Of Mice and Men: Novel Summary: Chapter 2

Steinbeck begins the second chapter in much the same way as the
first-without people. The setting is now at the ranch in Soledad, in the bunk house of the workers. The door opens and an old one-handed caretaker (whose name we later learn is Candy) leads George and Lennie inside. Candy tells the two men that they were expected by the boss last night and he was mad when they werent at the ranch in time to go out with the morning crew. Candy proves to be talkative and gives George and Lennie a little background of the ranch and the boss, who “gets pretty mad sometimes, but hes pretty nice” (p.22).Candy is interrupted by the entrance of the boss himself and Candy shuffles past him and out the door. George explains to the stern boss the situation with the bus and the long walk, claiming it as the reason for their tardiness. The boss presses Lennie to answer after noticing that George is doing the talking for the both of them, but George persists, interrupting: “Oh! I aint saying hes bright. He aint. But I say hes a God damn good worker” (24). The boss then turns suspiciously to George and voices a concern, what turns out to be one of the primary concerns of the novel, a question that the reader should be considering: Why is George taking so much trouble for Lennies behalf? Whats in it for George? George replies: “Hes my. . . cousin. I told his old lady Id take care of him. He got kicked in the head by a horse when he was a kid” (25). This satisfies the boss, who tells them to go out to work in the evening and leaves them in the bunkhouse, vanishing from the novel forever. We learn form Lennie, who is confused by Georges answer to the boss, that George was lying about being Lennies cousin: “If I was a relative of yours, Id shoot myself” (26), George admits.George discovers Candy eavesdropping outside the door and he re-enters with his old sheepdog. George is initially angered by Candys nosiness, but warms to the old man when Candy responds: “I aint interested in nothing you was sayin. A guy on a ranch dont never listen nor he dont ast no questions” (27). The next person to enter the bunk house while the three characters are chatting is the bosss son, Curley, “a thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair” (p.27). Curley is looking for his dad, but upon seeing George and Lennie he tenses as if preparing for a fight and addresses them coldly, confronting George when Lennie wont answer him: “By Christ, hes gotta talk when hes spoke to. What the hell are you gettin into it for?” (28). After firmly establishing himself as the antagonist, Curley departs. Candy then informs the two that Curley is a boxer who doesnt like big guys because he himself is small and that he is just recently married to a pretty young woman who, according to Candy, has “the eye” (31). George voices his dislike of Curley and warns Lennie to avoid him at all costs.The next character that Steinbeck places in the doorway of the bunk house for George and Lennie to meet is Curleys wife, young and made up very prettily. She claims to be looking for Curley, and George tells her, without looking at her, that Curley isnt in the bunkhouse. Lennie, however, stares fascinated at the pretty lady in the doorway, which Curleys wife seems to enjoy, “she smiled archly and twitched her body” (35). Curleys wife then leaves and George is more disturbed , realizing that Curley and his wife pose a serious threat to Lennie. He warns him to not even look at Curleys wife and Lennie says that he wants to leave, that “this aint no good place” (36). George refuses to take heed of Lennies ominous words, claiming that they need to stay and make a little money before they can leave.But not everything is stacked against our two heroes. The final two characters to enter through chapter twos bunk house door prove to be friendly. First comes Slim, the wise leader of the workers, whose “authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love” (37). Slim welcomes George and Lennie and doesnt question their traveling together. The next worker to enter is a powerful but amiable man by the name of Carlson, whom Slim introduces to George and Lennie. Slim and Carlson converse about a litter of puppies to which Slims dog has just given birth. Carlson suggests that Candy replace his old, blind dog with one of Slims puppies and the dinner bell rings and everyone scrambles toward its sound, leaving George and Lennie alone again. Lennie is excited at the prospect of perhaps getting one of Slims puppies for himself and George promises him that hell ask Slim for one. Before the two leave for dinner, Curley pokes his head in the bunkhouse again in search of his wife, a reminder of the trouble that waits for George and Lennie. Curley hurries off again when George coldly tells him that his wife was looking for him. They leave the bunk house and chapter two, and the final character to enter through the door is Candys old dog, who wearily lies down on the floor.