In the closing scene of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, George has the Luger and has found Lennie. What are both men thinking about? What was Lennie expecting? What are George’s feelings? What goes...

In the closing scene of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, George has the Luger and has found Lennie. What are both men thinking about? What was Lennie expecting? What are George’s feelings? What goes through his mind? May George have reconsidered his actions? Explain. 

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lennie's thoughts are  revealed in his imaginary conversations with his Aunt Clara and the big rabbit. He is mainly afraid that George is going to be furious at him for killing Curley's wife and may abandon him. Lennie is expecting George to give him a terrible scolding and  is surprised when George appears and is strangely calm and silent.

Lennie said, "George."


"I done another bad thing."

"It don't make no difference," George said, and he fell silent again.

At this point the reader does not know that George has stolen Carlson's Luger and brought it with him. Steinbeck intentionally made the weapon a German Luger so that the reader would understand immediately where George had gotten it. He would not have taken the gun if he hadn't decided he was going to kill his friend.

If George helped Lennie escape a mob in Weed in broad daylight, he could certainly help him escape here where he is the only person who knows where Lennie is hiding and it is nighttime. They could cross the river and climb up into the mountains, all carefully described by Steinbeck in the opening chapter. But George has decided that Lennie must die because he is becoming a menace to society. If George won't help Lennie escape, then Lennie would be tortured and killed by the lynch mob. So George is performing a mercy killing. There is a unspoken analogy between George killing Lennie and Candy thinking he should have killed his dog himself rather than letting someone else do it.

It is significant that George was not present when Lennie assaulted the girl in Weed. He tells Slim:

"I was jus' a little bit off, and I heard all the yellin', so I comes running . . ."

And, of course, George is not present when Lennie kills Curley's wife in the barn. He can only see the result when they find her body.

"I should of knew," George said hopelessly. "I guess maybe way back in my head I did."

What was it that George should have known? It was that Lennie is developing an interest in sex. George assumes that Lennie tried to rape Curley's wife and accidently killed her. He also assumes that what happened in Weed was not as innocent as Lennie described it while they were on the run. Lennie is a compulsive liar. George knows this from ample experience. He realizes that Lennie was not so much interested in the dress of the girl in Weed as he was in the girl herself. Lennie was assaulting her in broad daylight, and it could have led to rape if she hadn't screamed and George hadn't forced Lennie to let go of her.

George believes, probably correctly, that Lennie is potentially a rapist and a murderer. He feels personally responsible for the death of Curley's young wife because, as he says, he "should have knew" that the huge, powerful Lennie was becoming truly dangerous. He kills everything he handles. It isn't necessarily accidental, either. Lennie didn't intend to rape or kill Curley's wife, but he couldn't let go of her, and what was happening in the barn could easily have led to rape if she hadn't started screaming and he hadn't killed her while trying to shut her up.

George is not experiencing strong feelings when he pulls the Luger out of his coat. He has already experienced his strongest feelings on the way to meet Lennie, and now he is deadly calm. He is only thinking that he is performing a necessary act and that he wants to make it as painless as possible. It is as if Fate has brought him back to the same campsite where he and Lennie appeared in the opening scene.