Discuss George’s actions at the end of the novel. How can we justify what he does to Lennie? How can we condemn it?
Although murder is morally incorrect, mercy killing can be justified as it may prevent a later inevitable and painful death. In the novella ‘Of Mice and Men’ written by John Steinbeck, the character George shoots his friend, Lennie. Whilst George’s actions can be condemned, George had good intentions towards the death of his friend. Steinbeck makes it clear throughout the novella that although horrid incidents may occur such as Lennie’s death that it was how it was during the Great Depression. However one may like to condemn George’s actions in shooting his only friend, George had forgivable intentions as to why he chose to shoot Lennie.
George’s murdering of his friend was without malicious intent. It is clear from the start in the novella that George cares for Lennie, as he protects and looks out for him. Killing Lennie was not an easy choice.. He also prevented a further painful and torturous death for Lennie, as Curley plans to ‘shoot that big bastard’s guts right outta him.’ This implies that Curley intends no mercy and an excruciating death awaits Lennie. By shooting his friend, George gives Lennie a peaceful death. During the scene where the two men are in the bush, George once again recites their dream which reminds the audience and Lennie of their friendship. He tells George, ‘I got you an’ you got me.’ This conveys in the idea that George truly cared for Lennie and has no vicious intent when he is to shoot Lennie. By shooting Lennie, George gave him a merciful and peaceful death with no intended malicion.
The murder of Lennie is justified as Steinbeck shows the audience through the novella, realistic themes that were evident in the 1930s. Steinbeck’s writing style has been described as a naturalist or realist type. It is clear from the start, that in ‘Of Mice and Men’ there is a predatory nature in human existence. Candy says to George, “I shouldn’t have let no stranger shoot my dog.” Having said that, it foreshadows Lennie’s death and what George must do. It also conveys in the idea that Lennie will face a similar fate to Candy’s old dog who is weak and handicapped. Society does not tolerate the weak as there were limited resources during the Great Depression. As seen in the scene where Slim drowns the smallest pups, it is clear that Steinbeck is trying to send across the message that only the strongest lived during the Great Depression. John Steinbeck gave the reader a realistic view on what would have happened during a difficult time and Lennie’s death is similar to what would have occurred during the 1930s.
The final reason that justifies Lennie’s death, is when one ponders the reality of the men attaining the ranch. As evident in the novella, Lennie has no problem killing small animals and even people. If the reader is to imagine Lennie on a ranch with a large group of animals, especially rabbits; no matter how many times Candy calculated the numbers, there would be no possible way for the men to make a profit off the rabbits given the amount Lennie would kill due to his brute strength. By forgetting the reality of the situation, the men forget that the ranch was not even a reachable goal in the first place. As indicated by George, “I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we’d never do her.” This supports the idea that there was really no chance of the men actually getting the ranch. By killing Lennie, George puts an end to the unrealistic dream in which Lennie would have created problems in making the dream farm profitable.
George’s actions are justified through realism that the ending scene portrays. When George shoots Lennie, he ensures he dies a peaceful death. If George did not kill Lennie, Lennie would have faced a possible torturous death. His actions are also justified as George meant no malicious intent and only wants the best for his friend. Lennie would have made life difficult even on their own land. Steinbeck shows the realism that people in the Great Depression would have faced in situations similar to Lennie and George’s; he shows us a piece of history and the tragedies attached. Although one may condemn George’s shooting of Lennie, mercy killing was the best choice for both of the men.
Loved the point about the Depression times. (Paragraph 3) and also the “unrealistic ” dream point in the next paragraph
You could also discuss the fact that George also “loses” something by killing Lennie. He really believed their relationship was special. ( George tells Slim this). Killing Lennie wasn’t just the easy way out for George.
Once again, an original approach.
I am sure your exam essay will reflect your mature approach and your hard work.
Courtney from Study Moose
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