Study Guide

Of Mice and Men Chapter 2

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 2

(Click the summary infographic to download.)

  • George and Lennie arrive at the new ranch. In the bunkhouse, they meet an old guy named Candy.
  • His name seems especially inappropriate since he is missing a hand, has bristly white whiskers, and an ancient dog that stinks.
  • Candy gives George the lowdown on the ranch.
  • The boss shows up and questions George and Lennie about their work history. George does all the talking, which makes the boss suspicious.
  • He can't understand why George is looking out for Lennie, and, honestly, we're not sure either.
  • George lies and says he and Lennie are cousins, and that they left their last job because it was done. (He leaves out that the job ended when Lennie was accused of rape/ inappropriate petting.)
  • The boss leaves and Candy comes back in with his dog, who used to be a great sheepherder before he got old and stinky.
  • (Excuse us while we take a brief detour into the mid-90s.)
  • Okay, back now. Sorry about that.
  • The boss' son comes in. He's a small-but-cocky tough-guy type and immediately sizes up George and Lennie as potential victims.
  • He tries to engage Lennie in an argument, but George interferes.
  • The boss' son basically does the equivalent of "LOL UR THE WORST." With that parting shot, he leaves.
  • Candy explains things for us. The boss' son—named Curley because he has curly hair—used to be a lightweight fighter and now picks fights with every big guy he meets.
  • He's gotten even worse since he married a "tart," who has "the eye" for every guy on the ranch.
  • We're supposed to believe that Curley is now totally whipped. He's even taken to wearing a glove full of Vaseline to "keep his hand soft for his wife."
  • With that parting shot, Candy leaves.
  • George gives Lennie another piece of fatherly advice: avoid Curley like the plague—unless Curley actually touches him, in which case, kick his butt.
  • And if anything bad happens, Lennie's can go to his safe spot near the river.
  • Speak of bad things, Curley's wife enters the bunkhouse, "looking" for "Curley." Uh-huh.
  • Unlike most other characters in the book, Curley's wife has no name, unless you consider "tramp," "loo loo," and "jail-bait" to be names. In that case, this lady's got lots of names.

(Click the summary infographic to download.)

  • Lennie can't take his eyes off of Curley's wife, and she doesn't make it easy to put his eyes anywhere else, either.
  • Slim, the "prince of the ranch" (about whom you will hear more later), walks by and sends Curley's wife on her way.
  • Time for another lecture for Lennie's benefit: stay away from this woman.
  • Lennie, with an admirable sense of self-preservation, says that he doesn't like this place—but they've got to stay until they can buy a ranch of their own.
  • Slim now stands in the doorway.
  • You get the sense that Steinbeck has a little bit of a man-crush on Slim: he's practical, tough as nails, understanding, highly skilled at his job, cool and calm, and still humble. Heck, we have a bit of a crush on him.
  • In comes another visitor: Carlson, who asks Slim about his new litter of puppies.
  • Maybe Slim could give one of these puppies to Candy as a replacement for his ancient dog, which stinks so bad it deserves to be shot. (According to Carlson.)
  • At the mention of the word "puppy," Lennie starts wriggling with pleasure. Pure petting pleasure.
  • If Lennie had a Tumblr, it would totally look like this.
  • Curley shows up at the door (don't these people do any work?) looking for—you guessed it—his wife.
  • He and George snark at each other a little, but no one whips out any roundhouse punches. Not yet, at least.
  • The dinner bell rings. Thank goodness.