This lesson will summarize chapter three of John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men,' exploring the story that George tells Slim about Lennie's past as well as the major events of Curley and Lennie's fight and Candy's dog's death.
As chapter three begins, we find George and Slim in the bunkhouse, discussing Lennie and the new puppy that Slim has given him. Lennie now spends most of his time in the barn petting the puppy. George and Slim are comfortable around each other, so George tells Slim about Lennie's past.
George says he knew Lennie's aunt, and after she died, Lennie started following him wherever he went. George explains that he let Lennie do this because he enjoyed playing tricks on Lennie, but stopped doing this after he told him to go jump into the Sacramento River -- and Lennie listened. George says, '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.' Slim comments that even though Lennie is not intelligent, it doesn't matter because he is a hard worker and kind.
George also tells Slim about their experience in Weed, and why they were run out of the town. Lennie, liking to pet soft things, petted a girl's dress. When she screamed, he was too scared to let go. George says, 'I socked him over the head with a fence picket to make him let go. He was so scairt he couldn't let go of that dress. And he's so God damn strong, you know.' The girl accused him of rape, so, according to George, they had to run away so Lennie would not be lynched.
After George and Slim talk about Lennie's past, Carlson comes into the bunkhouse, again complaining about the odor and uselessness of Candy's dog. He tells Candy, 'He's all stiff with rheumatism. He ain't no good to you, Candy. An' he ain't no good to himself. Why'n't you shoot him, Candy?' At first Candy struggles, saying the dog is not in much pain, and that he cannot imagine not having him. But eventually, he lets Carlson take the dog out to kill him because he does not want to do it himself.
Steinbeck writes, 'Carlson said, 'The way I'd shoot him, he wouldn't feel nothing. I'd put the gun right there.' He pointed with his toe. 'Right back of the head. He wouldn't even quiver.' Steinbeck uses foreshadowing (a warning or hint to a future event) here to show how George will eventually kill Lennie at the end of the novel: in the back of the head so he will not feel it.
After Carlson kills Candy's dog, the men just sit around the bunkhouse playing games, with Candy lying sadly and quietly on his bunk. We then meet Crooks briefly: 'The door opened quietly and the stable buck put in his head; a lean negro head, lined with pain, the eyes patient.' Crooks says that Lennie is in the barn petting the puppies too much. Curley comes into the bunkhouse to see if his wife is there, then goes to the barn when he learns Slim is out there repairing his mule's hoof.
Lennie, back in the bunkhouse, asks George to tell him again about the farm they will get. Candy takes interest in this and offers to contribute his money so they can all get the farm together, to which George reluctantly agrees. They all agree not to tell anyone else. Candy admits to George, 'I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog.'
Candy, George, and Lennie discussing the farm
As everyone else comes back into the bunkhouse, we hear Slim arguing with Curley, upset that Curley always thinks that Slim is running around with his wife. Curley is upset and wants someone to fight with, so he goes over to Lennie to pick a fight. Curley punches Lennie in the face, and Lennie does not defend himself, asking George to come help him. George tells him, 'Get him, Lennie. Don't let him do it.' Lennie then grabs Curley's hand as it comes to punch him, and crushes it.
The men are shocked by Lennie's strength and Curley's now-mangled hand and realize they need to get him to a doctor. They threaten Curley, telling him that if he tells anyone how his hand really got broken, they would tell everyone how it really happened and Curley would be a laughingstock. Curley is supposed to tell people his hand was mangled in a machine accident. Lennie is concerned that George will be too mad at him to let him tend the rabbits, but George tells him it was not his fault.
In chapter three, we learn about Lennie's past and how George used to play tricks on him, but stopped after he jumped in the Sacramento River and almost drowned. We also learn more about George and Lennie's experience in Weed and how Lennie was accused of rape, ending in them having to run from the town. Candy allows his dog to be put down for its own good, but regrets not killing it himself. We are given some foreshadowing in this chapter of what will happen at the end with three incidents: the story of how Lennie was nearly lynched in Weed, the incident with Candy's dog and how Carlson kills him, and the fight in which we find out how strong Lennie is when he crushes Curley's hand.