The story opens with a vivid description of the landscape of rural California in a place called Soledad. Two men come walking down a path in single file with one leading the other. When the first man stops, the second man runs into him as he is slow to stop.
It is clear from the description in the opening pages that Lennie is a child-like character who has to be stopped from drinking too much of the water. The dialogue between George and Lennie highlights the type of relationship the men have, with George having to look out for Lennie, who clearly has some type of disability.
We discover that Lennie has a fondness for different types of material and that he likes to pet mice in his pocket. We see that he has a dead mouse in his pocket that he tries to unsuccessfully to hide from George.
Through the dialogue (which is brought on by Lennie’s inability to remember basic information) we learn that the men are going to a ranch to work and that Lennie needs to keep quiet around the boss until they see him work. George also warns Lennie that he doesn’t want any trouble like they had in Weed. This adds intrigue for the reader who wants to know what happened in Weed.
They decide to set up camp for the night and Lennie goes off in search of wood but it is clear that he has gone to recover the dead mouse, which again enrages George who tells us that Lennie keeps killing small creatures because he pets them too hard. This is a form of foreshadowing by the author, hinting at something that might happen in the story.
When Lennie complains about the lack of ketchup, George again loses his temper and tells Lennie what life would be like without him. He also tells us what happened in Weed, when Lennie decided he wanted to touch the fabric of a girl’s dress. She started screaming when Lennie touched her and out of fear Lennie grabbed her and held on and George had to hit him to get him off. They were chased from the town by a group of men.
When George calms down, Lennie begs him to tell the story of how they’re different to other guys, which allows the reader to hear the dream that George and Lennie have. Unlike other ranch workers, who work by themselves, George and Lennie have each other and they plan to work hard to get a stake together to buy a small farm and house. They plan to ‘live off the fatta the lan,” which means they want to be self sufficient, grow their own food and work for themselves rather than a boss.
The reason Lennie is so enthralled by the story is that he has been promised the role of looking after the rabbits. This story cheers Lennie up but George ends up annoyed as he realises he still has to go work for someone else in the morning.
The section ends with George telling Lennie, “Lennie, if you jus’ happen to get in trouble like you always done before, I want you to come right here an’ hide in the brush.” This is a form of foreshadowing by the author, hinting that Lennie may get in trouble as the story progresses.
Questions on Section 1:
- What is your impression of Lennie from what you have read in Section 1?
- What type of relationship do the two men have?
- How does the author use foreshadowing in section 1? What does this tell you about what might happen?
- What is the purpose of the dialogue between the two men?
- Describe what their dream is according to what George and Lennie tell us.