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In Of Mice and Men, was George shooting Lennie justified? Some opinions on what people...

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reyizzle21 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 17, 2008 at 3:47 PM via web

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In Of Mice and Men, was George shooting Lennie justified?

Some opinions on what people think about the shooting.

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 17, 2008 at 5:33 PM (Answer #2)

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It's tough because one the one hand you have to commend the man for making such a huge sacrifice to spare his friend the torture he might have incurred at the hands of the angry mob after him. One the other hand, it is murder, any way you slice it he killed Lennie. I think that he had Lennie's forgiveness and I think Lennie sensed what had to be done, but I hate to condone something so terrible. I wish he has found another choice to make, there were other choices he could have made and I kind of feel like he was lazy about it. He could have found a place to hide Lennie and then tried to explain, they could have kept running, he could have begged for mercy from the men, it was as if he was tired of having to look out for Lennie and just gave up, gave in, and shot him.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 18, 2008 at 12:34 PM (Answer #3)

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I feel that way, too, Clane.  Reading the book makes the reader feel extremely sorry for Lennie...he makes decisions on impulse.  More like an animal than a human being.  He is incapable of understanding his own strength and understanding the subtleties of life.  I don't think George was right.  Murder is murder, and it is not for George to decide when Lennie should go to the great beyond.  George simply got tired of caring for an adult who acts like a child...a terrible burden on George and the way he wants to live his life.  No matter how much your child annoys you or messes up, you can't just kill him.

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted March 18, 2008 at 12:58 PM (Answer #4)

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I don't think any murder is justified, but I do think George cares for Lennie and the shooting is not done out of anger or even that he is sick of Lennie and the burden he represents.

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determinationarmy | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 19, 2008 at 5:55 AM (Answer #5)

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I believe that George did what he had to do. Yes, it was murder, and it was also sad, but if he would have let Lennie live Lennie would have just done something else in another town. I loved Lennie in this book, but the truth is in that fact Lennie was so mentally hanicapped there was nothing else George could have done. Like Candy's dog, Lennie was no good for himself or anyone around him. I do not believe in murder, and yes, that's what George did, but in a way George didn't have a choice.

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leagye | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted March 30, 2008 at 10:24 AM (Answer #6)

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Most of my freshmen consistently feel that the shooting was unjustified, regardless of what horrible fate may have awaited Lennie at the hands of the men who were after them. As clane said, there were other options (that freshmen are so good at coming up with) other than murder. At that point, I usually explain that it is important to keep in mind what Steinbeck may have been trying to impart to the reader. It speaks to Steinbeck's compassion for people who had no home, no family and who led a nomadic existence during that time in California's history. The stresses of that type of life were intense, and friendships and relationships were complex (or just didn't exist for many).

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cybil | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 30, 2008 at 1:03 PM (Answer #7)

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Interesting, leagye. Most of my freshmen (who are all boys) believe that George had no other choice but to save Lennie from a worse kind of death at the hands of Curley and his men. The action is murder, but my boys argue that it's a kind of mercy killing. George gets irritated with Lennie, yes, but George still cares very much about what happens to his mentally handicapped friend. We talk about what suffering Lennie might have endured otherwise. 

It's important as well to keep Steinbeck's style as a naturalistic writer in mind. It's tough to read much of his work at a time because it is so uniformly grim. People like George and Lennie or the family in The Grapes of Wrath are always going to lose because of forces beyond their control. In this novel Lennie's doom is suggested from the moment we learn that he cannot control himself in his desire to touch soft things, whether it's a girl's dress or a mouse. People don't understand his behavior. Society in Steinbeck's works doesn't tolerate differences like Lennie's. Candy, Crooks, and Curley's wife are also victims in this regard. 

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asorrell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted April 12, 2008 at 2:08 PM (Answer #8)

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All of my kids loved Lennie, but I think most of them felt that it was a mercy killing and that a worse fate would have awaited Lennie if George hadn't shot him.  They feel sympathetic with George and Lennie.  Both characters are in a bad situation and obviously Lennie can't make a decision for himself.  Yes, if George had were arrested he would be convicted for murder, but most students see the reason and understand the reason he felt he had to do it.  And yes they could run, but they already had to run when they were in Weed.  I think George assumed (and probably rightly so) that it would just happen again.

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mrerick | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted July 30, 2008 at 8:29 AM (Answer #9)

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I think the problem with this issue is that it's easy to forget that George is human also.  We spend our time recognizing Lenny as someone who needs help and George as the provider for that help.  The more we see Lenny leaning on George for help, the more as accept the fact that George needs to help him, that he is almost required to fulfil this role.  What we need to do, though, is put ourselves in George's shoes more closely.  How many times can you continue to follow the exact same actions before you tire of it.  They just ran to this ranch to escape Lenny's actions in Weed.  While I agree George may have been lazy about his reaction to this new problem, he probably recognized the bigger picture.  They could run away from this problem and get work on another ranch, but it would only be a matter of time before they'd be running again.  This horrible cycle has to be heavily weighing on George who wants nothing more than to be a regular working "Joe" who dreams of owning his own ranch.  We've all made rash, poor decisions when overcome with the stress of responsibilty, this was George's.  I suppose we can argue whether his actions were right or wrong forever and ever, but I think that more important that it being right or wrong, it's understandable. 

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blacksheepunite | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted February 25, 2009 at 1:24 AM (Answer #12)

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George's justification for shooting Lennie is to keep him from experiencing the pain that will follow the consequences of his actions. Lennie will be lynched, probably beaten and then killed when he is caught. George also knows that even if they were to escape, it would be just a matter of time before Lennie had another "accident" and killed someone else. He knows he can't protect him from society, as he also can't protect society from Lennie. From George's perspective, killing Lennie before he is caught is the only kind thing to do. It is a quick end--he even protects Lennie from seeing it coming. From George's perspective, it is an act of love. As to whether it is justifiable or not, that is difficult to say. From one perspective, killing is never acceptable. However, real life is seldom black and white, and sometimes love requires a shift from absolute morality to relative.

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natashastein | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 5, 2010 at 8:28 AM (Answer #16)

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            George knew the punishment and torture Lennie would have had to face when he was found. He grasped the emotional toll it would take on Lennie’s already damaged interior. “I’m gunna shoot that big bastard’s gut right out, I’m gunna get him.” Said Curley. Pg98 (Steinbeck) George felt that Lennie’s death was inevitable. Mr. Milton remembered the pain that Cady went through when he let some stranger kill his best friend.  Lennie was George’s best friend. Lennie died quickly and painlessly, opposed to the slow and cruel death that the ranch hands were seeking. George’s actions were fast but well sought out.

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natashastein | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 5, 2010 at 8:29 AM (Answer #17)

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            After Lennie accidentally killed Curley’s wife Mr. Milton insured him that he was not going to get in any trouble for the mistake he had made, though George knew he could face sever punishment. George did not mentally or physically abuse Lennie prior to his death. In fact he made Lennie’s last minutes on earth very peaceful by reminiscing of the life George wished he and Lennie could have had. He reminded Lennie about the struggles they had faced and how the full heartedly surpassed them. “guys like us got no family. They make a little stake an’ blow it. They ain’t got no body in the worl’ who gives a hoot in hell bout em’. But not us, I got you an’ you got me” said George passionately. pg.104 (John Steinbeck) Do these words sound like something a vicious killer would say? Or do they sound like the words of a true friend?

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teena99 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 31, 2011 at 2:45 AM (Answer #25)

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“Murder is the unlawful and malicious or premeditated killing of one human being by another,” [Webster's College Dictionary]

I don't think George killing Lennie could be considered malicious. And I don't believe it was planned, or premeditated, either. He did it out of desperation. He wanted to help his best friend, the only person in this world who understood him, even if it meant losing a part of himself. I think George died in a sense after shooting Lennie. Part of him was gone as well. But I think if George felt there was any other option, he wouldn't have killed Lennie.

I think it was necessary for George to kill Lennie. People do forget that George is only human too. Yes, it was murder, but it was still necessary.  THere would be no point of the story without it.

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kfranken | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 15, 2011 at 7:51 AM (Answer #26)

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I don't think it was purely a mercy killing preventing bad things to come for Lennie, it also was based on the fact Lennie did murder someone, albeit was it without him realising.

This fact makes the whole situation a lot more compliacted: would they have ran, Lennie would have been a danger for people (and animals for that fact). Would George have let them catch Lennie there would have been no understanding about his mental limitations and he would have suffered a terrible fait - the fact that euthanasia is best in this case is sharply illustrated by the euthanasia of the dog who is not even a danger for anyone, it is just smelly.

The book introduces us to Lennie being a nice person and ofcourse you would like him with the insight we get, but how we would judge him in real life is possibly different. And how people who have to fight for survivial in a harsh world where basic needs are limited would value his life is surely very different - even though all the characters, except Curley, are convinced he is a nice guy he basically is not worth fighting for when it can endager your own existance.

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mcfox1948 | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted February 16, 2013 at 9:42 PM (Answer #27)

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George killed Lennie in order to save him for a worse fate. George loves Lennie, there is no doubt about that. However, Lennie is a menace to the society. He might be sweet and child-like, but he is also unintentionally extremely destructive. People who are that destructive, even by accident, have to be restrained. George could not tolerate the idea of anyone being cruel to Lennie, so he ended his life at the precise moment he happiest--talking of their farm and their rabbits he would care for. Yes, he was justified because it was the most merciful choice he could make.

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littlehic | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 11, 2009 at 2:11 PM (Answer #10)

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“Murder is the unlawful and malicious or premeditated killing of one human being by another,” [Webster's College Dictionary]

I don't think George killing Lennie could be considered malicious. And I don't believe it was planned, or premeditated, either. He did it out of desperation. He wanted to help his best friend, the only person in this world who understood him, even if it meant losing a part of himself. I think George died in a sense after shooting Lennie. Part of him was gone as well. But I think if George felt there was any other option, he wouldn't have killed Lennie.

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darsk | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 24, 2009 at 5:36 PM (Answer #11)

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Some students in my class counter the mercy killing with the fact that patients in pain need to directly ask to be end their life. However, I highly doubt that Lennie had the mental capacity to realize it was an option. As an example, I used the final chapter, in which there were talking rabbits jumping out of his head.

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natashastein | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 5, 2010 at 8:27 AM (Answer #13)

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George Milton should not be held responsible for the death of Lennie Small. The thought of George being convicted for his best friends murder is nearly as shattering as Lennie’s death it’s self.  Who truly is to say that George did not commit the ultimate sacrifice by mercifully killing his best friend, his brother.

 

   

 

           

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

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natashastein | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 5, 2010 at 8:28 AM (Answer #14)

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            George repeatedly tried to teach Lennie the difference between right and wrong, but clearly Lennie never grasped the concepts. George had been taking care of Lennie since his aunt passed away and had always tried to look after him the best he knew how. George Milton should not be prosecuted for the unfortunate death of Lennie Small; the out come of Lennie’s death was beyond both George and Lennie’s control. George had wanted what was best for Lennie and tried his best to do so.

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natashastein | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 5, 2010 at 8:28 AM (Answer #15)

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If Lennie and George were to escape and flee to a new town Lennie could wind up hurting more people. Lennie not knowing his strength and abilities could hurt others quickly and unintentionally. The two men could have easily fled and we would not be here today. That is not the kind of man Mr. Milton is. George knew the reoccurring pattern in Lennie’s behaviour. George recalled when Lennie clung to a young girl when they resided in weed because he liked her dress. When she became fearful Lennie did not know what else to do but hold on. Luckily George was there to protect Lennie from himself and detach him from the young girl. All Lennie’s life he had been unintentionally harming animals and killing them unknowingly. Before the time of Lennie’s death he had become more careless and disregarding the lessons that George had taught him.

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cheeto | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:13 PM (Answer #18)

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I agree with you natashastein George only did what he thought was right there was nobody else in the world who understood Lennie as much as George did. If George thought there was nothing else he could do ,then there was nothing else he could do.What we have to remember here is that the other men are gaining on them they don't have time to run away.Even if they had,had time it was a never ending cycle of running away all of the time either George or Lennie would get tired of it sooner or later.It was better sooner when Lennie could still escape a "worst " death.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 24, 2013 at 1:04 AM (Answer #28)

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Nobody but the reader knows that happened between Lennie and Curley's wife in the barn. George was not there. He only saw the girl's dead body. To everyone it looked like a case of murder in connection with an attempted rape. What actually happened, as we know, was different. Lennie got panicked when Curley's wife started screaming for help. The men were playing horseshoes right outside the barn. He was desperate to make her stop struggling and screaming. It is noteworthy that something similar happened in Weed, but that time George arrived on the scene in time to intervene. The fact is that Lennie's crime was probably more like accidental manslaughter, since there was no intent to commit murder, or to commit rape, for that matter. But he would have no way of defending himself in a court trial because he didn't have the capability of explaining the circumstances, and there was nobody else to tell what actually happened. It looked much worse than it was. If it ever came to a trial--which was highly unlikely--the prosecutor would have to insist that Lennie was trying to rape the girl. It would be hard to establish that he was trying to murder her.

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Yojana_Thapa | TA , Grade 10 | Valedictorian

Posted January 31, 2014 at 3:45 PM (Answer #29)

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Lennie's disability doesn't fit the society . George thought that it was better for himself to kill Lennie instead of others. It was more humane. George was the only person that understands and knew Lennie. George thought that what he did was right.

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crystaltu001 | TA , Grade 10 | Valedictorian

Posted July 27, 2014 at 4:57 AM (Answer #30)

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I don't think it was completely all George's fault because lennie had a disability and he wouldn't fit in. When Lennie killed Curley's wife, Curley wanted to kill him  and make him suffer so George probably did it because he didn't want Lennie to suffer and get killed by the others so he did what he thought was right and killed lennie himself.

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mellowmrsm | eNoter

Posted July 30, 2014 at 2:03 AM (Answer #31)

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Although the answer to this question can be defended either way, I feel that George is justified in killing Lennie. Aside form the fact that Lennie has been and will continue to be a hindrance to George in both his personal and professional life, this is not George's main motivation for carrying out such a serious deed. Ultimately, George kills Lennie in a sense of mercy. Lennie, although he may have continued on living a happy, oblivious life, would most likely have found a much worse demise. Due to his lack of cognitive skills and his unbridled brute strength, Lennie continuously found himself in situations where not only did he do something that gets him in trouble or that he didn't mean to do, but angers other people in the process. In fact, when George ultimately does choose to kill Lennie, Lennie was essentially on the run. Curly and the rest of the people from the farm were on a man hunt to kill Lennie  and possibly George because of the trouble that he had caused for all of them (mainly the accidental manslaughter of Curly's wife). They certainly would not have been as nice, comforting, or humane as George was in killing him. George did not see an end to Lennie's antics, and so "putting him out of his misery" was a way to protect himself from Lennie, but also Lennie from himself.

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