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Lennie looked sadly up at him. "They was so little," he said apologetically. "I’d pet ‘em, and pretty soon they bit my fingers and I pinched their heads a little and then they was dead—because they was so little. I wish’t we’d get the rabbits pretty soon, George. They ain’t so little." (1.79)
Hm. On a second look, it doesn't seem like these mice deaths are so accidental after all. They take place when Lennie retaliates against them by pinching their heads. He might not mean to kill them, but he definitely means to hurt them.
There is a path through the willows and among the sycamores, a path beaten hard by boys coming down from the ranches to swim in the deep pool, and beaten hard by tramps who come wearily down from the highway in the evening to jungle-up near water. (1.2)
Something about this sentence makes us think that Steinbeck is suggesting that those carefree boys coming down for a swim—probably full of their own American Dreams—are going to grow up to be those tired, glum tramps.
"Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. They come to a ranch an' work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they're poundin' their tail on some other ranch. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to." (1.113)
Whatever the American Dream is, this isn't it: a bunch of lonely, itinerant farmworkers that George describes as being without family or hope. Steinbeck seems to be saying that you can't build a nation on these men—and we're inclined to agree.