My exam question is explore some of the ways Steinbeck builds up to George's final decision to shoot Lennie. Can anyone give me tips on howtogetanA

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think you can assume that George made his final decision to shoot Lennie back at the bunkhouse when he stole Carlson's Luger. However, the reader does not know at this point that George stole the gun. This fact only becomes apparent when George meets Lennie at their former campsite by the river in the last chapter and pulls the Luger out of his pocket. Steinbeck establishes that the gun is a Luger because this is a very distinctive-looking German automatic pistol, and there could only be one of them accessible to George. Steinbeck wrote the book intending to adapt it to a stage play that same year, 1937. He wanted the audience to see that the pistol George pulled out of his pocket was Carlson's. Right after Geroge shoots Candy's dog, there is a detailed description of the Luger. Carlson removes the clip, cleans the barrel, etc., so that George is able to see exactly how this foreign weapon works. Also, Carlson explains where to kill Candy's dog instantly and painlessly by aiming at a certain spot in the back of its head. George assumes, correctly, that he can kill Lennie painlessly in the same fashion by aiming at the same place.

It seems very important to discuss, or even to quote, Steinbeck's description of Curley's dead wife, because it is while George stands looking down at the unfortunate young girl that he must make his decision to kill Lennie. George assumes that Lennie was attempting to rape her and killed her while trying to stop her from struggling. This in fact is not really very far from the truth. Lennie did not understand what he was feeling or what he was doing. The struggle with Curley's wife might have ended in rape if she hadn't been screaming.

Here is Steinbeck's description of Curley's dead wife, but it is intended to be read as if it is being seen through George's eyes:

Curley's wife lay with a half-covering of yellow hay. And the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young. Now her rouged cheeks and her reddened lips made her seem alive and sleeping very lightly. The curls, tiny little sausages, were spread on the hay behind her head, and her lips were parted.

George is reminded of the incident in Weed in which Lennie attacked a young girl but claimed he only wanted to feel her dress. George realizes that Lennie is becoming a menace to society, even potentially a serial killer of young girls. The most significant passage in the story, as far as the build-up to George's decision to kill Lennie, is the followinig:

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

Lennie does not understand his own feelings and motives, and he frequently lies to George. George is putting two and two together, equating the Weed incident with the killing of Curley's wife. The Weed incident is described in dialogue in two different places and should be referred to, if not quoted, in your test. George describes the Weed incident to Lennie in the first chapter when he is bawling him out, and George describes it in further detail to Slim later on at the bunkhouse. You cannot ignore discussing the Weed incident if you want to get an A.

George could help Lennie escape. We know the layout of the campsite from the first chapter. Nobody but George knows where Lennie is hiding. They could wade across the Salinas River and climb up into the Gabilan mountains. But George realizes that he should have known that Lennie was becoming a menace. The incident in Weed could have also led to a rape if that girl hadn't started screaming. Since George is Lennie's caretaker, and since he now realizes that he should have known the significance of what actually went on in Weed, George feels responsible for the death of Curley's young wife. George is motivated to kill Lennie because of regret, guilt, anger, compassion for the dead girl, compassion for Lennie, fear of being implicated in Lennie's crime as an accessory, and feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and despair.

If you have an open-book or take-home exam on Of Mice and Men, you should use some direct quotations. Good luck!

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Of Mice and Men

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