Of Mice and Men Chapter 1: Summary & Quotes

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  • 0:02 Meeting & Impressions
  • 0:49 George & Lennie's Relationship
  • 1:44 Animals, Foreshadowing…
  • 3:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

We will explore the first chapter of 'Of Mice and Men,' where we meet the two main characters, in this lesson through examples and quotes from the chapter.

Meeting and Impressions

As the novel of Mice and Men opens, John Steinbeck offers a vivid picture of the landscape and animal life in the Salinas River Valley in California. We see two figures, our main characters, walking by a water pool and carrying their belongings. One of the men, who we later find out is George Milton, is skinny with sharp features and speech. His friend, Lennie Small, is his opposite in every way. Lennie is large, lumbering, 'shapeless of face,' and slow in speech and thought.

Lennie is described using animal-like imagery in our first introduction to him, which influences our expectation of him for the rest of the book. While George's motions are sharp, such as when 'He took off his hat and wiped the sweat-band with his forefinger and snapped the moisture off,' Lennie's are clumsy and animalistic: '(he) drank with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse.'

George and Lennie's Relationship

In this first scene with George and Lennie, we find out that they have a relationship like a master and his dog. Not only is Lennie described in an animal-like way, George gives Lennie commands, such as when he says, 'Lennie, for God' sakes don't drink so much.' We also realize in this beginning chapter that Lennie is mentally disabled. This leads George to think that Lennie cannot make good decisions for himself, so he gives Lennie frequent commands and watches out for him. For example, when Lennie is drinking out of the pool that is covered with scum, George reminds him that he should only drink water if it is running, not still, and warns him to be careful since he was sick the previous night.

We find out that George and Lennie are on their way to a new job at a ranch, and George advises Lennie not to talk since he is not well-spoken. George instructs, '…I'll give him the work tickets, but you ain't gonna say a word. You jus' stand there and don't say nothing.' Lennie, obviously struggling to remember what he was just told, repeats this back slowly, to which George says, 'Good boy! That's fine, Lennie!'

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