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Of Mice and Men Chapter 5

In Of Mice and Men (1937) chapter 5, things spiral out of control. In the previous chapters, there had always been the possibility that things would be okay. After what happens between Lennie and Curley's wife in the barn, there's no turning back. The dream is over.

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Of Mice and Men Chapter 5

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In Of Mice and Men (1937) chapter 5, things spiral out of control. In the previous chapters, there had always been the possibility that things would be okay. After what happens between Lennie and Curley's wife in the barn, there's no turning back. The dream is over.

Of Mice and Men Chapter 5, Content warning, StudySmarter

Overview - Chapter 5
Brief Summary of Chapter 5
  • Lennie is alone in the barn. The others are playing horseshoes.
  • He is talking to his dead puppy, which he hit after it bit him. He pets it in frustration.
  • Curley's wife comes in. She wants company. Lennie tells her he's not supposed to talk to her, but she easily manipulates him.
  • They sit together while Curley's wife talks about how she could have been a movie star if only her mother had allowed it.
  • Flirting with Lennie and learning his love for petting soft things, she allows him to stroke her hair.
  • He starts messing it up, which sends Curley's wife into a tizzy. She tries to get him to stop, but the harder she tries, the harder he holds on. She starts screaming, and he covers her mouth. The struggle ends when he accidentally breaks her neck.
  • Lennie escapes the barn. Candy finds the body and alerts the others. Curley takes a shotgun and leads the hunt to kill Lennie.
Characters in Chapter 5Lennie, George, Curley's Wife, Candy, Slim, Curley, Carlson
Setting in Chapter 5A ranch in rural California
Style in Chapter 53rd-person narrator
Literary Devices and Themes in Chapter 5Foreshadowing, femme fatale, murder, loneliness, obstructed dreams

Of Mice and Men Chapter 5 Summary

The chapter opens with Lennie alone in the barn. He's petting his dead puppy. He talks to it, saying he didn't know he'd kill it. Frustrated that this might cost him the chance to tend the rabbits at the dream farm, he tosses it. He picks it up again and pets it.

Curley's wife comes by. The other workers are knee-deep in a horseshoes game, and she wants some company. Hiding the dead puppy and in frustrated spirits, Lennie tells her that he's not supposed to talk to her. Without George to steer him, though, he doesn't stand a chance at refusing her.

You begin to see how Lennie needs George more than George needs Lennie.

She continues talking to him, first about how he hurt Curley. She's happy about what he did because she doesn't like Curley or this place. This leads her to talk about how she ended up here. She had wanted to be a movie star and even met someone from Hollywood who said she was perfect and would write to her. However, no letter came. Curley's wife thinks her mother hid the letter from her. Either way, she ended up marrying Curley.

Of Mice and Men Chapter 5, Curley's Wife, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Curley's wife is dissatisfied with how her life has panned out.

Lennie isn't attentive to any of this, though. He can't stop thinking about what to do with the dead puppy in order to get George's approval to tend the rabbits. Curley's wife calls him "nuts" and like a "big baby." She asks him why he's so obsessed with rabbits anyway. He says it's because he petted a long-haired one at a fair once.

Of Mice and Men Chapter 5, Rabbit, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Tragically, Lennie destroys the small, soft animals he loves because of his physical strength.

Seeing this as a way to flirt with him, Curley's wife puts his hand on her hair, which is very soft. She says not to mess it up, though. As the reader knows, Lennie has very little control over his hands. He starts messing up her hair, tangling it. She shouts, and he holds on. She screams, and he covers her mouth. He tells her to please not scream. She struggles, and he holds her down, eventually breaking her neck.

Lennie partially covers her up in hay, saying he's done another bad thing. Leaving her near his dead puppy, he runs away.

Candy comes by. He tells the body of Curley's wife that she shouldn't be sleeping in the barn, only to realize she's dead. He runs to get the others. Slim confirms her neck is broken. Curley knows Lennie did it. Getting Crooks's shotgun, he leads away the men in search of Lennie. He intends to lynch him or otherwise. Before Candy leaves, he curses at Curley's dead wife, saying this is all her fault.

As for George, he tries to tell the others that Lennie didn't mean it, but that excuse isn't going to help Lennie this time, and George knows it. George tells them to go the wrong way, hoping he can find Lennie first. At the same time, Carlson thinks Lennie took his luger, but it seems clear that someone else pocketed it.

Of Mice and Men Chapter 5 Analysis

The dream is shattered in chapter 5 of Of Mice and Men. The chapter begins peaceful enough, and the reader goes on to learn about the dreams of Curley's wife. However, any hope for her or Lennie evaporates when Lennie kills her. The reader knows that there's no turning back.

Near the end of the chapter, Candy casts the blame for all this happening on Curley's wife.

You done it, di' n't you? I s'pose you're glad. Ever'body knowed you'd mess things up. You wasn't no good. You ain't no good now, you lousy tart."

Sniveling selfishly at this tragic, senseless loss of life, the reader should dismiss Candy's assessment. All Candy cares about is his own future — no one else's.

Curley's wife is hardly a femme fatale or a seductress.

A femme fatale is a stock character: an attractive woman who causes the downfall of a man with whom she has a relationship.

Curley's wife is not this. Steinbeck paints her sympathetically, and she only got married to Curley to get away from her controlling mother. Like many of the characters, Curley's wife wants freedom, something she didn't get when she married Curley, unsurprisingly.

The cause for much of the pain in the novella is Lennie.

Lennie creates fights and causes death. In the barn, the fault lies with Lennie, who killed someone. This is very much in keeping with the novel's themes, though, because Lennie lacks control over his actions more than anyone else.

Lennie is like a mouse whose life is left up to chance. There is very little he can do, which means that in some sense the fault in this story lies in the unfairness and cruelty of life itself. This is the crux of the question posed in the story's final chapter.

Dreams in Of Mice and Men

This chapter gives us a complete perspective of the characters who have dreams. Here is a chart of the characters and their dreams.

CharacterTheir dreamStopping their dream...
George

Dreams of settling down, maybe with a girl

Hindered by caring for Lennie, a lack of money

Lennie

Dreams of caring for rabbits

Hindered by his inability to care for things

Crooks

Dreams of having friends and being treated equally

Hindered by racism

Candy

Dreams of retiring to a quiet place

Hindered by Lennie killing Curley’s wife

Curley's wife

Dreams of having freedom and performing

Hindered by controlling mother and husband

So Lennie and George are not the only one to experience dreams and shattered dreams. This ties back into the idea that this is a universal story: a story relevant to the past, present, and future.

Interestingly, Steinbeck never gives Curley's wife a name, and no one asks. This enforces the idea that Curley's wife is limited by those who more or less possess her: Curley and her mother before that.

Of Mice and Men Chapter 5 Quotes

The following quotes are all from Of Mice and Men chapter 5. This first quote comes from the conversation between Lennie and Curley's wife.

I never got that letter… I always thought my ol' lady stole it. Well, I wasn't gonna stay no place where I couldn't get nowhere or make something of myself, an' where they stole your letters, I ast her if she stole it, too, an' she says no."

There's no indication one way or another, but it's interesting to imagine what happened to that letter. Did her mother steal it, or did the guy simply get her hopes up? Either way, Curley's wife had no control over it.

Then Lennie grew angry. "Now don't," he said. "I don't want you to yell. You gonna get me in trouble jus' like George says you will. Now don't you do that." And she continued to struggle, and her eyes were wild with terror. He shook her then, and he was angry with her."

In this chapter, we see a different side of Lennie. Lennie is by far the most menacing he has ever been, and he gets mad twice in this chapter. In the first instance, he throws his dead puppy, blaming it, thinking George won't let him tend rabbits because he killed it. The second instance is when he kills Curley's wife.

Note the repetition. Twice, the narrator describes Lennie as "angry." This is important, and it shows that Lennie is actually quite scary. He's so scary because he can kill people.

Curley's wife lay with a half-covering of yellow hay. And the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young."

Characters seem to find peace in death. Slim killed some puppies as a mercy killing, and then Carlson killed Candy's dog as a mercy killing. The slaying of Curley's wife is not a mercy killing, but it's interesting that it resulted in some kind of peace.

Was Slim right after all when it comes to mercy killing? Is death the only real peace? Consider this as you continue into the final chapter.

Of Mice and Men Chapter 5 - Key Takeaways

  • The chapter opens with Lennie having accidentally killed his puppy.
  • In this chapter, Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife while they are alone in the barn. When the others find out, Curley heads the hunt to find Lennie and kill him.
  • We learn about the dreams of Curley's wife. She might have had a chance to be in the movies.
  • Lennie displays several instances of anger in the chapter. Without George to control him, he's dangerous.
  • George misdirects the others in order to find Lennie first.

Frequently Asked Questions about Of Mice and Men Chapter 5

Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife while they are alone in the barn. When the others find out, Curley heads the hunt to find Lennie and kill him.

Candy, the old ranch worker. At first he thinks she is sleeping.

It depends on the edition. It begins about 75% through the novella.

Curley's wife talks about how she might have become a movie star. When she has Lennie pet her hair, it spirals out of control and Lennie accidentally breaks her neck as he tries to keep her from screaming.

Lennie killed Curley's wife by accident. However, he got angry at her because she was trying to scream. Covering her mouth and shaking her, he breaks her neck.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

Who begins with Lennie in the barn?

Lennie accidentally killed his puppy after it:

Lennie instantly agrees to talk to Curley's wife.

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