Discussion Topic

Parallels between deaths in Of Mice and Men

Summary:

The deaths in Of Mice and Men parallel each other by highlighting themes of mercy and inevitability. Both Lennie and Candy's dog are killed to prevent future suffering, illustrating the harsh realities of their world. George's act of killing Lennie mirrors Carlson's killing of the dog, emphasizing the difficult choices characters must make to protect their loved ones from further pain.

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In Of Mice and Men, how does Lennie's death parallel Curley's wife's earlier demise?

The title of this work, Of Mice and Men, comes from a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns. The poem is called "To a Mouse" or the longer title "To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest, with the Plough." The long title is self-explanatory. The speaker discusses how he destroys a mouse's nest with a plough. The mouse has constructed the nest to survive during the winter. The mouse is left out in the cold. The mouse had hoped to live comfortably through the winter. The speaker of the poem sympathizes and says: 

The best laid schemes of mice and men

Go often askew,

And leave us nothing but grief and pain, 

For promised joy! 

The mouse put his hopes in the nest. Curley's wife and Lennie also have dreams and these dreams/schemes do go "askew." Curley's wife laments the fact that she never became an actress. She tells Lennie: 

Coulda been in the movies, an’ had nice clothes—all them nice clothes like they wear. An’ I coulda sat in them big hotels, an’ had pitchers took of me. 

She had dreams but she married Curley instead, leaving her with a lonely life on a ranch. She constantly seeks out companionship (even with Lennie) because she is so lonely. Her dreams ("promised joy") of becoming an actress will have to remain dreams. Lennie has dreams of owning a farm with George. His plans for the farm also "go askew." Both Curley's wife and Lennie have dreams and they both end up being disappointed. Their "promised joy" always eludes them. 

Other than Curley, who Curley's wife claims to dislike, she has no friends on the ranch. She doesn't really fit in. Lennie doesn't fit in anywhere. Her death is accidental and Lennie's is not, but they both die dreaming of better lives. 

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How does Lennie's killing of the puppy in Of Mice And Men parallel his killing of Curley's wife and the mice?

In John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men, Lennie is shown to be very strong and very large, but his intellectual disability makes it difficult for him to understand how strong he is and how much force he puts on the things that he touches. This is evident in the deaths of his puppy, a mouse, and the wife of Curley, the owner of the ranch where they work. All three of them died due to his accidental use of excessive force while "petting" them.

Lennie's friend George, who feels responsible for Lennie and tries to keep him out of trouble, and another ranch hand later discover the body of Curley's wife. Despite George's efforts to explain to the rest of the ranch workers that the death was an accident, most of them still decide to pursue Lennie. When George realizes that there is no way that Lennie can escape the angry, violent mob, he shoots Lennie to keep him from suffering at their hands.

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How does Lennie's death in Of Mice and Men mirror the killing of Candy's dog?

Candy's dog is seen as life without value, much as Lennie is viewed by outsiders. When Carlson evaluates the situation, he tells Candy that the dog is in "misery" because he "can't eat, can't see, can't even walk without hurtin'." No one values the dog's life, although he is causing no real trouble beyond possibly being a bit smelly. Nevertheless, the group views him as an inconvenience, and they say that they can't sleep with the dog around. Carlson tells Candy that the old dog "won't even feel it," assuming that the emotional pain of betrayal is beyond the dog's comprehension. Candy doesn't want to kill the dog as evidenced by his refusal to go with Carlson. Instead, he lies on the bed staring at the ceiling, waiting to hear the shot that the deed has been accomplished. When the shot is heard, life resumes quickly and no one misses a beat in their lives or conversation.

Likewise, no one assumes that Lennie feels the imminent betrayal of his "friend" George. As George raises the gun to the back of Lennie's head, Lennie turns at one point to look at him; George quickly tells him to turn around. Lennie is betrayed much as Candy's dog is betrayed, handed a death sentence by the person he most trusts. (Candy grants permission for Carlson to kill the dog.) Lennie isn't a valued part of society, misunderstood and squeezed to the outer edges of life by those who would rather not deal with his complexities. And after his death, life quickly resumes without much thought to the life that has been lost:

Slim twitched George’s elbow. “Come on, George. Me an’ you’ll go in an’ get a drink.”

George let himself be helped to his feet. “Yeah, a drink.”


Slim said, “You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. Come on with me.” He led George into the entrance of the trail and up toward the highway.


Curley and Carlson looked after them. And Carlson said, “Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?”

Both deaths show the way those with power seek to destroy the defenseless, eliminating them from existence when their worth cannot be easily proven.

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How does Lennie's death in Of Mice and Men mirror the killing of Candy's dog?

Towards the beginning of the novella, Carlson complains about Candy's old, useless dog, who is depicted as more of a nuisance than a help around the ranch. Candy has owned the dog since it was a puppy and is the only person on the farm who wants the dog to live. However, Carlson argues that he would be doing the old dog a favor because it can barely eat food and is waiting to die. Candy's dog is also defenseless and cannot protect itself from those willing to shoot it. Similarly, Lennie's death at the end of the novella mirrors how Candy's dog dies.

Similar to Candy's dog, Lennie is frowned upon by the other men on the ranch and is viewed as an outcast. Some men on the farm feel that Lennie is a distraction and purposely avoid him. Lennie is also defenseless and relies on George to take care of him. After Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife, he hides by the riverbank and waits for George. Similar to how Carlson killed Candy's dog to put it out of its misery, George shoots Lennie in the back of the head as a mercy killing. George knows that Curley's lynch mob will brutally murder Lennie and he feels that it is best to end Lennie's life before the mob captures him. Both Candy's dog and Lennie die relatively peaceful deaths and do not suffer while dying.

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How does Lennie's death in Of Mice and Men mirror the killing of Candy's dog?

At the end of the novel, George kills Lennie in much the same way as Carlson kills Candy's dog. The dog is seen as useless and smelly, therefore it was seen as more of a nuisance to Carlson and the others in the bunk house. The men argue that the dog is miserable and in pain, which convinces Candy to let Carlson shoot the dog. After the dog is killed, however, Candy tells George of his regret for letting someone else shoot his dog. The dog was Candy's responsibility, and Candy feels he let the dog down by not taking its life himself.

George is determined not to let this happen to him. George knows that Lennie will be killed by Curley and the other men if they find him, and George wants to protect Lennie from the others. George sees Lennie as his responsibility, and George feels that he must take action to look after Lennie, even if this action leads to Lennie's death.

Lennie's death also reflects the killing of Candy's dog in the actual manner of the shooting. George shoots Lennie in the back of the head, just where Carlson told Candy he would shoot the dog, promising that the dog would die instantly and would feel no pain. George wants this "pain-free" death for his friend.

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