Of Mice and Guys– Stress in Chapter 3
Tension is developed in chapter 3 building approximately the minute Sweet’s canine is shot with the repeated usage of silence. The word ‘silence’ is used 3 times to describe the atmosphere of the room leading up to the minute the pet is shot. The silence is described as’ [coming] out of the night and invading the space’. From this personification we can deduce that Steinbeck wanted the reader to view the silence as an intruder. Because it is viewed as such, the existence of something unwanted can offer a sense of danger.
The characters do not desire the silence present, indicating the shot will be heard by Sweet. This will increase the awkward atmosphere in the space due to the fact that no one is rather sure as to how Sweet can be comforted. Slim attempts to console Sweet by offering him a puppy to make up for his loss. Slim informs Candy that he ‘can have any one of them puppies [he] want [s]’ Nevertheless, Sweet declines to acknowledge his offer, strengthening the already tense atmosphere in the bunkhouse. The reader will desire the tension to be broken and will hope that Slim’s efforts at doing so will prosper.
Although In Of Mice and Men, when they do not, it only increases the stress in the room, and the reader experiences this likewise. This is how significant stress is developed surrounding Sweet’s pet dog’s death. In chapter 3 tension is developed by the way in which time passes within the text. Everything seems to take place, and time passes, in this area of the text. It is explained how ‘a minute passed, and after that another minute.’ This reveals that even the characters in this area of the book are observing as well as the reader.
They are all sitting together in the bunkhouse, waiting on the shot to sound. Because they are awaiting something bad to occur, whatever appears to take a lot longer than normal. The reader knows that the shooting of the pet dog should not take too long, but as they are expecting the shot to sound, whatever seems to take longer. This is how time passing slowly is used in chapter 3 to develop significant tension. Small sounds that would not always be noticed are gaining the attention of ‘all the males in the room’.
Ordinarily the ‘little gnawing sounds from under the flooring’ would go unnoticed. However, due to the environment of the space being so tense, everybody is hyper-aware of the small noise happened ‘all the guys looked towards it gratefully’. We can tell that the characters are all trying to find something to draw discussion out of to prevent hearing the shot. This is not accomplished and the shot is heard, disturbing Sweet, who the reader will empathise with. This is how Steinbeck develops significant tension in chapter 3 surrounding the pet’s death.