La mort du roi Tsongor

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Laurent Gaudé

The beginning of the story sees George and Lennie, two migrant workers in California, being dropped off by a bus several miles from their destination where they are supposed to start working. George and Lennie are complete opposites. George is a man that is smaller in stature with sharp features, and is smart, clever, and full of wit. Lennie, on the other hand, is a large, lumbering man who is mentally slow and not able to take appropriate care of himself. The two are very tired and thirsty, and so they decide to camp overnight by a small pool in a clearing. The two men have somewhat of an imbalanced relationship, as Lennie is highly dependent on George for guidance and protection. However, both men are truly loyal and devoted to each other.

Lennie loves to stroke soft things, and George realizes that Lennie has been carrying a dead mouse around in his pocket because he likes to feel its fur. The mouse is dead because Lennie accidentally killed it, which is a commonplace occurrence that results from a combination of Lennie’s lack of reasoning ability and his tremendous strength. George fears that the mouse may carry a disease that could be passed onto Lennie, and so George throws the mouse away out of anger and disgust. At this point, George expresses emphatically how his life would be so much easier and better if he did not have the responsibility of having to care for Lennie. However, though it is apparent that even though he complains about Lennie, there is true mutual devotion between the two men. This is especially evident when George describes the idyllic life he envisions, which includes him and George having their own land that they can farm on, where Lennie can spend his time taking care of rabbits. George describes their dream farm to Lennie as their night camping near the pool ends.

The two men finally reach their destination the next day after traveling several miles. Since George is concerned about the kind of first impression Lennie will give the boss, George tells Lennie into leaving all of the talking up to him. The boss finds it curious that the two men travel together, so George makes up a story that the two men are cousins and that Lennie is mentally slow because he was kicked in the head by a horse when he was much younger. After being informed by the boss that they are hired to work on the farm, they begin to meet the other employees around the ranch. At first, the two men meet Candy, the old handyman that is missing one of his hands. Candy also has a very old dog that he seems greatly fond of and who provides companionship for Candy. The two men also meet Curley, the boss’s son. This man is a highly suspicious and jealous person, with a new wife who is quite flirtatious, and he does not trust her around the other workers. George and Lennie are making themselves comfortable in the bunkhouse when Curley’s wife shows up wearing makeup and fancy shoes, and she briefly has a flirtatious exchange with the two men. After she leaves, George warns Lennie to stay away from Curley’s wife, recognizing how getting mixed up with her could spell some serious trouble.

After the rest of the workers return from the field, the two men meet the acquaintance of Slim, a knowledgeable and highly skilled mule driver that all the other workers look up to as a sort of authority figure. Slim talks to George and Lennie about their friendship and how they travel together, and Slim recognizes the value in this special bond. The two men also meet another worker, Carlson, who complains about Candy’s old dog and tries to convince Candy to put to dog out of his misery. He also suggests that Slim give one of the pups born to his dog to Candy.

After their first night’s sleep at the ranch, George and Slim have a conversation about the relationship between George and Lennie. It is at this point that George admits to Slim that he and Lennie are not actually cousins, and instead are old pals with a friendship that dates back to when they were young kids. He relates the story to Slim of why the two were forced to leave their previous job, and remarks how Lennie often gets the pair in serious trouble. George tells how him and Lennie were made to leave their previous job because Lennie grabbed on to a girl’s dress and wouldn’t let go, and the girl reported that Lennie had raped her. Lennie loves soft things that he can pet, and Slim agrees to give one of his new pups to Lennie. Candy once again is receiving pressure from Carlson to put down his old dog, and this time Slim chimes in, stating that he agrees with Carlson’s suggestion, because it would be a humane decision to relieve the dog from his suffering. Candy finally gives in to Carlson’s nagging and prodding and lets Carlson takes the old dog outside to shoot him, stating that he will kill the dog in a manner that will cause no pain.

After Slim disappears to the barn to get some work done, Curley shows up to the bunkhouse in an agitated state, looking for his wife. When he sees that Slim is not there, Curley becomes very suspicious and heads over to the barn to confront Slim accusingly. George and Lennie are in the bunkhouse discussing their dreams and plans of owning land, and their conversation is overheard by candy. Candy shows interest in the idea and offers the two men his help in the form of his life’s savings if the two will allow him to join the on their land. George and Lennie welcome Candy’s suggestion and decide on an agreement not to let anyone else know about the details of their plans. Then Slim swiftly enters the bunkhouse, with Curley following him. Slim is annoyed with Curley for his accusations and suspicions regarding his wife, and Curley tries to apologize, but has a lot of anger regarding the whole situation. He then directs his anger by trying to get into a confrontation with Lennie, which ends poorly for Curley, as Lennie is very strong and crushes Curley’s hand in the fight. Slim threatens Curley with ridicule if he chooses to get Lennie and George dismissed due to the altercation, and Curley agrees to change the story, saying that his hand got injured in an accident with some equipment.

After work the next day, most of the field hands choose to go into town to visit a local brothel. Lennie is left back at the ranch and wanders into the quarters of Crooks, the black stable hand. Crooks at first tries to send Lennie out of the stable, but then becomes more welcoming, inviting Lennie into his room. Then Candy also shows up, and the three men talk about the plans to buy land, with Crooks at first being dismissive of the plans, saying that he has seen workers with such plans several times and they never work out. When Crooks realizes that Candy has some money that could actually buy the land, he changes his tune, stating that he would be interested in joining the men also as help on their dream farm. Curley’s wife then shows up, once again wearing makeup and fancy shoes, and she flirts with the three men. After noticing that Lennie’s face is cut, Curley’s wife derives a conclusion and has a strong suspicion that the injury to Curley’s hand was, in fact, due to a fight with Lennie, and not a machinery accident.

The next day, as Lennie is visiting his pup in the barn, he accidently kills it by petting it too hard. As he sits beside the dead pup in the barn, Curley’s wife approaches him and offers her consolation. It is at this point that she opens up to Lennie, telling of how she is unfulfilled in the life she has with Curley and how she had always dreamed of becoming a movie star. The two talk about Lennie’s affinity for touching things that are soft, and Curley’s wife tells Lennie how her hair is really soft and gets him to touch it. Like all of the other occasions in which Lennie has touched soft things, he grabs onto her hair too tightly, which causes Curley’s wife to cry out for help. This causes panic in Lennie, and while trying to get her to be quiet, he breaks her neck by accident.

After killing Curley’s wife, Lennie runs away from the ranch toward a predetermined meeting place designated by George in the event that either of the two men got into any trouble. Before too long back at the ranch, the workers discover the tragedy that has occurred, and the entire group leaves the ranch in search of Lennie with the intention of killing him when they find him. George is the one to find Lennie, and Lennie is relieved to learn that George is not upset with him for what he did. George goes on to tell the familiar story to Lennie about the land of their dreams and all of the activities they would do there, including how Lennie will be responsible for tending to the rabbits, which Lennie enjoys. George hears the rest of the group of workers approaching and then shoots Lennie in the back of his head with a gun he stole from Carlson, in a sense putting him out of his misery.

The other workers arrive at the scene of the killing, and the men believe that Lennie had stolen the gun from Carlson and that George succeeded in prying the gun away from Lennie and then shot him in self-defense. Out of all of the workers, Slim is the only one that understands the nature of why George killed Lennie. The killing was not out of punishment, but instead was an act of mercy toward Lennie. Slim presents his understanding by consoling George as they leave the scene of the shooting. The other workers stand by in bewilderment as George and Slim walk away.

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