Steinbeck cleverly builds up the tension throughout Chapter three to foreshadow the fight. It is important to note how Steinbeck builds up the tension beforehand, as he jumps from scene to scene which has conflicting emotions for both the characters and the reader, to perhaps manipulate us to believe that Lennie will be in grave danger, due to the violent and discriminatory characters present in the early-mid 20th Century. Firstly, the characters involved in this scene immediately create tension, as by now, Steinbeck has made it clear that Curley is associated with danger, as is his wife – who begins the argument in the first place; ‘Curley whirled on Carlson’. This clearly depicts that the two most violent characters in the novella are having an argument which creates tension as the reader senses danger almost immediately. In addition to these violent characters, Curley wife is involved in the argument without her being present; ‘Why’n’t you tell her to stay the hell home where she belongs?’.
Carlson’s derogatory statement, which reflects society’s view on women, also creates tension as the modern day readers are fully aware of the discrimination women faced in the 1930’s, so become even more anxious about the situation, as Curley wife is a sensitive subject. However, we also see that Carlson is provoking Curley, which is a bad idea as he can cause lots of damage. Moreover, Steinbeck’s interesting and contrasting descriptions of Lennie and Curley creates tension, because it highlights their different approaches to the same situation which obviously will cause trouble; ‘Lennie looked blankly’, ’Curley was balanced and poised’, which clearly implies that Curley ready for the fight that Lennie isn’t even aware of, and so the reader suddenly tenses at the thought of Lennie being seriously injured.
However, we, alongside George and maybe Slim, understand that Curley is the one to be concerned as Lennie ‘doesn’t know ‘is own strength’. Furthermore, Steinbeck’s use of vivid imagery makes the scene more engaging and thrilling for the reader alongside the nervousness and anxiety they feel for Lennie, which overall, makes the character in the novella, and the reader fell tense; ‘slashed’, which clearly provides the reader with an insight to Curley’s behaviour. In addition it perhaps shows that Lennie was so scared that the atmosphere became tense and Lennie turned to aggression, showing a side of Lennie that the reader has met previously.