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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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Why do you think Steinbeck is telling us all these things? One reason is probably to get us to like Lennie, because he's an underdog being picked on by a bully, and to dislike Curley. Another reason may be to warn us through foreshadowing that there is potential danger for Lennie and for George and Lennie's togetherness on this ranch. George senses this danger and says, "Look, Lennie! This here ain't no set up. I'm scared." George even repeats his instructions to Lennie to return to the riverbank if there should be any big trouble.

Another dangerous person, Curley's wife, comes into the room next. She's wearing lots of makeup and flashy clothes. She stands in the doorway showing off her body to the new men. Lennie is fascinated by her, but George is angry. George and Candy agree that she's a "tart." Once again, George has to warn Lennie about the potential danger he spots.

You're probably beginning to get worried for Lennie by now. He seems so innocent, like a little child, and he's vulnerable too. Can he really survive all of these dangers? Lennie doesn't think so. He says, "I don' like this place, George. This ain't no good place. I wanna get outa here." George reluctantly says they've got to stay for a little while. They've got to get a little bit of a stake together to help pay for their dream farm. Little by little the hopefulness we and the characters felt at the end of the first chapter is starting to wear away.

The last two important characters enter the bunk house. They are Slim and Carlson. Throughout the book these two men will present us with opposite views of ranch life and ranch people. (You read more about them and what they symbolize in The Characters section of this guide.)

Slim is the "prince" of the ranch. He is like a Greek god or knight of the Round Table. He's almost not human. What would you think of someone whose word was always accepted as law, whose "ear heard more than was said to him," and who had "understanding beyond thought"? Slim seems too good to be true, doesn't he? George is willing to tell him his true feelings about Lennie: "It's a lot nicer to go around with a guy you know," he says. He will discuss their relationship more fully with Slim in the next chapter.



Carlson is a lot more "earthy" than Slim. The first thing we learn about him is that he has a pot belly. He makes a joke on Lennie's name, and then proceeds to ask about Slim's "bitch." At first we think Carlson is swearing, but we learn that Slim has a female dog who has given birth to puppies. Both Carlson and Lennie want one of those puppies. Lennie wants one to pet; Carlson wants one to replace Candy's old dog, which he wants to have shot.

Slim and Carlson show us two opposite sets of qualities. Slim presents good will, compassion, and understanding. Carlson presents a lack of concern for others' feelings. We'll see more of these two men and their qualities in later chapters.

As the chapter draws to a close, George agrees to ask Slim for a puppy for Lennie and also nearly starts to fight with Curley. We see a mix of love and fear. Are things hopeful or not? We'll soon see.

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