In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, who suffers the most?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men evokes many emotions from the characters and the readers.   From the beginning of the story, it is apparent that Lennie and George will have to face something tragic.  Lennie’s retardation, his temper, and his powerful physical strength are a “time bomb.” George knows that Lennie must be protected, but he cannot be with him every minute of the day. 

When Lennie is left to his own devices, he breaks the rules that George has set for him.  His love of petting soft things overwhelms his need to please George.  When Lennie kills the puppy and Curley’s wife, there is no way that George can fix this for him.  George suffers the most when he is forced to kill Lennie.

Curley cannot be reasoned with about this murder because he already hates Lennie.  George assumes that if Curley catches Lennie he will hurt him before he kills him.  If Lennie were placed in the legal system, he would not be able to survive without George.  In George’s mind, there is nothing to do but take care of Lennie himself.  He determines to kill him to prevent him from harming anyone else and receiving a punishment that he would not understand.

Lennie said, “I thought you was mad at me, George.”

“No,” said George. “No, Lennie.  I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ I aint’ now. That’s a thing I want ya to know.”

And George raised the gun and steadied it, and he brought the muzzle of it close to the back of Lennie’s head. The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied.  He pulled the trigger.  Lennie jarred, and then settled slowly forward to the sand…

As a dynamic character, George learns that one should never take advantage of those who cannot help themselves. When George has to protect Lennie, he understands that there are those people who prey on the weak.  George appears to be gruff and insensitive, yet he protects Lennie and wants to get to the farm where life will be better.

George never tells his feelings for Lennie.  It is obvious that he loves him. After he shoots Lennie, George realizes that now he is no different than all of the other miserable men who wander through the world looking for something better. He knows now that all of his talk about finding a farm and a happier life will never happen.  With Lennie gone, George surrenders his hope.

Despite the many troubling situations that George had to endure to save Lennie, George still wanted Lennie to survive.  He will now go through the rest of life with the guilt of Lennie’s death on his conscience. His vision of the farm has been taken with the death of his friend.

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Of Mice and Men

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