Summary and Analysis
In Chapter 6, the story ends where it began, but the values of the setting have changed. Instead of a place of sanctuary, the pool is now a place of death. Instead of the rabbits playing in the brush, the heron is swallowing the little snake whole. Instead of green leaves and a gentle breeze, there are brown, dying leaves and a gush of wind. Instead of safety for Lennie, there is death. Instead of companionship for George, there is a future of loneliness.
Lennie experiences two visions in this last scene. One is Aunt Clara who scolds Lennie for letting George down and not listening to him. The other is a gigantic rabbit who berates Lennie and tells him George will beat him and leave him. In neither of these visions does Lennie experience feelings of remorse or guilt for what he did to Curley's wife. In fact, neither his conjured Aunt Clara or the giant rabbit scold him for that act. In regards to Curley's wife, Lennie simply knows that he "did a bad thing" and that the consequences will be severe. His thoughts, though, focus on the pattern he and George have established when Lennie does bad things: George scolds him, threatens to leave him, and then ends up telling him once again about their dream of a ranch. The fact that Lennie anticipates the same pattern this time is indicative of his childlike innocence. Instead of asking George right away for the story of the farm, he asks him for the story of "giving me hell." He knows this will make George feel better, and everything will be alright again.
George, however, cannot finish the story of what he would do without Lennie. He falters, realizing that soon he truly will be without Lennie. When Lennie realizes that George is not going to beat him or leave him, he playfully finishes the story, and he adds why they are different from the others: "An' I got you. We got each other, that's what, that gives a hoot in hell about us." Now the story of the ranch and the dream is the only one left, and George begins that, picturing a world where no one will steal from them or be mean. But, of course, this story is not reality in a cold, harsh world. There is no place for innocence or people who look out for each other. As Lennie envisions the dream that seemed so close a few days ago, George shoots him as Carlson shot Candy's dog, and like the dog, without a quiver, Lennie dies.
Earlier in the novel, Slim told Candy it would be better to put his dog down, better for their "society" as a whole. This comment begins a number of comparisons between Candy's dog and Lennie. George never really understood how dangerous Lennie could be and always thought Lennie's strength could be restrained. Now it is obvious that Lennie is a danger to society, even though innocent in the motivations for his actions. Candy had no other merciful options for his dog, and George sees no other options for Lennie. As Slim explained, locking Lennie up would be inhumane; Curley threatens to harm Lennie by shooting him many times. When Carlson shot Candy's dog, he displayed no concern for Candy's feelings. The same is true for the others' reactions to Lennie's death. Carlson and the others cannot fathom why George is upset. The final similarity in the two situations is the fearful future of loneliness facing both Candy and George.
When the ranch hands appear, George lies about the murder. He quietly concurs that Lennie had Carlson's gun. George feels numb and empty, but he has done what he felt he had to do. Slim understands, taking him for a drink. But Carlson and Curley can not understand why George feels so bad. Their last words — "Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys?" — indicate that the world is a cold and harsh place.
jack-pin a metal or wooden pin used to fasten ropes to a ship.