Steinbeck returns to the setting that started the novel, alongside the pool of the Salinas River, where George and Lennie first appeared to us. We remember that George told Lennie to return here if any trouble should happen, and it is only fitting that the course of events lead the reader back to the beginning. Lennie appears and approaches the pool's edge, where he stoops and drinks. He then sits on the bank facing the trail, waiting for George and congratulating himself for not forgetting what George said. Despite having remembered, Lennie knows that George will be angry and he prepares to react to his anger, saying: "If George don't want me . . . . I'll go away. I'll go away" (110).
In his solitude, Lennie is confronted by two ghosts, who curiously speak to him in his own voice. The first is Aunt Clara, who reproaches him for giving George trouble all the time: "You do bad things. . . You never give a thought to George. He been doin' nice things for you all time" (111). Lennie miserably agrees with the voice of his own conscience and says he will go away into the hills, but Aunt Clara says that he will just "stick around an' stew the b'Jesus outa George all the time" (111). The next apparition to appear is a rabbit-not one of the little rabbits that sat near the river in chapter one, but a gigantic rabbit. The rabbit scolds Lennie, saying that he is too stupid to care for any rabbits. Speaking of George, the rabbit tells Lennie: "Well, he's sick of you. He's gonna beat hell outa you an' then go away an' leave you" (112). Lennie is terrified by the rabbit's prophecy and covers his ears and cries out George's name.
Quietly, George enters from the brush and, as Steinbeck writes, "the rabbit scuttled back into Lennie's brain" (113). George is stiff and silent, but tells Lennie, when he asks, that he will not leave him. Lennie confesses that he has "done a bad thing," and asks George to "give him hell" (113). As in chapter one, George tells Lennie that his life would be better without him, but the difference here is that George speaks without emotion, as if rehearsing a script that no longer means anything to him. Lennie doesn't notice the lifelessness in George's tone, and happily urges him to tell about the little place with the rabbits. George tells Lennie to look across the river "so you can almost see it" (115), and Lennie turns away from George and stares dreamily across the pool.
George begins the familiar story of the little farm and the rabbits, and while he speaks, he removes Carlson's pistol, which he has stolen, and aims it at the back of Lennie's head. The voices of the search party are audible from up the river. George tells Lennie, who still has his back to him, that he isn't mad: "I never been mad, an' I ain't now" (117). Lennie begs George to get the little place right now, and George agrees, and then pulls the trigger. Lennie dies instantly. George throws the gun away and the others enter the little clearing. George, tired and speaking softly, convinces the others that he forced Lennie to give him Carlson's pistol and then he shot him with it. Slim, who knows the truth, suggests that he and George go for a drink and walks off with him, saying, much to the curiosity of Curley and Carlson, "You hadda, George. I swear you hadda" (118).