafter, the boss enters, angry that George and Lennie had not arrived the night before as he’d been told they would. The boss, a stocky man in a Stetson hat, flannel shirt and boots with spurs, employs the two men anyways, and Lennie manages to stay quiet as George arranges their employment. Shortly after the boss leaves, his son, Curley, enters looking for his dad. Curley, a thin, young curly-haired man wearing a work glove on one hand, insists that Lennie respond to his questions. Curley is clearly intimidated by Lennie’s size and apparent strength. Lennie fearfully stutters his responses to Curley and later, after Curley’s departure, tells George he is afraid of another potential encounter with Curley. Once again, George privately reminds Lennie to run away and hide in the brush if he gets into trouble again.

After Curley leaves, Candy tells George and Lennie that Curley’s wife also lives on the ranch and that she has a habit of flirting with the other field hands. Soon she appears in the bunkhouse, looking for Curley. Curley’s wife, who is never given a proper name, is adorned in red fingernails, heavy makeup, a cotton dress, and red shoes.

Soon, the laborers return from the fields and one named Slim enters the bunkhouse. He is tall, has long, black hair combed straight back, wears denim jeans and jacket, and walks with an authoritative air about him, setting him apart as a skilled worker and craftsman. Slim engages George in conversation and expresses curiosity and bewilderment over seeing two guys traveling together. Slim introduces the two men to another field hand, Carlson, and shares that his dog had nine puppies last night, four of which he had to drowned so that the others could live.

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