In the book, Of Mice and Men, at what point did George decide to kill Lennie?
Obviously, George did not just decide to kill Lennie on the spot. He stole Carlson's gun that was used to kill Candy's dog. George knows where Lennie is hiding and goes to find him. He tells Lennie the story about livin' off the fatta the and and shoots him the exact way Carlson shot Candy's dog. But at what point in the novel did George decide to kill Lennie?
Steinbeck obviously did not want the reader to realize that George had stolen Carlson's gun until George exposes it at the campsite in the last chapter. That is why it is unclear when George decided to kill Lennie. In the previous chapter George seems to be planning to steal Carlson's Luger. He tells Candy:
"I ain't gonna let 'em hurt Lennie. Now you listen. The guys might think I was in on it. I'm gonna go in the bunkhouse. Then in a minute you come out and tell the guys about her, and I'll come along and make like I never seen her. Will you do that? So the guys won't think I was in on it?"
All the other men are playing horseshoes. George will be alone in the bunkhouse. This is when he takes Carlson's Luger. He is wearing his blue denim coat when he comes back and pretends to be discovering the girl's body along with the other men. The Luger must be in the side pocket of his coat, because he brings it out of "his side pocket" as he prepares to shoot Lennie at the river campsite. But taking the Luger does not necessarily mean George has decided to kill Lennie at that point. He is still trying to reason with the other men. First he pleads with Slim, who is the most rational man among them.
"Couldn' we maybe bring him in an' they'll lock him up? He's nuts, Slim. He never done this to be mean."
Slim nodded. "We might," he said. "If we could keep Curley in, we might. But Curley's gonna want to shoot 'im. Curley's still mad about his hand. An' s'pose they lock him up an' strap him down and put him in a cage. That ain't no good, George."
Then George tries Curley as a last resort:
"Yeah," said George. "I'll come. But listen, Curley. The poor bastard's nuts. Don't shoot 'im. He di'n't know what he was doin'."
Curley's face reddened. "I'm goin'," he said. "i'm gonna shoot the guts outta that big bastard myself, even if I only got one hand. I'm gonna get 'im."
George must have decided while in the bunkhouse that he would kill Lennie if he had to, but that he would try to talk the other men, including Curley, into capturing Lennie and turning him over to the sheriff. George has only two alternatives: either kill Lennie himself or persuade the men to turn Lennie in. He evidently does not consider a third alternative of helping Lennie to escape. He has decided that Lennie is too dangerous to be allowed to go free.
Slim cannot control Curley, and Curley is the obvious leader of the lynch mob because it was his wife Lennie killed. Slim would have been able to reason with the other men but not with Curley armed and leading the mob. Slim will later understand that George deliberately killed Lennie to keep him from being tortured by the lynch mob. That is why Slim will say:
"You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. Come on with me."
George hesitates about shooting until the very last minute.
George had been listening to the distant sounds.
The mob is getting closer. George is still partially undecided.
A man's voice called from up the river, and another man answered.
Perhaps this might be called the exact point where George decides that he has to kill Lennie. The mob is only a stone's throw away. They do not know exactly where to find Lennie but they are closing in. George had not decided to do it when he stole Carlson's Luger--but he must have stolen it while he was alone in the bunkhouse because he decided he would kill Lennie if he had to do it. He might have felt that he would turn Lennie over to the authorities if the other men didn't succeed in finding Lennie. But he cannot stand by and let the mob torture and kill his friend with the enraged Curley leading the violent orgy.