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"Of Mice and Men" – Plot Summary (Steinbeck) 06:34 min

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Transkript "Of Mice and Men" – Plot Summary (Steinbeck)

“Of Mice and Men” - Plot Summary. John Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men” is a story about two migrant farm workers, their loneliness, their feeling of belonging to each other and their mutual dream of owning a farm one day. This video presents the overall plot and the structure of the novel, focusing on the main events in the story. It’s a good idea to have the novel and a dictionary handy. This way you can check any words that you may not understand.

The plot is divided into six chapters. Each one constitutes a ‘scene‘, which is set in one place and at one time. In each scene the dialogue is dominant, which links the novel to the genre of theatre. A critic once called ‘Of Mice and Men” a play-novelette‘, because Steinbeck wanted to create a kind of play that could be read like a novel. In the first chapter George and Lennie, two migrant farm workers, are on the way to their next job on a ranch. Lennie is large and very strong, George is small. They stop by a river to rest and stay for the night. Through their conversation, it transpires that Lennie is slightly mentally disabled and devoted to George’s friendship and protection. George is bound to Lennie, too, even though he says it would be easier to be alone without his companion. Moreover, Lennie doesn’t realize how strong he is and thus often accidentally kills small animals such as mice, which he loves to pet. Lennie and George both share the same dream of owning a farm and living on it and Lennie dreams of keeping rabbits. Lennie asks George to tell him about their dream again and George describes it in detail. The second chapter is set on the next day. George and Lennie reach the farm they are supposed to work on. In the bunkhouse they meet Candy, an old man with his old dog. The boss comes in and asks George and Lennie some questions. George speaks for Lennie in order to hide his lack of intelligence and says that Lennie is his cousin. The boss leaves and Curley, the boss‘s son, enters and asks the newcomers some searching questions. After Curley has left, Candy explains that Curley likes to provoke and to fight with larger men. Candy leaves and Curley‘s wife appears and tries to make conversation. But George makes clear that he doesn’t want to talk to her. Lennie just stares at her. Slim is introduced by the narrator. He is called the ‘prince of the ranch’ and is in charge of the mules. George trusts Slim and explains to him why he travels with Lennie. Slim understands their reasons and gives Lennie a puppy. Then, more and more people come into the room, amongst them Candy and his dog, and Carlson. Carlson persuades Candy to kill the dog because it is old and stinks. Carlson leaves with the dog and a pistol in his hand. Later, in the bunk house, George and Lennie are talking about their mutual dream again. Candy overhears them and asks to join in the plan by offering his earnings. Curley enters and is angry because he thinks his wife is having an affair with Slim. Dreaming of the farm, Lennie smiles at Curley. Curley, however, misinterprets Lennie’s smile as mockery and starts to fight with Lennie. He punches him in his nose and Lennie grabs Curley’s hand and breaks it. Later, when the others have left into town, Lennie visits Crooks, the black stable hand and thoughtlessly tells him of his and George’s plan. Candy also comes in and they sit together and talk. Then Curley’s wife enters and notices that Lennie’s nose is hurt from the fight with Curley. Crooks wants Curley’s wife to leave, but she threatens to have him lynched, so he stops talking. She tells Lennie that she is glad he beat her husband and leaves. On the next day, Lennie is alone in the barn, talking to a puppy he’s accidently killed. Curley’s wife comes in and they start talking. She tells Lennie that she always wanted to become a Hollywood star but then had to marry Curley who she doesn’t love. She discovers the dead puppy and consoles Lennie. He tells her that he likes to touch soft things and she invites him to touch her hair. As he does it too strongly, she gets angry with him. Lennie panics and gets hold of her and covers her mouth to keep her from screaming. By doing this he breaks her neck by mistake, not having any control over his immeasurable strength. When he realises that he’s just killed her, he leaves. The others come into the barn and know straightaway that it was Lennie that killed Curley’s wife. At this moment George and Carlson realise that their dream of an own farm has shattered. Carlson says that his pistol is missing and that Lennie must have taken it.
Lennie is back at the riverbank and hallucinates. George arrives and while he’s telling Lennie of their mutual dream again, he shoots him in the back of the head with Carlson’s pistol. When the others arrive, Slim is the only one who is upset about Lennie’s death, apart, of course, from George.

This is the tragic ending of John Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men”. The death at the end of the novel represents not only Lennie’s demise but also the end of Lennie and George’s dream of their farm.