Of Mice And Men: Was Killing Lennie An Act Of Mercy?

May 18, 2022 by Essay Writer

In the classic novel “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck ‘s, one of the main themes that influence the story and characters in the novel is friendship. The theme of friendship plays a large part in the area of mercy killing, which affects the main characters as well as the supporting ones. In the novel, it occurs two major mercy killings, and they are Carlson’s killing of Candy’s old dog, and George’s killing of Lennie. In both examples, the killer murders the other one because of mercy and love, not because of the usual motives like hatred, rage, anger, etc. And in the end, did George make the right choice?

George and Lennie have a relationship that most people find strange in the novel. George is the smaller guy, who is smart and works hard, but he is withheld by Lennie, a much larger guy who is mentally deficient. Lennie constantly gets himself and George into trouble, despite all the trouble Lennie puts George through he still cares deeply about Lennie. “But not us! An’ why? Because…because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.” (Steinbeck, 1998, s. 36) The relationship that George and Lennie have is very strange especially for the era and situation they are in since both of them are poor and most people cannot afford to take care of themselves, let alone take care of another who is mentally deficient. “Oh, I dunno. Hardly none of the guys travel together. You know how the hands are, they just come in and get bunk and work a month, and then they quit and go out alone. Never seem to give a damn about nobody. It jus’ seems kinda funny a cuckcoo like him and a smart little guy like you travelin’ together.” (Steinbeck, 1998, s. 63)

George and Lennie have a dream, to save up enough money together to someday buy their own little house and a plot of land to farm. Where they can be independent and safe, furthermore where he does not have to worry about Lennie’s mistakes. “O.K. – we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little hose and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs and –” “we’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we’ll just say the hell with goin’ to work, and we’ll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an’ listen to the rain comin’ down on the roof -Nuts!” (Steinbeck, 1998, s. 37) Despite their dream, Lennie did a big mistake changed and because of it he and George had to pay a big price for it.

In order to prevent agony and misery from happening to Lennie at the end, George took it upon himself to kill Lennie with a quick, painless death by shooting him in the back of the head. If George had not killed Lennie, Lennie would have suffered in the hands of Curley and the others. Curley tells Carlson to aim for Lennie’s guts so that Lennie will suffer, “The nigger’s got a shotgun. You take it, Carlson. When you see um, don’t give’im no chance. Shoot for his guts. That’ll double ‘im over.” (Steinbeck, 1998, s. 124) Hence, why George decided to kill Lennie mercifully. George decided to kill Lennie at his very happiest since he did not want his last moment to be sad. George has Lennie describe their dream farm, that they planned to buy together, what they were going to do, and that Lennie was going to have his bunny hutch. « “Go on” said Lennie. “How’s it gonna be. We gonna get a little place.” “We’ll have a cow,” said George. “An’ we’ll have maybe pig an’ chickens … an’ down the flat we’ll have a … little piece alfalfa –” “For the rabbits,” Lennie shouted. “For the rabbits,” George repeated. “And I get to tend the rabbits.” “An’ you get to tend the rabbits.” Lennie giggled with happiness. “An’ live on the fatta the lan’.” » (Steinbeck, 1998, s. 132) By doing it so, George prevented Lennie from causing any more harm to anyone, and also saved Lennie from any grief or pain from being shot by someone without sympathy or compassion.


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