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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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The dialogue continues to follow this pattern of critical comments from George and innocent responses from Lennie through the next several pages. George's ranting seems to have little effect on Lennie. He has obviously heard it all before, or he is just too stupid to recognize George's sarcasm. George's emotions run from impatient to angry to exasperated, while Lennie's move swiftly back and forth between sad and happy.

Little by little, we discover that the two men have been traveling together for some time. Two elements make this clear. One is Lennie's constant imitation of George's actions. He acts like George's dog or younger brother. He obviously trusts George in a way that could come only from long association with him. A second element is George's knowing exactly what Lennie is doing, even when Lennie is trying to be secretive. When George sees Lennie's hand sneak into his pocket, he immediately asks, "What'd you take outa that pocket?" He demands to see Lennie's "treasure"- a dead mouse. And after George has thrown the mouse across the river, he knows that Lennie has gone to retrieve it.

NOTE: THE TITLE

The mouse that George and Lennie throw around is not the reason for the book's title. The title is taken from a poem by Robert Burns that includes the lines "The best laid schemes o' mice and men / Gang aft a-gley," or often go astray. As you will see, George and Lennie have big plans, but the title gives a good hint that things may not turn out too well. The title may also relate to the two sides of Lennie-the person and animal. Or it may relate to the famous expression, "Are you a man or a mouse?" The expression means, are you brave or cowardly? There are lots of cowards in the novel, but not too many brave people.



After George has thrown the mouse away a second time, the relationship of the two men comes into clearer focus. Lennie starts to "blubber like a baby," and George begins to comfort him. "I ain't takin' it away jus' for meanness," George says. "That mouse ain't fresh, Lennie; and besides, you've broke it pettin' it. You get another mouse that's fresh and I'll let you keep it a little while." George obviously cares for Lennie a great deal. And Lennie is obviously a mixture of little kid and crazy adult. George is the thinker, the brains and the mouth of their partnership. He tells Lennie "not to say nothin'" when they see their new boss on the ranch. Lennie is the strength of the pair. His hands are his most important feature. His sense of touch is one he uses most. He prefers even a rotting dead mouse to a rubber one that "wasn't no good to pet." George, with his eyes and brains, spots the wood they will need for their campfire, but Lennie gathers the wood.

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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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