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Was George right or wrong to shoot Lennie?Did he really love Lennie or was he cruel or...

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mizzmari | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 8, 2009 at 3:41 PM via web

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Was George right or wrong to shoot Lennie?

Did he really love Lennie or was he cruel or wrong?

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted December 8, 2009 at 4:19 PM (Answer #2)

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To determine if George was right to shoot Lenny, one must first ascertain if it is right to take another person's life regardless of the reason.  One must look at the dynamics of the relationship between Lenny and George.  George had been raised with Lenny and had always been his caretaker.  He had watched out for Lenny and sometimes been cruel to him.  The responsibility of caring for Lenny had been overwhelming for George.  However, they also had each other.  The type of work that they did usually led to a relatively isolated life as men moved from one farm to another. Relationships that formed were often evolved around drinking buddies and then moving on to find additional work.  Lenny and George had each other.  They knew the good and the bad about one another and accepted each other.  They kept a dream alive for each other.  This made them different from the other field hands in a positive way.

George killed Lenny out of love and compassion.  He knew that Lenny would not really understand the depth of what he had done.  George also knows that Lenny's mental disabilities limited his ability to understand his own actions.  He wants to protect Lenny from the terror and cruelty that would befall Lenny once Curly and the rest of the men caught up with Lenny.   George's actions are like euthanasia.  He wants to give his friend a peaceful death. 

Was George right in what he did?  Yes, he ended his friend's life so that he would not suffer at the hands of others.  Is taking a person's life right, this is a moral question only the individual can answer.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 8, 2009 at 4:29 PM (Answer #3)

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Lennie's dream of living with George and the rabbits dissolves for good when he accidentally strangles Curley's Wife in John Steinbeck's monumental play, "Of Mice and Men." George knows that the two of them will not be able to run away from this problem as they had in the past. Lennie is facing either a lynch mob or the death penalty (or, at least a long prison sentence), so George takes matters into his own hands and puts his friend out of his misery--a humane act usually reserved for pets such as rabbits.

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salty1234 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 8, 2009 at 5:31 PM (Answer #4)

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He did the right thing... he knew if the others caught him they would have tortured him. Like the scene with the dog in the middle of the book, George realizes that Lennie will be the suffering dog and the workers will kill him. He kept Lennie from being tortured.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 8, 2010 at 8:02 PM (Answer #5)

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Years ago there was a movie entitled, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" which was also set in the Great Depression.  In this film, desperate couples entered dance marathons in the hope of winning the monetary prize, a prize that could restore them to a life without hunger and all the other ills of poverty.  Since only one couple would win after agonizing hours of dancing on a hardwood floor, the losers left more desolate and defeated than before.  In fact, many no longer wanted to continue the desperate struggle for survival.  One character asks, "Why don't they just shoot us like they do horses?"

The final controversial episode of George's shooting of Lennie is parallel to this movie's theme.  For George, his act was one of mercy, preventing Lennie from suffering the terrible loneliness, alienation, and fear that he would in prison.  George not only kills Lennie when he shoots, he kills the dream, so that the future for him is murdered, as it is for the losing dancers of "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"  Indeed, the denouement of Steinbeck's novella is as desperate as the times in which it is set.

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innachka82 | Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 9, 2010 at 5:30 PM (Answer #6)

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George had no choice but to kill Lennie. Lennie would not live a happy life if he were placed in a loony bin. By killing Lennie George also freed Lennie as well as himself. Lennie no longer has follow George and live in fear of abandonment. George can live a more normal life now - he can keep jobs longer and maybe even have a girlfriend.

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y2kfain | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 18, 2010 at 5:36 PM (Answer #7)

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George loved Lennie. Whether George did the right thing is a matter of opinion. When Slim shoots the old dog earlier in the book the incident serves as a foreshadow. The dog is old, blind, disabled, and stinky and thought to be of no use to himself or anyone. Unfortunately, Lennie's innocence and strength is useful, however, those qualities become his detriment. He places himself and others in dangerous situations. George and Lennie were run out of weed because Lennie touches a girl's dress and she claims that she was raped. Then Lennie destroysCurley's hand on the command of George. Finally, Lennie kills Curley's wife accidentally due to his superhuman strength. If George would not have killed him,Curley and the others would have lynched him or shot him unmercifully. George was in the position where he had no choice. He rather put Lennie to eternal sleep himself than allow the angry men to kill Lennie.

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ericka0 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 13, 2010 at 4:45 PM (Answer #8)

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i think that what george did was riqht he only wanted to protect lennie. and i think that he did it out of love and concern. since lennie was his friend, he wanted to kill him instead of havinq the other workers kill him. so i think he did do it out of love and what he did was somehow riqht and somehow wronq.

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roberta022469 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 15, 2010 at 9:18 AM (Answer #9)

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George loved Lennie because, he would rather kill Lennie himself than see him get tortured

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 15, 2010 at 12:55 PM (Answer #10)

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The answer to your question depends on what one's definition of love is.  If you see love as a willingness on someone's part to sacrifice his own good or comfort for another's, then George certainly demonstrates love for Lennie by shooting him.  While that might seem harsh, and while I don't think that I could do what George did, he saves Lennie from a worse fate and keeps Lennie from either being tortured by Curley, being institutionalized (which was a torturous experience in 1930s America), or with being on the run for the rest of his life.

George knows that when he shoots Lennie that he is not only losing him forever, but that he will also have to live with his action.  This knowledge on his part demonstrates that George's act is completely selfless and in Lennie's best interest.

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charcunning | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:54 PM (Answer #11)

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Lennie was going to die; there was no way around it. He didn't want his friend killed by strangers or to be scared at the moment of his death. Killing Lennie himself was the most humane thing that George could do; he would rather bear the guilt of having killed his friend than the guilt of turning his friend over to those who were out for his blood.

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pseudonymousboschfan | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 4, 2011 at 12:38 PM (Answer #12)

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George killing Lennie wasn't right! No person has the right to take another's life! Mercy and Killing should NEVER go together! His actions are condemned! He should not have taken law into his own hands.

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thelastman | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 8, 2012 at 6:27 PM (Answer #13)

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This question being asked without knowing the answer is a thousand times more disturbing than the story itself.  It amazes me how easily people are so easily influenced and brainwashed into submissive and dividing roles by concepts and ideas.  When your friend is in trouble and needs help, you help him.  You dont shoot him in the back of the head to get yourself out of a tough spot like a dispicable little coward.  George was not much wiser than Lennie, there were a dozen ways out of that situation and they never even attempted the most obvious one, to keep running.  Instead, George being greedy and selfish, they sit as the mob gains ground on them until George decides to shoot his friend in the back of the head, affraid he might lose the chance at acquiring his "beloved" farm.  It saddens me to see how many people identifies with the greedy, traitorous, cowardly actions of George.  If Steinbeck actually believes in this moral he is pushing thru this story, he is a man of extremely poor character; selfish, materialistic, and a terrible friend.

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