Of Mice and Men Chapter 6
The chapter opens by the banks of the Salinas River, where the novel began. The water is still and the sun is high in the sky. Nestled between the valley and the Gabilan Mountains is the river and all its creatures. A water snake swims by, only to be grabbed by a heron's jaw. The wind moves softly, reflecting the quiet of the place.
Lennie breaks this quiet when he creeps quietly out of the brush. He is not quiet enough, though, and the heron flies away. Lennie kneels by the banks of the river and drinks in the same dog-like fashion he did the first time he came to the river. He is nervous, awaiting George.
The sun rises higher, coloring the valley with bright light. Lennie is sitting on the banks of the river, talking to himself. He knows he will be in big trouble when George arrives. He thinks again that he could go off and find a cave, and have no ketchup, and leave George alone if that's what he wants.
Still sitting alone by the river, Lennie begins to hallucinate. A plump old woman steps out from Lennie's head. She wears thick glasses and a clean apron. She is Lennie's Aunt Clara. With her hands on her hips she scolds Lennie for not listening to George like she told him. She praises George for his patience with Lennie, then continues to scold Lennie for not being more considerate of George. Lennie repeats weakly that he did his best. Aunt Clara tells Lennie how much fun George could have had without him, spending his money on prostitutes and pool games. This is the argument George always confronts Lennie with when he becomes frustrated, not the argument an old woman would likely offer. Lennie's guilt has come to the surface in the form of his dead Aunt Clara. When Lennie offers to go off and live in a cave, Aunt Clara tells him she knows he will never do it. Lennie responds that he might as well, since he won't get to tend any rabbits now.
At the word rabbit Aunt Clara disappears and a giant rabbit comes fully formed out of Lennie's imagination. It looks at him in disgust, and tells Lennie he's too crazy to tend any rabbits, and that he probably would forget to feed them. Lennie protests, but the rabbit is stern. It tells Lennie that George is going to beat him up when he finds him, and then he will leave him. Over and over the rabbit repeats "He gonna leave you" as Lennie cries out for George. The rabbit disappears back into Lennie's head as George comes quietly through the brush.
George asks Lennie what's the matter, and Lennie asks George if he's going to leave him. George tells him no. Stiff and quiet, George dreads what he will have to do to his friend. When Lennie tells George how he did a bad thing, George uncharacteristically tells him it doesn't matter.
The sun is nearly over the valley now, and a blue shadow has settled inside. In the distance is the sound of men's voices. Lennie asks George if he's going to yell at him again about how much better he would be without him. George says the words, but without feeling. Lennie coaxes him on, but George stops. Lennie offers again to go live in a cave, and when George tells him to stay here Lennie takes this opportunity to ask George to tell him their story. George tells Lennie again how most guys like them have no one, but they are lucky, because they have each other. During the story Lennie happily interrupts George, who is in contrast very quiet and subdued.
An evening breeze blows the trees as the sounds of the men grow closer. The two men are sitting on the banks of the river. George asks Lennie to remove his hat. Then Lennie asks George to tell him about their future, their farm. George, listening to the sounds, tells Lennie to look across the river and imagine their farm. Lennie obediently complies and turns to face the mountains. George, sitting behind Lennie, starts to tell him about their farm as he quietly pulls out Carlson's Luger and starts to ready it. He looks carefully at the place where Lennie's spine and head meet.
Lennie urges George on with the story. George raises the gun, but he cannot do it. Instead he tells Lennie about how they will have cows and chickens, and alfalfa for the rabbits. George reassures Lennie that he will get to tend the rabbits. At the mention of rabbits Lennie starts to turn around, but George tells him to keep looking across the river and imagining their farm. Lennie asks when they are going to do it, and George tells him soon. Lennie asks George again if he's mad at him. George's response:
"No, Lennie. I ain't mad. I never been mad, an' I ain't now. That's a thing I want ya to know." Chapter 6, pg. 106.
The men's voices are very close now. Lennie begs George to let them get their farm now. George's response:
"Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta." Chapter 6, pg. 106.
Then George raises the gun and brings it to the back of Lennie's head. His hand is shaking, but he steadies himself and pulls the trigger. The sound bounces off the mountains. Lennie lay on the ground, unmoving. He dies instantly.
George throws the gun away as the men crash through the brush. Curley stands over Lennie's body. Slim walks over to George, reminding him he had to do it. Carlson, cold and insensitive, wants only to know how George did it. Carlson imagines that Lennie had his Luger and George fought it away from him, then shot him. George quietly agrees. Slim is the only one understands what really happened. Sympathetically he leads George away, offering him a drink. They leave Curley and Carlson behind. Confused, Carlson wonders what's wrong with them.