3 Sentence Summary
In 1937, John Steinbeck published his novella Of Mice and Men, which is considered his first significant work. It revolves around George Milton and Lennie Small, who aim to own their land during the Great Depression. The novella examines how human connection, interdependence, and loneliness can be harmful.
Summary Read Time: Less than 3 minutes
Actual Book Length: 103
First Published in: 1937
Below is the detailed yet quick summary of the book:
Part 1 – George and Lennie’s Journey to the Ranch
In the opening of the novel, George Milton and Lennie Small are on their way to a ranch to look for work. George, who is smaller, takes care of Lennie, who is mentally handicapped. They spend the night by a stream and discuss their dream of having their own farm.
Lennie’s love for anything soft is demonstrated by his possession of a dead mouse. George reminds Lennie of the trouble he got into in their last town by touching a girl’s soft dress and warns him not to speak to anyone in the morning when they get to the ranch. George also cautions Lennie to come back to the stream if anything bad happens at the ranch.
Despite the hardships of taking care of Lennie, George comforts him by promising to find him a puppy and reminding him of their dream of owning their own farm.
The bond they share makes them different from other men who have no one or nothing of their own. They settle down for the night and continue their journey to the ranch in the morning.
Part 2 – Trouble At The Ranch
George and Lennie arrive at a ranch for work where they meet several characters. George is a quick talker and answers all the questions while Lennie is slow and does not speak.
At the ranch, George and Lennie meet several new people, including an old swamper named Candy and a black stable hand named Crooks.
They also encounter Curley, the boss’ son, who has a bad temper and is an amateur boxer. Curley’s wife, who is known to be flirtatious, is also present, as well as Carlson, another ranch hand, and Slim, the chief mule skinner. When Lennie sees Curley’s wife, he becomes captivated by her beauty.
Later, George warns Lennie to stay away from Curley’s wife and to keep their dream of owning a farm a secret. Crooks shows interest and would like to join them in their plan to buy a farm.
The next day, Carlson kills Candy’s dog, and Curley picks a fight with Lennie. Lennie, under George’s instruction, crushes Curley’s hand. Afraid that they will lose their jobs, Slim agrees to cover for them. George promises Lennie that he is not in trouble, and they can continue with their plan.
Later, Lennie tells Crooks and Curley’s wife about their dream, but she threatens him with lynching. Dejectedly, Crooks retracts his offer to join them.
Part 3 – George’s Heartbreaking Decision
Lennie is in the barn with his dead puppy, trying to figure out how to explain it to George, when Curley’s wife comes in. They talk about how they like to touch soft things, and Curley’s wife lets Lennie touch her hair. But when he accidentally messes up her hair, she gets angry and tries to pull away.
In his fear of losing her, Lennie holds on too tightly and breaks her neck. He then goes to the hiding place by the stream, knowing he has done something bad.
Candy finds Curley’s wife’s body and tells George, who knows that Curley will organize a lynching party. George decides to take matters into his own hands and steals Carlson’s gun. When Curley sees his wife’s body, he vows to kill Lennie slowly and painfully. George goes to find Lennie alone and tells him to imagine their little farm across the river.
While Lennie smiles and dreams of tending rabbits, George shoots him in the back of the neck. The other men arrive, and George lies that Lennie had Carlson’s gun and he had to shoot in self-defense. Only Slim understands the truth.
In the end, Lennie’s tragic end is a result of his inability to control his own strength and understand his own limitations. George’s love for Lennie led him to take matters into his own hands, knowing that the other men would never understand the complexity of their relationship. The novel is a powerful commentary on the loneliness and desperation of the human experience, and the need for companionship and understanding in an often cruel world.