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There's two kinds of men at the end Of Mice and Men, the strong and the weak. Slim is the strong, and everyone else is weak by comparison. Curley, though weak, pretends to be strong throughout the novel, and it fails; Lennie mangles his hand. So, when the weakest one (Lennie) kills another weak one (Curley's wife), the weak Curley becomes strong through numbers; he forms a mob of other weak men to hunt down the weakest; this is how the hierarchy is unjustly maintained. There is very little decision making going on. It's more a series of reactions by the weak individuals to prevent mass reprisals.
Curley and Carlson have victimized the weak during the course of the novella. Curley uses his status as a male and as the boss' son to intimidate his wife and Lennie respectively. Carlson has preyed on Candy's dog. After they find Curley's wife dead and Carlson's gun missing, Curley and Carlson want vengeance. It's as if they've been thirsting for this blood the whole time.
George is caught in the middle. He represents the common man who refuses to use status for power. He knows he cannot stop the posse; it is predatory force of nature, and it will eventually find and kill Lennie. So, George decides on a mercy killing. Sometimes one has to sacrifice the weakest to appease the powers that be. This is the false promise of capitalism in America (think mom and pop stores against corporate giants, like Walmart).
Steinbeck depicts men as animals, and power as a kind of biological determinism. It's all part of the food chain. What choices do these men really have? Kill or be killed? An easy or brutal death? The novella provides very little individual freedom. Its only hero is Slim, who stands alone. His work ethic is a quiet leadership. Even though he empathizes more with the weak than the strong, he explicitly doesn't take sides. So, even the strong, the individual hero, is powerless. He has no impact on the ending. Lennie's death is guaranteed, even before the novella begins.
Of mice and men
Identify three characters and discuss the decisions they make and the consequences of their decisions.
Give one quote for the decision and one quote for the consequence.
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