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How does the title of the novel relate to “A Mouse”?
John Steinbeck takes the title of this novel from the poem “To a Mouse on turning her up in her nest with the plough,” written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1785.In the poem, the speaker has accidentally turned up a mouse’s nest with his plow. He pauses for a little rumination about how men and animals might seem different, but in the end they’re all mortal. No matter how different “thinking men” and “unthinking animals” seem, everybody suffers and dies in the end. In other words, the mouse can’t think about the past or the future. Does this remind you of anyone? Us, too. It seems like Steinbeck is thinking of Lennie as the mouse, and George as the man who turns up its nest: life messes them both up, but at least Lennie doesn’t have to remember any of it. Whatever happens to Lennie is over. He doesn’t regret anything and he doesn’t anticipate anything—not even his death.But not George. George will have to live with what he’s done for the rest of his life.
Literary relation to the poem
Of course, the greatest parallel between the little creature of “To a Mouse” and Lennie Small, who is, indeed, but a small man in the scope of the many disenfranchised itinerant men, is that like the Burns’s mouse he falls victim to “Man’s dominion.” For, with Lennie’s diminished mental capacity, he has only a small place in the fraternity of men. And, with his misfortune in killing Curley’s wife, he is doomed to be destroyed and, with him, so is the “nest” of the dream of a ranch that he and George have–“Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin.” Now, the mouse is faced with “bleak December winds ensuin'” just as George, after Lennie’s death, is faced with the terrible aloneness and the death of their dream with which he is left. With both the “wee” mouse and with Small, the schemes of Mice and Men do, indeed, go awry.”
key points of chapter 1
This chapter starts by first introducing the setting and then leading into the description of the two main characters. George and Lennie are sitting by the Salinas River which is just outside a little Californian town named Soledad. They have found a little place to camp which is tree covered and not that far from the ranch that they are supposed to work at the next day. Lennie has a large, intimating body but his character has the mind of a child. George on the other hand, is a small, defined, smart character that makes decisions for them both. George, being the decision maker, decides that they will camp there tonight to relax before they start the intensive labor work tomorrow. Then George sees that Lennie is petting a dead mouse in his gigantic hand and demands that Lennie drop it, as it is not fresh”. Lennie gets upset which then makes George mad and George indicates the he would be better off without Lennie. Lennie decides he can go live in a cave up in the hills and fend for himself, but George calms down and tells Lennie he doesn’t want him to leave. They get a fire going and the Lennie asks George to tell him about what they’re going to do when they get enough money. This leads to how they are going to have a place for themselves and have all sorts of animals. Lennie is truly interested in the rabbits he is going to tend on this fantasy farm because they are soft and Lennie loves soft things. At the end of the chapter they both fall asleep under the starry night.
key points of chapter 2
George warns Lennie not to talk. Lennie talks. The boss is angry that Lennie and George have shown up a day late and suspects George of taking advantage of Lennie. Curley shows up looking for his wife. He starts messing with Lennie. Candy tells Lennie and George that Curley is the boss’s son, knows how to box, and likes to pick on big people. George warns Lennie to stay away from Curley. Curley’s flirtatious wife shows up looking for Curley. Lennie thinks she’s pretty. George warns Lennie to stay away from her (job advice: stay away from the boss’s son’s flirtatious wife…unless she’s really hot and you don’t really need the job).
key points of chapter 3
Slim returns to the bunkhouse with Lennie after work. George tells Slim, who admires the two’s friendship, Lennie’s history, how they became friends, and how they got run out of Weed. Lennie enters the bunkhouse secretly carrying his new puppy. George orders him to return the puppy to its mother.
Carlson urges Candy to shoot his old dog. Slim concurs. Carlson takes the dog outside and shoots it (being a dog on this ranch isn’t such a good thing.). Curley enters looking for his wife. He suspects she’s having an affair with Slim and goes to look for him. George and Lennie talk about their farm. Candy is intrigued and offers his life savings if he can be part of it (financial advice: don’t ever offer your life savings to two suspicious looking guys who you barely know). Everyone’s excited.
Curley returns, still angry, and picks a fight with Lennie. Curley uses Lennie’s face as a punching bag. George orders Lennie to defend himself (bad news for Curley). Lennie grabs Curley’s hand and crushes it with ease. Slim takes Curley to the doctor and tells him if Lennie and George are fired, he’ll be the laughingstock of the ranch.
Foreshadowing Alert: Lennie is often described using animal imagery. Animals die a lot in this book. There’s absolutely nothing in this novel that makes me think there’s gonna be a happy ending.
key points of chapter 4
he workers have gone to the cathouse except for Lennie, Crooks, and Candy. Lennie stands at the doorway of Crooks’ room, and Crooks tells him to go away. Lennie, not being the smartest man on the ranch, stays. Finally Crooks invites him in and makes fun of him until Lennie gets angry.
Lennie tells Crooks about the farm. Candy comes in and blabs about the farm. Crooks, skeptical but desperate, asks if he can work on the farm. They’re all feeling good until Curley’s wife shows up. She insults the men and threatens Crooks that she could have him lynched if he doesn’t shut his mouth.
Foreshadowing Alert: Everytime people talk about the farm and are happy, either Curley or his wife show up and make people angry. George has warned Lennie several times to stay away from them. I suspect either Curley or his wife is going to ruin this dream.
key points of chapter 5
Chapter 5 begins with Lennie stroking his dead puppy (PETA pickets the farm in chapter 7 (just kidding–there is no chapter 7)). He worries what George will say. Curley’s wife comes in (this can’t be good). She tells Lennie about her dreams of stardom. Lennie’s too dumb to follow the conversation.
Lennie talks about rabbits and explains how he likes feeling soft, furry things (he leaves the part out about him always accidentally killing soft, furry things). She offers to let Lennie stroke her hair (this can’t be good). He becomes excited and holds on to it (this can’t be good). She panics ( I’ve a bad feeling). He covers her mouth so he won’t get in trouble (I’ve a really bad feeling). Lennie breaks her neck (not good). Lennie runs to the riverbed
Candy comes in the barn, sees the dead body, and gets George. George leaves so as not to be suspected. Candy alerts the others. George comes in last. Carlson reports his gun missing. The mob suspects that Lennie stole it. The mob searches for Lennie.
Foreshadowing Alert: Carlson’s gun is missing. We know Lennie didn’t take it.
key points of chapter 6
Lennie arrives at the riverbed. He hallucinates seeing Aunt Clara and a giant, talking rabbit. George arrives and reassures Lennie. The mob approaches. George shoots Lennie in the back of the head with Carlson’s gun. The mob arrives. Slim is the only one who understands what happened (Allow yourself a few minutes to collect yourself after reading chapter 6. Don’t read it before a birthday party or any other celebration.)