The unfortunate timing of Lennie's laughter is all the excuse Curley needs to fight the "big guy." Curley is a coward who would rather fight a big guy because, if he wins, he can brag about it, and if he is beaten, he doesn't lose face because the big guy should have picked on someone his own size. If Lennie were not mentally handicapped, he might have responded in a different way to the situation he finds himself in. But he is forced to make a scary choice, and, until George tells him to fight back, he simply takes the abuse. Lennie's fear is clearly on his face, and he says, "I didn't want to hurt him," when it is over. He does not really understand the repercussions of what has happened, and he is afraid that he has done "a bad thing." But the worst part of this whole scene is the uneasy feeling that somehow, somewhere, Curley will not forget this permanent injury, not only to his hand but also to his pride.
derision contempt or ridicule.
Auburn a city about 35 miles northeast of Sacramento, California.
"rabbits in" [Slang] jumps in.
pulp magazine a magazine printed on rough, inferior paper stock made from wood pulp, usually containing sensational stories of love, crime.
euchre a card game.
jailbait [Slang] a young woman, considered a potential sexual partner, who has not reached the age of consent.
hoosegow [Slang] jail.
San Quentin a state prison, now closed, in the harbor of San Francisco.
raptly with a completely absorbed or engrossed look.
reprehensible deserving to be rebuked or scolded.
kick off die.
bemused plunged in thought; preoccupied.
"to bind her" to make a down payment.
welter short for "welterweight," a boxer between a junior welterweight and a junior middleweight.