Lennie and George want to work on the ranch in the hopes of making enough money to buy their own farm, where they can be independent and in charge of their own destiny (and rabbits).
Maybe with this new job, they'll get what they've hoped for all along.
But there's a twist to this anticipation stage: the story of the little farm, with the rabbits and vegetable patch and hayrides, is less like a plan and more like a fairy tale.
When Candy offers $300 toward buying the farm, it seems like the dream could come true after all. Candy has three hundred dollars to contribute. George even knows the couple he'd buy the land from. Things are really looking up for our lovable pair.
But they didn't count on Curley (or Curley's wife). Curley picks a fight with Lennie, and Lennie fights back. Slim makes sure Lennie and George are protected from getting in trouble, but it's clear that our heroes aren't going to be making their fortune any time soon.
If Curley was waiting for Lennie to slip up, the wait is over: he kills Curley's wife, which is pretty nightmarish. (Literally, we've had nightmares about this kind of accident.) Lennie will have to pay, one way or another.
Destruction or Death Wish Stage
George destroys Lennie's life by killing him—but there are some less literal destructions at the novel's end. With Lennie gone, George has to face the loneliness of the open road, a future of whorehouses and pool halls—places where lonely men stay lonely. George's act seems to kill any last hope. He's lost his best friend, and along with losing Lennie, George has also lost his dreams.