Have you ever faced a difficult decision? Every day, we have to make decisions. Some of these decisions can be simple, but others can raise moral or ethical dilemmas. How does one go about making these moral or ethical decisions? People have value systems that can influence the moral or ethical decisions they make. This is clearly illustrated in the book Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, through the main character, George Milton and his interaction with his companion, Lennie. Steinbeck shows how George’s value system influences his moral and ethical decisions when George shows his care for Lennie, when he helps Lennie resolve his conflicts with other people, and when Lennie kills Curley’s wife.
Steinbeck shows that George values companionship. It is shown throughout the story that George values companionship but at the same time, he wants his freedom. However, he cannot have his freedom because he has Lennie to take care of, but George doesn’t mind having Lennie and wants Lennie to stay with him no matter how much trouble Lennie gets into because Lennie gives him companionship. An example is when George gets mad at Lennie and tells Lennie the “swell time” he can have without him and Lennie responds, “George, you want I should go away and leave ya alone … I could go off in the hills there. Some place I’d find a cave” (pg. 13).
Ethically, since Lennie is an adult, George could have let Lennie leave so that George would his freedom to “stay in a cathouse, eat any place [he] wants, get a gallon of whisky, or set in a pool room and play cards or shoot pool” (pg. 12). However, George feels that he is morally responsible for Lennie, and says, “Yeah? How’d you eat? You ain’t got sense enough to find nothing to eat … No-look! I was jus’ foolin’ Lennie. ‘Cause I want you to stay with me … Tell you what I’ll do, Lennie. First chance I get, I’ll give you a pup (pg. 14)”. Steinbeck also shows that George has the values of being responsible and loyal to Lennie. The story is set at a ranch where the boss’s son, Curley and Curley’s wife reside. Curley is a short man who likes trying to pick up fights with other people that are bigger and stronger than him and is extremely protective of his wife. Curley’s wife is a lonely woman who tries to seek company by talking to the farm workers.
An example of George being responsible is when Curley is looking for his wife and the other men working on the ranch make fun of him because they despise him. However, when Curley sees that Lennie is smiling, because he is dreaming about rabbits, he thinks that Lennie is making fun of him, so he gets angry. Curley shouts to Lennie, “Come on, ya big bastard. Get up on your feet. No big son-of-a-bitch is gonna laugh at me. I’ll show ya who’s yella. … Lennie looked helplessly at George… George was on his feet yelling, Get him, Lennie. Don’t let him do it. Get ’im, Lennie” (pg. 61-62). George here is being responsible as a person to Lennie because he is telling Lennie how to protect himself and make sure that Lennie doesn’t get injured too much. Also, George is, in a way, obligated to take care of Lennie because of George’s promise. George made a promise to Lennie’s Aunt Clara before she died that he would take care of Lennie and George, who is loyal, does just that.
George’s ethical decision is to protect Lennie from harm and tell him what to do because he knows that that the right thing to do. Towards the end of the book, Steinbeck shows that George has the value ofcaring when it comes to doing the right thing for Lennie. George knows that the task of killing Lennie is difficult and has to find inner strength to do it. There are many similarities between Candy, a friend of George and Lennie, and his dog and George and Lennie. Candy’s dog has stiff joints, very old, and because he stinks so bad, he is troublesome to others. Candy said that, “I been around him so much I never notice how he stinks.” Candy has been around his dog so much that he is used to the smell so therefore, he doesn’t notice it and because he is used to his dog being around he won’t be able to kill his dog. Similarly, Lennie can be a nuisance to George because he is constantly getting into trouble.
And when Slim asks why George still has him, George says, “…you get used to goin’ around with a guy an’ you can’t get rid of him”. Like Candy and his dog, George has been with George for too long that now simply they are used to each other. Candy had to let his dog go because it was best for the dog. However, he let someone else kill his dog and Candy later tells George, “I ought to of shot that dog myself George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog.”George on the other hand, didn’t want anyone to hurt Lennie and knew that he must kill Lennie himself. The ethical decision here is that it is wrong to kill someone and technically, George is breaking the law. The moral part in George’s decision is that if George doesn’t kill him, then Lennie will be tortured and man-slaughtered by Curley.
Also, George makes sure that Lennie dies in happiness by having him first think about the plan of getting a farm and tending to rabbits before George kills Lennie. Steinbeck portrays George as a person who has values defines who he is. Steinbeck had shown that George values companionship, responsibility, and loyalty while he fosters Lennie. Steinbeck shows how George’s value system influences George’s moral and ethical decisions when George shows his care for Lennie, when Lennie faces or gets into conflict with other people, and when Lennie kills Curley’s wife.