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Of Mice and Men Chapter 3

A longer chapter with multiple points of action, Of Mice and Men (1937) chapter 3 takes some examination to fully grasp and appreciate. Steinbeck plays with the reader's expectations as several plots develop in unexpected ways. Prepare yourself for some ups and downs!

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Of Mice and Men Chapter 3

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A longer chapter with multiple points of action, Of Mice and Men (1937) chapter 3 takes some examination to fully grasp and appreciate. Steinbeck plays with the reader's expectations as several plots develop in unexpected ways. Prepare yourself for some ups and downs!

Of Mice and Men Chapter 3, Content warning, StudySmarter

Overview - Of Mice and Men Chapter 3

Brief Summary of Chapter 3
  • The chapter begins with Slim having given Lennie the puppies.
  • Slim and George talk about how George and Lennie met and why George stopped playing jokes on him. He also tells Slim the full details of what happened back in Weed.
  • Lennie returns to the bunkhouse with a puppy, but George makes him put it back. Lennie stays with the puppies in the barn for a while.
  • Meanwhile, at the bunkhouse, Carlson repeatedly pushes for Candy to let him kill Candy's old dog. Because Slim agrees with Carlson, Candy acquiesces. Carlson takes out the dog, shoots it far away, and buries it.
  • George tells Lennie the story of their future ranch again. This time the story is longer, warmer, and more real, and it seems George actually knows a place he can buy.
  • Candy wants a stake in the place. He has a lot of money saved, and George eventually lets him in on it. The dream of buying a ranch feels possible.
  • Curley shows up looking for his wife and attacks Lennie for laughing. Lennie is not laughing at Curley, though. Lennie doesn't fight back and gets beaten up at first, but with enough egging from George, Lennie grabs Curley's hand and breaks many bones.
  • Slim tells Curley to make up a story to the boss about what happened, or else all the ranchers will expose what really happened. Curley seems to agree.
Characters in Chapter 3George, Lennie, Slim, Aunt Clara (mentioned), Candy, Carlson, Whit, Crooks, Curley.
Setting in Chapter 3A ranch in rural California
Style in Chapter 33rd-person narrator
Literary Devices and Themes in Chapter 3Tone changes, Obstructed dreams, Storytelling

Of Mice and Men Chapter 3 Summary

Chapter 3 picks up a little later during a conversation between George and Slim. They are discussing Lennie, who Slim just gave the extra puppies. George thanks him. Slim says there's nothing to thank him for because he probably would have had to kill more of them.

With Lennie away at the barn with the puppies, this allows Slim to ask George about their relationship. George takes confidence in Slim, revealing they grew up together in Auburn. After Lennie's Aunt Clara died, Lennie ended up following him around. At first, George would play practical jokes on him. However, he stopped after telling Lennie to dive into the water. Lennie, unable to swim, almost drowned.

Of Mice and Men Chapter 3, Hands above the water, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Despite being physically strong, Lennie can't swim.

George also completes the story about what happened at Weed, where they last worked. After Lennie wouldn't let go of the girl's dress, she went to the authorities and said Lennie raped her. This is what caused the mob to come after Lennie.

At this point, Lennie enters the bunkhouse, hiding a puppy. George tells him to return it to the barn at once because it needs its mother. Lennie obliges and goes to stay with it and the other puppies.

Meanwhile, the other workers show up, including Candy and his dog, Carlson, and another minor worker, Whit. Candy's dog smells because of his age, and Carlson aggressively lobbies Candy to let him shoot him. Candy is very reticent, saying he's "had him so long." Candy hopes Slim will give Candy a reason to say no, but Slim does not, saying it might be for the best. Not watching, Candy says Carlson can take him. Taking out his luger pistol, Carlson takes the old dog and a shovel and heads to the edge of the woods. Carlson shoots the dog and buries it.

This luger will make a dramatic return.

Crooks, the Black stable worker, pokes his head inside. Crooks asks Slim about their mule with a hurt hoof, and Slim follows him out to have a look. Curley comes by, looking for his wife. He is suspicious that Slim might be talking to her.

Eventually, it's George, Lennie, and Candy in the bunkhouse. George tells Lennie again the story of their future fortunes. This time, George puts more of his heart into it. In fact, he has a real lead to buy a piece of land. He needs $600. Candy has been saving a long time and can put in a hefty sum if they take him along. George eventually agrees. Candy doesn't want to end up like his dog.

The end of the chapter is a hectic bit of action. Curley returns with Slim and Carlson. It seems Curley tried to pick a fight with Slim about his wife, even though Slim never did anything with her. Lost in his own little world thinking about owning rabbits, Lennie chuckles during all of this, which causes Curley to go off. Curley thinks that Lennie is laughing at him and starts slugging him. Lennie won't fight back until George eggs him on enough. Reaching out, Lennie grabs Curley's hand and practically crushes it.

Curley stops, obviously, and it seems he'll need to see the doctor. Slim tells Curley that no one will tell the boss about this, or all the details will come out, including the fact Curley started it. Curley nods his agreement.

Of Mice and Men Chapter 3 Analysis

So how is the dream progressing?

This is the most hopeful chapter in Of Mice and Men. With Candy putting in such a large sum of money and with George having a real place to buy, the reader is hopeful that George can find a few more people, get a few more bucks ahead, and make the dream farm a reality. While things seem to be coming together for their dream farm, the control they think they have over this dream is short lived.

That said, Of Mice and Men chapter 3 has a lot else going on, including much more than the first two chapters. Chapter 1 only has two characters, George and Lennie, while Chapter 2 involves little action aside from character introductions.

Quite differently, chapter 3 contains three points of intense emotions. This is quite a few beats for a single chapter.

A beat denotes some form of rhythm in a piece of writing. An emotional beat consists of an emotional high point and the necessary space surrounding it, including the build-up and aftermath. In some ways, it is a microcosm of a plot's overall structure, consisting of rising action, a climax, and falling action.

Here's a table of the three emotional beats, including a piece of analysis about each.

Emotional beats of chapter 3Description of the beat

Candy allows Carlson to shoot his dog.

This happens after a tense but hopeless feeling back and forth.

George monologues about the dream ranch.

This feels more warm and hopeful than his description in chapter 1. It also seems more likely to happen.

Curley attacks Lennie.

This quickly pushes the tension between the two to hostile levels. Steinbeck wastes no time heating things up.

Each of these has a substantially different tone.

In this instance, the tone is the emotional timbre of the scene. The writer, narrator, and plot influence a scene's tone.

The tone of the first beat is melancholy and hopeless. The tone of the second beat is its opposite: positive and hopeful. The third beat is a violent confrontation.

If George and Lennie want to achieve their dream, they won't do it without winning a fight or two. This fight was a stalemate.

More than a few stories are told in chapter 3. For instance, George tells Slim the story of him and Lennie, Candy tells the story of how he met his dog, and George tells the story of their future fortunes. During all this, the rumor mill churns, causing Curley stress as to the whereabouts of his wife.

What role does storytelling have within Of Mice and Men? It's interesting the above stories cover the past (the origin stories), present (the rumors), and future (the dream). Perhaps storytelling plays into the continuing theme that this is a familiar story. For instance, in chapter 1, George and Lennie travel down a well-worn road toward the ranch. People have been there before, are there now, and will be there in the future.

Many people have, do, and will relate to this story of the Great Depression's hardships.

Of Mice and Men Chapter 3 Quotes

Here are two quotes from Of Mice and Men chapter 3. The first one appears near the beginning when George explains to Slim how he and Lennie met.

I was jus' a little bit off, and I heard all the yellin', so I comes running, an' by that time Lennie's so scared all he can think to do is jus' hold on. 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."

Steinbeck establishes these two things over and over again. First, he establishes Lennie as extremely strong: stronger than it seems possible for real people. Second, he establishes that Lennie freezes up when he doesn't know what to do. Interestingly, this is a common reaction in animals.

Lennie possesses bear-like strength and goes stiff like a deer in headlights. In many ways, Lennie sits on the fence between the animal kingdom and humanity.

This second quote appears near the middle when George talks about what their farm will look like.

An' we could have a few pigs. I could build a smoke house like the one gran'pa had, an' when we kill a pig we can smoke the bacon and the hams, and make sausage an' all like that. An' when the salmon run up river we could catch a hundred of 'em an' salt 'em down or smoke 'em. We could have them for breakfast. They ain't nothing so nice as smoked salmon. When the fruit come in we could can it- and tomatoes, they're easy to can. Ever' Sunday we'd kill a chicken or a rabbit. Maybe we'd have a cow or a goat, and the cream is so God damn thick you got to cut it with a knife and take it out with a spoon."

Think about the complex relationship between humans and animals in this book, and then read back this passage. It's fascinating how George hopes to live off animals to have an easy life, yet the boss is living off the farm laborers to have an easy life. Who is the exploiter, and who is the exploited? Are the mice and the men one and the same?

Of Mice and Men Chapter 3 Summary - Key Takeaways

  • In this chapter, Candy's dog is shot, George and Candy cut a deal that brings the dream farm closer to fruition, and Curley attacks Lennie.
  • These are the chapter's three emotional beats.
  • The chapter ends with great uncertainty. Although Lennie fends away Curley, Curley's hatred for Lennie has not subsided.
  • Characters tell many stories in Of Mice and Men. This contributes to an understanding of the past, present, and future of this story.
  • Humans, animals, and the lack of control they have continues to be a major theme. Characters fill interesting roles in the ecosystem.

Frequently Asked Questions about Of Mice and Men Chapter 3

In this chapter, Candy's dog is shot, George and Candy cut a deal that brings the dream farm closer to fruition, and Curley attacks Lennie. 

It entirely depends on the edition of the text. However, it starts about 40% into the book and ends about 60% through the book. 

Curley fought with Lennie because Lennie was laughing, although not at Curley. Curley thought he was. 

Carlson takes Candy's dog out near the woods, shoots him, and buries him. 

We learn Lennie can't swim. 

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

In Weed, Lennie was chased for the false accusation of:

George stopped playing jokes on Lennie after Lennie:

Who wants to shoot Candy's dog?

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