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Of Mice and Men Study Questions.

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1 Of Mice and Men Study Questions

2 Look back at the first paragraph
Look back at the first paragraph. In your own words, describe the setting. What is the narrator’s tone? What mood is established? Write down one line from the opening paragraph and explain how it supports your conclusion about either the tone or mood. The setting is a creekside in the hills of Northern California. The place is empty at the beginning, except for the small animals that come to enjoy the peace of the area and the clear water. The tone is gentle and calm. The mood is warm and peaceful. Steinbeck places rabbits, raccoons, dogs, and deer in the area, rather than bears and bobcats. The animal choices emphasize the peaceful, non-threatening setting, which is the reason George wants to stay there one extra night instead of continuing on to the corrupt world of men on the ranch.

3 Physically describe Lennie and George
Physically describe Lennie and George. What’s interesting about this contrast? Lennie is large and slow, often described with animal- like terminology. George is shorter and sharp-featured; he’s also much more cautious and alert than Lennie. They serve to balance each other, but the contrast could also be used here to emphasize that things are not always as they seem. One might assume that the bigger man would be the boss or the bully, but the opposite is true. George is the one in charge of this duo.

4 What’s the name of the town where George and Lennie last worked
What’s the name of the town where George and Lennie last worked? What happened that caused the two men to run away from this town? The town was called Weed. The men were run out of town because Lennie saw a girl in a pretty red dress and he wanted to touch the dress. He touched the girl, who got scared and yelled for help. He scared the girl and the two men ran off before they got in trouble for attacking the girl.

5 How are George and Lennie different than other ranch workers
How are George and Lennie different than other ranch workers? Cite a line of text from the chapter that supports your statement. (Yes, this means I want you to write down the entire sentence from the chapter and include the page number citation.) George and Lennie travel together and have a dream for a better life, whereas most of the other men are solo, stick to themselves, and have no plan for the future. It’s rare to find a friendship like this amongst these hardened men. “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go into town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got a thing to look ahead to.”

6 Why did Aunt Clara give Lennie a rubber mouse? Why didn’t he like it?
He liked to pet mice he caught, but he was too rough and would accidentally kill them. Aunt Clara gave him the rubber mouse as a replacement, so he wouldn’t accidentally kill anymore real mice. The problem, though, was that the rubber mouse wasn’t soft to pet, so Lennie didn’t really like it.

7 Describe activities that show George acting as Lennie’s parent/guardian.
George does all of the caretaking roles, like safeguarding Lennie’s work ticket and making sure they have food for dinner. George thinks ahead and looks out for Lennie, just as a loving parent does for a child.

8 Describe activities that show Lennie behaving as an animal.
Steinbeck repeated refers to Lennie with animal terminology, saying he walks like a bear or dips his head into the water like a horse. The scene with the mouse also echoes the idea of a master and dog, as Lennie obeys George.

9 George gets frustrated and yells at Lennie, saying, “
George gets frustrated and yells at Lennie, saying, “...if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an’ work, an’ no trouble.” Why, do you suppose, George hasn’t left Lennie? Does George really want to be rid of Lennie? Explain your answer. If George really wanted to be rid of Lennie, he could have easily abandoned him. It’s clear to the reader that although George gets frustrated with his friend, he really enjoys Lennie’s childlike wonderment. By having Lennie, George has a role in life as caretaker and the friendship wards off the lonely feelings that the other men of their profession face. Every parent gets frustrated with his/her child at times, but the love is always there. This is similar to what’s happening with George and Lennie.

10 The last guy who slept in George’s bunk just up and “quit, the way a guy will.” What does this show us about the lifestyle of the ranch men? These men live a nomadic existence, coming and going without a schedule or plan. This lifestyle prevents the men from making real connections with each other and actually serves to further isolate each of them. The unpredictability of such a lifestyle is also very stressful. When you don’t know what to expect, you’re alwayson edge. These men live in a rough, unpredictable world.

11 What was the boss’ Christmas gift to the men
What was the boss’ Christmas gift to the men? What did they do for fun that night? What’s the significance of this? The boss gave the men a gallon of whiskey to share. The men got drunk and one of white men, Smitty, picked a fight with Crooks, the African-American stablebuck who isn’t allowed to live in the bunkhouse with the rest of the men. Crooks has a crooked back, so the men said that Smitty couldn’t use his feet in the fight. Crooks won the fight. The significance is that these men are godless (getting drunk on Christmas isn’t exactly a Christian act) and rough. Their idea of a good time is witnessing a fight. These men are far from refined and live, instead, in a rough, violent world. It’s also interesting that, in this time of segregation, Steinbeck makes the comment that the black man can win if the playing field is leveled.

12 Why does Curley, the boss’ son, automatically hate Lennie?
Curley has a chip on his shoulder because he’s not a big guy. As soon as Curley sees Lennie, he is jealous of Lennie’s size and power. In order to make himself feel bigger, Curley lords his powerful position on the ranch over Lennie and George.

13 Why do you suppose Curley chose his wife to marry
Why do you suppose Curley chose his wife to marry? What’s the irony of this decision? He likely chose her because she’s physically pretty and very flirtatious. The trouble, of course, is that the things that attracted him to his wife also attract other men to his wife. Curley is now ironically tortured by the very qualities that attracted him. We also should chuckle a bit that Curley has power over the men on his father’s ranch, but he doesn’t seem to be able to have much power over his wife. For a short man who wants to feel empowered, this is a problem.

14 What happened to Lulu’s puppies? How is this significant?
Lulu, Slim’s dog, birthed nine puppies, but she wasn’t able to nurse all of them so Slim took the four weakest pups and drowned them, giving better odds of survival for the five strongest ones. As a reader, this seems brutal at first, but it’s actually the harsh truth of Darwinism. Slim’s actions show us that these men are not sentimental. Slim knows what has to be done and he does it.

15 What is Carlson’s problem with Candy’s dog?
Candy’s dog is very old. It’s nearly blind, has trouble walking, and can’t even chew its own food because it doesn’t have any teeth. The dog stinks and Carlson thinks it’s time to put the dog down. Carlson is tired of looking at the miserable dog and smelling the foulness of its decay. He suggests that Candy replace the dog with one of Lulu’s new pups.

16 Of the new characters in this chapter, which one do you like the best and why?

17 What is Susy’s place? What does the popularity of Susy’s place show us?
Susy’s Place is a whorehouse. These men are not the kind of men that nice girls date and marry, so the men regularly visit the prostitutes to take care of their sexual needs. While the idea of prostitution is disturbing, this popularity of Susy’s Place shows us that these men, at least on some level, crave tenderness and softness. Humans need to feel connected to others. Since the economic climate at the ranch prevents friendships from forming, the men seek out connection, even it’s only temporary, with the women at Susy’s Place. Also, no respectable woman would date or marry one of these men, yet these men are at the peak of their physical strength and have manly needs.

18 When talking to Slim about Lennie, George says, “Funny
When talking to Slim about Lennie, George says, “Funny...I used to have a hell of a lot of fun with ‘im. Used to play jokes on ‘im ‘cause he was too dumb to take care of ‘imself. But he was too dumb even to know he had a joke played on him...Tell you what made me stop that. One day a bunch of guys was standin’ around up on the Sacramento River. I was feelin’ pretty smart. I turns to Lennie and says, ‘Jump in.’ An’ he jumps. Couldn’t swim a stroke. He damn near drowned before we could get him. An’ he was so damn nice to me for pullin’ him out. Clean forgot I told him to jump in. Well, I ain’t done nothing like that no more.” What does this passage show us about Lennie? About George? About Slim?

19 Lennie is a trusting soul who doesn’t think through the consequences of his actions. George is a kind soul who realizes it is cruel and wrong to take advantage of a simpleton. He is someone who works to protect the innocent, even if his manner is gruff at times. Finally, this passage shows that Slim is easy to talk to, someone who immediately instills confidence and trust with people. He just met George, yet George quickly opens up to him. This also shows George’s need to make connections with others.

20 What are the two card games that George half-heartedly plays during this chapter? Assign some symbolic significance to either or both of the card games in the chapter. The two games are euchre and solitaire. Euchre is a competitive game and Whit agrees to play with George, but no hand ever gets dealt because of the tension in the room over Candy’s dog. Symbolically, this shows that George is unwilling to connect with Whit or that he doesn’t want to compete with the other men. Solitaire is a solo game, which George plays alone in the chapter. Symbolically, George really is alone. Although he has Lennie’s friendship, George is alone in his burden of watching out for Lennie, almost like a single parent. The solitaire game also is a tool that foreshadows the death of …

21 Carlson wants to put Candy’s dog out of its misery
Carlson wants to put Candy’s dog out of its misery. Candy wants the dog to remain alive. Who’s right? Why? Also, symbolically connect the dog to Candy himself. Symbolically, Candy is just the same as the old dog – broken and a bit of a burden. Slim says he wishes that someone would take him and shoot when when he’s too old and crippled. The connection is made here for the reader to see that Candy faces a similar fate. He won’t be shot, but he’ll be dismissed from his job and left to fend for himself. It’s a bleak future for Candy. Finally, Candy and his dog emphasize to the reader the cruelty of this society, where anyone who is no longer functional in the economic machine is discarded. By using Candy and his dog, Steinbeck is subtly trying to make us see the flaws in the economic system of the U.S. in the 1930s.

22 How much money does Candy have. Where did he get the money
How much money does Candy have? Where did he get the money? Why is Candy so keen to join George and Lennie on their dream farm? Candy has $300. He was given $250 as compensation for his lost hand and he’s saved the other $50 from his regular wages. He’ll have another $50 coming at the end of the month as his next paycheck. Candy wants to join George and Lennie because he realizes he’ll have no place to go when the ranch boss decides he’s no longer useful. If Candy joins George and Lennie, he’ll always have a home and a place to belong. He’ll also have the companionship that’s now missing in his life. Social Security was one of the proposals that President Roosevelt was launching while Steinbeck was writing this book. Social Security was launched in The book was published in 1937.

23 Why does Curley attack Lennie. Look closely at the scene
Why does Curley attack Lennie? Look closely at the scene. At what point does Lennie react/defend himself? What’s the significance of this? Curley mistakenly thinks that Lennie is laughing at him with the other men, when, in fact, Lennie is not aware of the drama between Curley and Slim and is simply chuckling to himself with glee thinking about the dream farm. Curley, who has just been embarrassed in front of the workers, picks a fight with Lennie, thinking he’ll earn some respect back by beating the much- larger Lennie. Lennie defends himself and attacks Curley only when George tells him to do so. In the scene, George says, “Get ‘im, Lennie!” This moment feels very much like a master siccing his dog on someone. Lennie follows George’s command and breaks nearly every bone in Curley’s hand.

24 Lennie has just maimed the boss’ son
Lennie has just maimed the boss’ son. What does Slim do to ensure that George and Lennie won’t get fired? Curley agree to say that his hand was caught in a machine, so as to avoid the embarrassment of other people finding out he was taken down so quickly by Lennie. Curley agrees to keep quiet.

25 How is the setting different in this chapter
How is the setting different in this chapter? How do your feelings change because of the difference? The setting shifts from the bunkhouse to the solitude of Crooks’ room in the barn. Just like the man, the room is somber and quiet. Our feelings shift in this scene as we begin to realize that Crooks is suffering deeply from his isolation, almost like a prisoner in solitary confinement.

26 Why does Crooks have more items than most of the other men
Why does Crooks have more items than most of the other men? Take a look at his belongings. Choose three specific items and explain what they show about this character. His job, taking care of the horses, is more permanent than the work of the ranch-hands, so he’s been able to stay in one place longer and build a little more wealth, or at least material possessions, than the other workers. Three especially interesting items are the alarm clock, the single-barrel shot gun, and the “dirty” books. The clock shows that he’s more isolated than the other men; there’s no one who stops by to chat or to wake him each day. The gun hints that danger lies in the night, either from drunken white men or wildlife coming down from the foothills. This is, arguably, the loneliest character in the book.

27 Despite the racial segregation of the time, Crooks asks to join Candy and Lennie on the dream farm. Later, he says he was “jus’ foolin’. I wouldn’ want to go no place like that.” What causes his change of heart? When Curley’s wife enters his room, he speaks to her with force, wanting her to leave and not cause trouble. Curley’s wife is insulted that a black man should speak to her so forcibly, so she threatens to have him lynched if he steps out of line. This shuts him down and he retracts his interest in joining the men on their dream farm, closing himself up like a fan.

28 “I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny
“I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” Who says this line? Discuss the power structure of the ranch. Which characters have power? Which don’t? Where does Crooks rate in terms of power on the ranch? Curley’s wife says this line to Crooks. Although she doesn’t have as much power on the ranch as her husband or father-in-law, she does outrank the working men and she takes this opportunity to feel powerful by threatening Crooks. Crooks, being the sole African-American on the ranch, rates in the lowest spot in the social pecking order. The characters with money have power. We see this with Candy, who has a small amount of power to perhaps secure his retirement years. The other workers, like George, Lennie, Whit, and Carlson, don’t have much power, but they do rank slightly higher on the scale than Crooks.

29 Why is George unhappy when he returns to the ranch
Why is George unhappy when he returns to the ranch? Is he right to be upset? Explain your answer. George is unhappy because he finds Lennie in Crooks’ room, where he’s not supposed to be.

30 The idea of loneliness is a key part of this book
The idea of loneliness is a key part of this book. Write two lines spoken by Crooks, include page number, where he directly talks about his feelings of loneliness. 1. “Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody – to be near him.” 2. “I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.”

31 List the reasons that Lennie gives to explain how the puppy is responsible for its own death. Are Lennie’s arguments valid? Why or why not? He says that he didn’t bounce the puppy very hard and the animal should’ve been able to handle it. He says the puppy is not as small as a mouse and should’ve been able to endure his rough play. Of course this is not a valid argument. This is very similar to blaming the victim for a crime. When someone is not willing to take responsibility for the consequences of his actions, it shows us that this person is immature. Lennie, of course, is more like a child than an adult.

32 Explain what happened to Curley’s wife that led her to meet and quickly marry Curley.
She was taken advantage of by a man who pretended to be from Hollywood. He lied to her and told her that she would be in one of his movies. Basically, it was a scam by a slimy guy who seems to have had a one-night stand with her. She fell for his line. Instead of admitting that he was a liar and she was fooled, she continues to believe the lie. She met Curley at the same dance hall and married him to get away from her mother, who she thinks stole the non-existent letters from Mr. Hollywood.

33 I know that you want to despise Curley’s wife, but this chapter helps us to see her in a slightly different light, changing her from a static character to one who is more dynamic. Now that you know a bit of her background, how have your feelings about this character changed? Explain your answer. For me, I still dislike Curley’s wife because she serves to block Lennie and George from their dream and she threatens Crooks, but I do feel sorry for her. She’s a victim of her circumstances, having few options in a depressed economy other than marrying a horrible man like Curley to ensure her survival. She is so desperate for attention or a feeling of connection with someone that she reveals her darkest secrets to a mentally challenged worker who just arrived on the ranch a day and a half ago. This is a lonely, desperate woman and I do feel sorry for her.

34 When Lennie runs away, he takes the dead puppy with him, saying, “I’ll throw him away...It’s bad enough like it is.” What does this show us about his mental state? Lennie really is a child, not realizing the severity in difference between the dead girl and the dead puppy. For a child, the world is seen in black-and-white terms. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. To Lennie, any death he has caused – the girl or the dog – is equally bad. As adults, we realize that the world of morality is defined more in shades of gray, or degrees of rightness/wrongness. This line simply emphasizes Lennie’s childlike or simple mental state.

35 When all of the ranchers enter the barn, which one of them inspects Curley’s wife’s neck? What does this show us? Slim, not Curley himself, is the one to check for vital signs. This could be interpreted to mean that Curley didn’t really love his wife. He doesn’t rush to her body, but instead allows Slim to be the one to tenderly touch her wrist, cheek, and neck. Also, this could show that Slim is the one who does the difficult, compassionate things on the ranch, not Curley. Either way, Curley doesn’t cry or grieve. Instead, he immediately goes into attack mode, rallying the men to hunt down Lennie.

36 Now that you’ve finished the chapter, explain what the death of the puppy foreshadows. Also, the puppy can be seen as a symbol. How so? The puppy foreshadows the death of Curley’s wife. It also symbolizes the death of the dream farm for George and Lennie (and Candy).

37 Other than the death of the puppy at the beginning of chapter 5, what clues have there been throughout the book that lead up to Lennie’s killing of Curley’s wife?

38 As Lennie is hiding in the brush waiting for George, he has two hallucinations. Describe the two separate hallucinations and explain how each are meaningful to Lennie and the reader. Lennie’s hallucinations are Aunt Clara and a giant rabbit, both of whom scold him for disappointing George. These are both manifestations of the stress Lennie is feeling and makes us think of a child’s imaginary friend, or, in this case, imaginary critics. Both Aunt Clara and the rabbit verbalize the things that Lennie fears most.

39 Look carefully at the dialogue between George and Lennie right before the shooting. What’s interesting about the way George is talking? He’s actually have a dialogue filled with double- meaning as he talks to Lennie but also talks himself into doing what he knows he needs to do. George’s lines have two meanings.

40 Slim says, “You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. ” Is this true
Slim says, “You hadda, George...I swear you hadda.” Is this true? What would have happened if George had waited another five minutes? Slim, ultimately, is correct. If George had not done the mercy killing, there would have been a violent, ugly scene when Curley and the men arrived. Lennie would’ve been scared and probably killed in a violent way, undoubtedly hurting other people in the fray. George’s way of ending Lennie’s life was the most merciful choice in a horrible situation.

41 At what point did George decide he was going to have to kill Lennie
At what point did George decide he was going to have to kill Lennie? Look back over the end of ch. 5 for clues. The most reasonable answer is that he decided this when Candy showed him the body of Curley’s wife. There’s a steely moment for George in that scene and then he asks Candy to give him a few minutes before announcing the girl’s death to the other men. In those few minutes, George does to the bunkhouse and takes Carlson’s gun. The gun, of course, is used to end Lennie’s life.

42 Why can’t Candy and George still get the dream farm
Why can’t Candy and George still get the dream farm? Explain why George turns away from Candy in chapter 5. The dream farm is an idea that was never going to come true, George realizes. For men like him, there will always be something to block him from acquiring his dream. The farm was a longtime dream with Lennie. Now that George knows he has to kill Lennie (end of ch. 5)/has killed Lennie (end of ch. 6), there’s no way he’s going to continue on that dream path without his friend.

43 What’s interesting about the last paragraph?
Steinbeck emphasizes the callousness of these men by having Carlson and Curley be completely devoid of emotion or empathy for George’s plight. The harshness of this world is emphasized in these closing lines.

44 What do you think will happen to George now?
He has been broken by this experience and the reader is led to believe that he’ll become one of the hardened loners who aimlessly drift from job to job. There is no happy ending here. George’s life has been ruined.


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