"Of Mice and Men"

Here are 100 key words for understanding John Steinbeck’s 1937 tragic novel "Of Mice and Men" -- set during the Great Depression in California.
definitions & notes only words
  1. juncture
    the shape or manner in which things come together
    On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees— willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool.
  2. debris
    the remains of something that has been destroyed
    On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees— willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool.
  3. mottled
    having spots or patches of color
    On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees— willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool.
  4. recumbent
    lying down; in a position of comfort or rest
    On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees— willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool.
  5. tramp
    a foot traveler; someone who goes on an extended walk
    There is a path through the willows and among the sycamores, a path beaten hard by boys coming down from the ranches to swim in the deep pool, and beaten hard by tramps who come wearily down from the highway in the evening to jungle-up near water.
  6. emerge
    come out into view, as from concealment
    For a moment the place was lifeless, and then two men emerged from the path and came into the opening by the green pool.
  7. companion
    a friend who is frequently with another
    His huge companion dropped his blankets and flung himself down and drank from the surface of the green pool; drank with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse.
  8. embrace
    the state of taking in or encircling
    Then he replaced his hat, pushed himself back from the river, drew up his knees and embraced them.
  9. despair
    a state in which all hope is lost or absent
    He looked down at the ground in despair.
  10. drone
    talk in a monotonous voice
    Lennie droned to himself softly, “I ain’t gonna say nothin’ .
  11. current
    a steady flow of a fluid
    The reeds jerked slightly in the current.
  12. lumber
    move heavily or clumsily
    Lennie lumbered to his feet and disappeared in the brush.
  13. brusquely
    in a blunt direct manner
    “Awright,” he said brusquely.
  14. elaborate
    marked by complexity and richness of detail
    But Lennie made an elaborate pantomime of innocence.
  15. pantomime
    a performance using gestures and movements without words
    But Lennie made an elaborate pantomime of innocence.
  16. contemplate
    consider as a possibility
    Lennie hesitated, backed away, looked wildly at the brush line as though he contemplated running for his freedom.
  17. quiver
    shake with fast, tremulous movements
    Lennie’s lip quivered and tears started in his eyes.
  18. scoff
    laugh at with contempt and derision
    George scoffed.
  19. mimic
    imitate, especially for satirical effect
    He took on the elaborate manner of little girls when they are mimicking one another.
  20. anguish
    extreme distress of body or mind
    He looked across the fire at Lennie’s anguished face, and then he looked ashamedly at the flames.
  21. bait
    lure, entice, or entrap
    Lennie avoided the bait.
  22. plead
    appeal or request earnestly
    Lennie pleaded, “Come on, George.
  23. gesture
    show, express or direct through movement
    George gestured with his spoon.
  24. glimmer
    a flash of light
    They made their beds on the sand, and as the blaze dropped from the fire the sphere of light grew smaller; the curling branches disappeared and only a faint glimmer showed where the tree trunks were.
  25. occupant
    someone who lives at a particular place for a long period
    Over each bunk there was nailed an apple box with the opening forward so that it made two shelves for the personal belongings of the occupant of the bunk.
  26. vial
    a small bottle that contains a drug
    And there were medicines on the shelves, and little vials, combs; and from nails on the box sides, a few neckties.
  27. laden
    filled with a great quantity
    At about ten o’clock in the morning the sun threw a bright dust- laden bar through one of the side windows, and in and out of the beam flies shot like rushing stars.
  28. indicate
    designate a place, direction, person, or thing
    “You can have them two beds there,” he said, indicating two bunks near the stove.
  29. scourge
    something causing misery or death
    “Says ‘positively kills lice, roaches and other scourges.’
  30. relish
    vigorous and enthusiastic enjoyment
    He paused in relish of the memory.
  31. deliberately
    in a careful unhurried manner
    The boss deliberately put the little book in his pocket.
  32. promptly
    with little or no delay
    “Job was done,” said George promptly.
  33. abruptly
    quickly and without warning
    He turned abruptly and went to the door, but before he went out he turned and looked for a long moment at the two men.
  34. peer
    look searchingly
    He stopped suddenly, stepped to the open front door and peered out.
  35. reassure
    cause to feel confident
    But he was reassured by the swamper’s defense.
  36. bristle
    a stiff hair
    He stood his broom against the wall and he rubbed his white bristled cheek with his knuckles.
  37. calculate
    predict in advance
    His glance was at once calculating and pugnacious.
  38. pugnacious
    tough and callous by virtue of experience
    His glance was at once calculating and pugnacious.
  39. gingerly
    with extreme care or delicacy
    Curley stepped gingerly close to him.
  40. slough
    cast off hair, skin, horn, or feathers
    He’d slough me.
  41. derogatory
    expressive of low opinion
    He had drawn a derogatory statement from ...
  42. basin
    a bowl-shaped vessel used for holding food or liquids
    “I gotta be settin’ out the wash basins for the guys.
  43. tangle
    disarrange or rumple
    “If he tangles with you, Lennie, we’re gonna get the can.
    *slang for fight (v. "If he fights with you Lennie..."
  44. decisive
    characterized by resoluteness and firmness
    His tone grew decisive.
  45. contorted
    twisted, especially as in pain or struggle
    His face contorted with thought.
  46. rouge
    redden by applying makeup to
    She had full, rouged lips and wide- spaced eyes, heavily made up.
  47. cluster
    a grouping of a number of similar things
    Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages.
  48. brittle
    lacking warmth and generosity of spirit
    Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality.
  49. apprehensive
    in fear or dread of possible evil or harm
    She was suddenly apprehensive.
  50. disengage
    release from something that holds fast or entangles
    Lennie tried to disengage his ear.
  51. gravity
    a manner that is serious and solemn
    There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke.
  52. profound
    showing intellectual penetration or emotional depth
    There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke.
  53. authority
    the power or right to give orders or make decisions
    His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love.
  54. complacently
    in a self-satisfied manner
    Lennie, who had been following the conversation back and forth with his eyes, smiled complacently at the compliment.
  55. compliment
    a remark expressing praise and admiration
    Lennie, who had been following the conversation back and forth with his eyes, smiled complacently at the compliment.
  56. douse
    wet thoroughly
    His head still dripped water from the scrubbing and dousing.
  57. precede
    be earlier in time
    Carlson stepped back to let Slim precede him, and then the two of them went
    out the door.
  58. derision
    the act of treating with contempt
    Through the open door came the thuds and occasional clangs of a horseshoe game, and now and then the sound of voices raised in approval or derision.
  59. nuisance
    a bothersome annoying person
    “’Course Lennie’s a God damn nuisance most of the time,” said George.
  60. stride
    a step in walking or running
    He walked over with his heavy-legged stride and looked down at the dog.
  61. subdued
    quieted and brought under control
    Slim gazed at him for a moment and then looked down at his hands; he subdued one hand with the other, and held it down.
  62. deliberate
    carefully thought out in advance
    George laid out his deliberate solitaire hand— seven cards, and six on top, and five on top of those.
  63. creep
    move slowly
    Lennie crept to his bunk and sat down, trying not to attract attention.
  64. chamber
    a natural or artificial enclosed space
    He laid them on his bed and then brought out the pistol, took out the magazine and snapped the loaded shell from the chamber.
    *the chamber of a gun is where the bullet is held right before it is fired.
  65. rapt
    feeling great delight
    He looked raptly at the wall over Lennie’s head.
  66. subside
    sink to a lower level or form a depression
    He subsided, grumbling to himself, threatening the future cats which might dare to disturb the future rabbits.
  67. bemused
    deeply absorbed in thought
    They all sat still, all bemused by the beauty of the thing, each mind was popped into the future when this lovely thing should come about.
  68. retreat
    the act of withdrawing or going backward
    Lennie looked helplessly at George, and then he got up and tried to retreat.
  69. poised
    marked by balance or equilibrium and readiness for action
    Curley was balanced and poised.
  70. cower
    crouch or curl up
    He crouched cowering against the wall.
  71. accumulate
    get or gather together
    And scattered about the floor were a number of personal possessions; for, being alone, Crooks could leave his things about, and being a stable buck and a cripple, he was more permanent than the other men, and he had accumulated more possessions than he could carry on his back.
  72. civil
    of or relating to or befitting citizens as individuals
    And he had books, too; a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905.
  73. aloof
    remote in manner
    This room was swept and fairly neat, for Crooks was a proud, aloof man.
    *emotionally distant; removed.
  74. meager
    deficient in amount or quality or extent
    In the stable buck’s room a small electric globe threw a meager yellow light.
  75. fawning
    attempting to win favor by flattery
    Lennie gulped and his smile grew more fawning.
  76. persuasive
    intended or having the power to induce action or belief
    His voice grew soft and persuasive.
  77. apprehension
    fearful expectation or anticipation
    Lennie’s face wrinkled with apprehension.
  78. scornful
    expressing extreme contempt
    Crooks was scornful.
  79. conceal
    prevent from being seen or discovered
    It was difficult for Crooks to conceal his pleasure with anger.
  80. indignation
    a feeling of righteous anger
    She was breathless with indignation.
  81. retire
    withdraw from active participation
    Crooks had retired into the terrible protective dignity of the Negro.
  82. scorn
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    She turned on him in scorn.
  83. ego
    an inflated feeling of pride in your superiority to others
    There was no personality, no ego— nothing to arouse either like or dislike.
  84. avert
    turn away or aside
    For a moment she stood over him as though waiting for him to move so that she could whip at him again; but Crooks sat perfectly still, his eyes averted, everything that might be hurt drawn in.
  85. appraise
    consider in a comprehensive way
    She appraised him coolly.
  86. crestfallen
    brought low in spirit
    Candy was crestfallen.
  87. jeer
    laugh at with contempt and derision
    From outside came the clang of horseshoes on the playing peg and the shouts of men, playing, encouraging, jeering.
  88. woe
    misery resulting from affliction
    Then all of Lennie’s woe came back on him.
  89. console
    give moral or emotional strength to
    She consoled him.
  90. writhe
    to move in a twisting or contorted motion,
    Her feet battered on the hay and she writhed to be free; and from under Lennie’s hand came a muffled screaming.
  91. cringe
    draw back, as with fear or pain
    She whimpered and cringed to the packing box, and jumped in among the puppies.
  92. hover
    hang, as of something threatening, dark, or menacing
    As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment.
  93. retort
    answer back
    Now Lennie retorted belligerently, “He ain’t neither.
  94. monotonous
    sounded or spoken in a tone unvarying in pitch
    His voice was monotonous, had no emphasis.
  95. advance
    move forward, also in the metaphorical sense
    He advanced a step into the room, then remembered and backed to the door again.
  96. confide
    reveal in private; tell confidentially
    And because she had confided in him, she moved closer to Lennie and sat beside him.
  97. bewildered
    perplexed by many conflicting situations or statements
    For a moment he seemed bewildered.
  98. discontent
    a longing for something better than the present situation
    And the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face.
  99. snivel
    cry or whine with snuffling
    He sniveled, and his voice shook.
  100. coarse
    of textures that are rough to the touch
    “Some people got kinda coarse hair,” she said complacently.