Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Chapter 5 Summary (pages 84-89)

While the rest of the ranch hands play horseshoes, Lennie holes up in the barn stroking his lifeless puppy and mournful that he killed it by bouncing it too hard. Suddenly, Lennie becomes enraged at the dead puppy and hurls it across the barn. Curley’s wife enters and asks what Lennie’s doing. Although Lennie tries to resist her advances, she sits down next to him lamenting her lonely existence on the ranch. When she notices the dead puppy, she begins to console Lennie. She goes on to tell Lennie about her unfulfilled dreams of being an actress in Hollywood. Lennie continues to grieve the puppy’s death and tells Curley’s wife that he likes to pet nice things. Curley’s wife suggests Lennie feel her soft hair, but when Lennie begins to caress her hair he becomes so enthralled with it that he grabs hold of it and refuses to let go. When Curley’s wife begins to panic and scream for him to let go, Lennie becomes more frightened and increasingly violent, stifling her scream with his hand. During the struggle, Lennie shakes her and eventually she falls limp with a broken neck.

Lennie instantly realizes he’s done something wrong and attempts to cover the body with hay. He grabs the puppy, intending to discard it, and leaves the barn. Some time later, Candy enters the barn looking for Lennie. When he discovers Curley’s wife’s body, he immediately summons George to the barn. Candy speculates that Curley will have Lennie lynched and George and Candy realize that their plans to save up money for their own farm are not going to be fulfilled. George instructs Candy to wait a few minutes and then call to the others and act as if he just found Curley’s wife, and Candy complies. When the men eventually arrive in the barn, they instantly know who the culprit is and Carlson heads off to the bunkhouse to retrieve his Luger gun. He quickly returns and announces that someone has stolen his gun; he immediately assumes Lennie was the thief. Curley, who is already armed, instructs the men to get Crooks’ shotgun and then find Lennie and “shoot for his guts.” Curley instructs Whit to run into Soledad to tell the police. George pleads with Curley not to shoot Lennie, but Curley insists. He tells George to stick with them so they know they can trust that George had nothing to do with Curley’s wife’s death. Candy stays behind in the barn with the body.

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