Why does George kill Lennie in Of Mice and Men?

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cybil's profile pic

Posted on

George kills Lennie by shooting him in the back of the head to save him from a more painful death at the hands of Curley, who has vowed to make him suffer for the death of his wife. George loves his friend Lennie, whom he has looked after faithfully, and he doesn't want Lennie to die horribly, especially since Lennie has unwittingly taken the life of Curley's wife in much the same way as he petted the puppy too hard or squeezed the mice to death. Lennie didn't know his own strength. When Curley's wife screamed, he didn't know how to make her stop except to do what he did, but he did not intend to kill her.

Curley, of course, is also looking for a way to achieve revenge for Lennie's crushing his hand, so he will definitely try to kill Lennie in the most cruel way possible. He says he will "gut shoot" him. George must save his friend by a mercy killing.

Here is a video summary of the novella:

billdelaney's profile pic

Posted on

There seems to be a correlation between Carlson's shooting Candy's old dog and George shooting Lennie. Steinbeck planned to have George kill Lennie--but he had to have a gun. The episode with Carlson shooting the dog serves a dual purpose. It establishes that Carlson owns a gun, a Luger pistol. Steinbeck devotes a whole paragraph and some additional exposition to describing what Carlson does with it after shooting the dog and returning to the bunkhouse. Finally:

Carlson finished the cleaning of the gun and put it in the bag and pushed the bag under his bunk.

This is what in Hollywood parlance is called a "plant." It establishes that there is a gun available and that George knows exactly where it is. He has also seen Carlson working the mechanism of this foreign handgun, so he will understand how to inject a cartridge into the chamber. George, of course, does not plan to shoot Lennie at that time, but he will remember that Luger when he makes the decision to kill his friend.

The whole description of Carlson's Luger can be considered foreshadowing. The reader senses that the gun will appear again somewhere in the story.

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billdelaney's profile pic

Posted on

George kills Lennie for multiple reasons.

  •       The reason most commonly offered is that George wants to save Lennie from being tortured by the pursuing lynch mob. This is probably valid, but it does not explain why he doesn’t help Lennie escape. Lennie is hiding on the bank of a shallow river. The two men could wade across the river and climb into the Gabilan Mountains. The lynch mob might never even think of looking for them up there. Even if the mob finally guessed they had fled into the mountains, George and Lennie would have too much of a head start, and it would soon be getting dark. According to Lennie, the mountains have many caves. A mob would have to search each cave, and in the meantime the fugitives could be getting farther away.
  •         George didn’t intend to help Lennie escape. This is proved conclusively by the fact that he stole Carlson’s Luger from under his bunk at the ranch. He intended to kill Lennie as painlessly as possible, just as he had seen Carlson kill Candy's dog with a single shot. When George saw the body of Curley’s wife in the barn, he assumed, like all the other men, that Lennie had tried to rape her and had unintentionally killed her while they were struggling. George realizes that Lennie is becoming a menace to society and that he would probably kill other girls if allowed to live in freedom.
  •         This is the first time Lennie has killed a human being (although he has killed lots of animals). George is in some danger of being charged as an accessory to second-degree homicide. He told Lennie where to hide if he got into trouble. If he tried to help his friend escape, he would definitely be an accessory to murder. George is also potentially in double-trouble. Curley suspects him of helping Lennie escape and telling him where to go. The police could arrest George just because he was a friend of Lennie and was responsible for Lennie's behavior. If they couldn't catch Lennie they might turn on George--either the lynch mob or the police, or both. After all, George was not responsible for what Lennie did in the town of Weed, and yet George's life was equally in jeopardy. George is getting fed up with being tied to an irresponsible man who could get him killed. Many of us have had the experience of deciding to break off relations with a friend who keeps causing us trouble. There are plenty of such people!
  •         George feels guilty for the death of Curley’s wife. In fact, he really is guilty because he brought Lennie to that ranch and the girl would still be alive if he hadn’t brought Lennie there. He is Lennie’s caretaker. He is responsible for any kind of trouble Lennie gets into—and he is beginning to realize that Lennie is growing into more of a problem than he is competent to handle.
  •         George wants to rid himself of a big burden. He can’t handle the stress anymore. When he kills Lennie with the Luger he has mixed feelings, which include pity, sorrow, and remorse, but also a vast relief. He frequently abuses Lennie verbally, telling the childish giant that he could enjoy a much happier life if only he were free of him. Lennie is a burden because he is always getting into trouble and also because he has to be watched all the time. Lennie has caused George to lose jobs, and jobs are hard to come by. Lennie almost got both of them lynched by assaulting a girl in Weed.
  •         George is angry at Lennie. He feels sorry for Curley’s dead wife. She was just a dumb girl. She should have had a chance to live out her whole life and not have it snuffed out the way Lennie had killed his puppy and so many other small animals. George kills Lennie for the same reason that the lynch mob wants to kill him. George is really fed up with his companion.
  •         George can’t turn Lennie over to the authorities with the hope that they would put him in an asylum. He doesn’t have the power to determine Lennie’s fate. If he could manage to get Lennie arrested rather than lynched, the authorities would be likely to charge Lennie with murder. There would be plenty of evidence that he had killed Curley’s wife, and there would be plenty of witnesses to testify that he was guilty. The motive would be attempted rape. Nobody saw what happened in the barn. Lennie would be incapable of defending himself, and he wouldn’t have much of a defense anyway. He wouldn’t let go of the girl, she started screaming and struggling, and he killed her.
  •         Lennie is showing many signs of rebelling against George’s control. He lies to George, threatens to run away and live by himself, doesn’t follow George’s instructions, sometimes deliberately disobeys. (For example, George told him to have nothing to do with Curley’s wife.) George may be a little bit afraid of Lennie, and with good reason. A time might come when Lennie might “accidentally” kill his keeper.

Steinbeck was a realist. His characters are not all good or all bad. George shows his good side by looking after Lennie for a long time. He shows his darker side by verbally abusing Lennie, by wanting to be rid of him, and finally by executing him. Lennie himself seems like a gentle, likeable character—except that he kills everything he touches, including his little puppy. Lennie is developing an interest in sex, and because of his feeble mind and giant strength he is potentially a monster who needs to be destroyed.  Slim is probably the most faultless character in the story, but he is a member of the lynch mob. He wouldn’t be present at the ending if he hadn’t come along with the mob. And there is no indication that he had any intention of giving Lennie any kind of help.

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tdem123's profile pic

Posted on

The lynch mob was only a couple of minutes behind George. They would not have had time to escape, for the mob had dogs that would have easily caught them. George did the merciful thing and helped his friend die in the most painless way possible. All that about George getting sick of Lennie and mad at him is BS. He tried to make Lennie as happy as he could before he died by telling him about the farm, remember? Bad answer

may-li's profile pic

Posted on

In of mice and men, we must register the number of cycles that can be perceived. The reader may ask himself, why did George kill Lennie now and not run away like they did in Weed?

However, the reader is not so sure anymore about what really happened in Weed. This is a style technique Steinbeck uses which is to force the reader to reflect. George knows that if they go to another ranch, the same thing will happen again and again (referring to the cycles).

Therefore, George not only killed Lennie out of mercy but also because he knows that they will never attain their dream and that he would rather kill Lennie at a moment when he was at peace and happy then risk another time.

roweeee92's profile pic

Posted on

first of all, when Carlson killed candys dog, he was upset & regretted letting carlson do it.

 So when George knew that Lennie was going to die, he felt that it would be better if he did it himself. This way, he wouldn't have the burden that he just let lennie get shot.

freshmenrule's profile pic

Posted on

I believe that George shot him in the back of the head to make it a painless death refering to when Carlson was explaining that if he shot Candy's dog in the back of the head he wouldn't feel it at all.. As for why he did it.. He thought that it would be better for him (George) His best friend should do it rather than being Curley or one of the others.

apierce1972's profile pic

Posted on

He kills him out of love.  Since Lennie accidentally killed Curley's wife, George knows that there is no way to save him now.  Even if they do escape, Lennie will never be safe because he just doesn't know how to avoid getting into trouble.  Furthermore, if Curley gets his hands on Lennie, he will make his revenge be slow, terrifying, and painful.  Therefore, George knows that the only way to protect Lennie is to shoot him.

George's choice of shooting Lennie in the back of the head (behind the ear) is a direct link to the shooting of Curley's dog earlier in the book.  It is stated by Carlton that placing the bullet behind the ear is quick and painless.  When Candy joins up with George and Lennie later, he states that he should have killed his dog instead of letting a stranger do it.  All of this contributes to why and how George kills Lennie: to protect him from pain and out of being close to him (i.e. out of love).

bharathrajendran's profile pic

Posted on

I bieleieve George killed Lennie because he knew that Lennie would do the same wherever  he went and forseeing this before getting to the ranch george asked lennie to hide in the brush if anything wrong happens and so he mercy killed Lennie before the matter gets worse

samtyler's profile pic

Posted on

george killed lennie because he loved his friend. he doesn't want him to be tortured and then die. he knew that he didnt kill curely's wife on purpose but he couldn't help it. he didn't know how much strength he has in himself. alsolennie died peacefully.

agent21's profile pic

Posted on

To save him froa more panifull and brutall death. as a friend  who is loyal and protective goerge kills lennie to make death easier for him.

mmcentire's profile pic

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This is the ultimate sacrifice George made for a friend. Their long abiding friendship is depicted throughout the book. Even in the face of cruelty by others to Lennie, George tries to help his friend. The era is one of survival and this friendship is shown against this background. George protects his friend by shootog him and saving him from the torture of others. This is much like the kindness we show animals. 

sandhyapandey's profile pic

Posted on

In the beginning of the story Candy regretted not killing his dog, because he should have been the first one not Carlson. So George thought it was the right thing to do and ccurley wanted to shoot lennie in the guts so it would be long and painful.
jess1999's profile pic

Posted on

George decides to kill Lennie because it was the only way left. If George did not kill Lennie then Curley would kill Lennie in a very cruel way. Also, even if George and Lennie decides to run away, George believes that Lennie will still cause trouble again  (because that's what happened before before they moved there ). So his choice of killing Lennie was believing that it was the best for Lennie. 

nij2401's profile pic

Posted on

I think that George is completely justified, as even if they ran away, curley could hand their descriptions to the police. George committed an act of 'euthanasia' out of love for Lennie.

crystaltu001's profile pic

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George killed Lennie because Lennie killed Curley's wife and George didn't want Lennie to suffer when Curley finds him so he kills him instead

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