Of Mice and Men Chapter 3 Summary (pages 38-65)
by John Steinbeck

George thanks Slim for giving one of his puppies to Lennie. Slim responds by commenting that Lennie isn’t bright but that he’s shown great strength in bucking barley on the ranch. Slim again mentions how unusual it is to see two guys traveling together as migrant farm workers to which George replies that he’s gotten used to traveling with Lennie ever since Lennie’s Aunt Clara died and left him in George’s care. Throughout their conversation, George expresses compassion for Lennie, while still not hesitating to point out Lennie’s flaws. When Slim asks why the two men left Weed, George hesitantly explains that Lennie had latched onto a woman’s red dress, got all “mixed up” and wouldn’t let go of it. George had to intercede to convince Lennie to let go of the dress, and shortly thereafter the woman told the police she’d been raped.

Carlson returns from playing horseshoes with Crooks and immediately begins complaining about the stench of Candy’s dog. Slim offers a pup to Candy and tells him that he should shoot the old dog to put it out of its misery. Eventually Carlson offers to shoot the dog himself. Candy is clearly hesitant to end the life of his beloved companion, but eventually he agrees to let Carlson do it, and Carlson subsequently takes the dog outside and shoots it.

Meanwhile over a game of cards, George comments to a field hand named Whit that he and Lennie aim to stick around for a while and “roll up a stake” of cash. Crooks pokes his head in to tell Slim that Lennie is pestering the newborn puppies. When Slim leaves, Whit tells George about a local drinking establishment and brothel called Old Susy’s. Lennie and Carlson return to the bunkhouse and Carlson cleans his gun and returns it to the bag under his bunk. George and Lennie repeat their dream of rolling up a stake and buying their own ranch where Lennie can tend the rabbits. Candy offers to chip in some money if he can live on their ranch and tend the garden. Candy fears that if he’s deemed helpless, he’ll be shot like his dog, and he laments having not shot the dog himself. George and Candy make a plan to put a down payment on a plot of land in a month’s time.

Their plans are interrupted when Curley returns, seeking his wife. Carlson snaps at Curley telling him he should keep better track of her. As Curley’s responding to Carlson’s affront, he notices Lennie, still smiling at the thought of tending the rabbits on his own ranch. Assuming Lennie is laughing at him, Curley confronts Lennie, challenging him to a fight. Noticeably terrified, Lennie begs George to stop Curley. Irritated at Curley’s taunts, Slim nearly throws a punch, but before he can, George instructs Lennie to “get ‘im.” Mid-punch, Curley finds his fist grasped by Lennie, who proceeds to crush his fingers and hand, incapable of letting go until instructed to do so by George. Slim convinces Curley to claim his hand was caught in a machine and Carlson escorts him to a doctor. Visibly shaken, Lennie apologizes for hurting the man, simply stating that he was only following George’s instructions.

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