Was George wrong for taking Lennie with him instead of having him put in an institution?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

George's treatment of Lennie is probably one of the most base elements of the novel that is subject to scrutiny.  Accordingly, I am not sure there will be a definitive answer to the question.  Part of the reason is that the construction of the question exceeds the time period.  The idea of institutionalization was not something that the "bindle stiffs" of the 1930s contemplated. Financially, it was not feasible with how little was being earned through their labor.  Additionally, in a setting where men were transient, almost living through a "Hobo Code" of moving from one place to another in order to find work and shelter, the idea of George seeking out and then integrating Lennie into an institutionalized setting is something that simply was not a reality for many people in the financial and social condition that encompassed George and Lennie.  I think that over time, I have come to the understanding that if George did care for what was to happen to Lennie, he really had no other choice.  The only option was to kill him, in order to give him a death with dignity, something that he was not going to have if the lynch mob of Curley and Carlson had their way.  In this, George might have been wrong for what he did.  Yet, I don't see any other choice available to him.  He would have been more wrong for what he did.  The choice then for George was to select the lesser of evils, something that Steinbeck indicates was a reality for many, and to a certain extent still is.