The color-coded boxes under "Analysis & Themes" below (which look like this: ) make it easy to track the themes throughout the work. Each color corresponds to one of the themes explained in the Themes section of this LitChart.
Analysis & Themes
The novel begins with a detailed description of the lush rural area near the riverbed of the Salinas River a few miles south of Soledad, California. George Milton and Lennie Small, two men dressed in denim, are walking along a path on the riverbed. George, the leader, is small and quick. Lennie, huge and awkward, follows behind.
The men stop. Lennie drinks huge gulps from a pool of standing water next to the river. George warns him not to drink too much or else he'll get sick again.
When George complains about the bus driver who dropped them off too far from the ranch, Lennie asks where they're going. George reminds Lennie about their plans, but stops when he notices a dead mouse in Lennie's pocket. Lennie picked it up because he likes to pet its soft fur, but accidentally killed it.
George throws the mouse away, and tells Lennie they're going to a ranch like the one they just left in Weed. George also tells Lennie not to say anything when they meet the boss at the new ranch.
Lennie remembers that they were "run out" of Weed, but George says they ran away before they could be run out. George then says that his life would be so much easier and more free if Lennie wasn't always following him.
George decides they should spend the night where they are. Lennie goes off to find firewood. While he's gone George thinks of him as a "poor bastard." When Lennie returns without wood, George suspects he's found the dead mouse again. George takes it, making Lennie cry. Lennie mentions how his Aunt Clara used to give him mice. George reminds Lennie that he always accidentally killed them.
The men have a dinner of canned beans. When Lennie complains about the lack of ketchup, George again says how much easier his life would be without Lennie. He brings up the event that got them run out of Weed: Lennie touched a woman's dress and refused to let go. She accused him of rape. Lennie liked the dress because it felt soft as a mouse's fur.
Lennie offers to leave George alone and go live in a cave. Lennie imagines that he could keep mice in his cave if he wanted to, without George's supervision.
George says he wants Lennie to stay with him. He comments that ranch workers are always lonely, but he and Lennie are different. They have each other.
At Lennie's urging, George describes their future. They'll save money until they can buy their own farm. George describes the farm right down to its rabbit hutches. Lennie can't contain his excitement about tending rabbits and living off the "fatta the lan."
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• See quotes from Part 1