Did George make the wrong decision by killing Lennie in Of Mice and Men?

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At the beginning of the story, George says to Lennie,

I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn't have you on my tail. I could live so easy and maybe have a girl.

George looks after Lennie because he feels responsible for him, and because, undoubtedly, he loves him. However, George is also aware, as indicated by this quotation, that his life would in many respects be much easier if he didn't have to care for Lennie. His awareness of this possible, easier life is perhaps one of the motivating factors behind his decision, at the end of the story, to shoot and kill Lennie. With this in mind, one might argue that George's decision to kill Lennie was motivated at least in part by selfishness and was thus, in a moral sense, the wrong decision.

George's behavior after shooting Lennie also suggests that he is himself aware that his decision to kill Lennie was, if not morally wrong, then at least morally dubious. Immediately after shooting Lennie, George "shiver(s)" and throws the gun away from him. He sits

stiffly on the bank and look(s) at his right hand that (has) thrown the gun away.

A little later, when Carlson is questioning him, George is still "look(ing) steadily at his right hand." The fact that George is shivering and sitting "stiffly" suggests that he is of course uneasy with the decision he has made. This impression is emphasized by the fact that he keeps staring at his right hand, as if in disbelief that the hand that pulled the trigger could really belong to him. At the end of the story, as George walks away with Slim, the reader is left with the distinct impression that George perhaps regrets the decision he has made.

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Lennie has a debate with an imaginary rabbit before George kills him. In this debate the rabbit poses all of the reasons for George to "beat the hell" out of Lennie with a stick. The rabbit also says the following:

"You ain't worth a greased jack-pin to ram you into hell. Christ knows George done ever'thing he could to jack you outa the sewer, but it don't do no good" (102).

Lennie responds by saying that George would never beat him with stick because, "I've knew George since--I forget when--and he ain't never raised his han' to me with a stick. He's nice to me. He ain't gonna be mean" (102). This comment shows that George is not the type of person to hurt anyone else. Therefore, killing Lennie would be a wrong decision because George is nice and has never hurt Lennie before. If George kills or hurts Lennie, it would be going against who he is inside.

The rabbit then tells Lennie that George will at least leave him if he isn't going to hurt him, so that puts him in a frenzy screaming for George. When George emerges, he tells Lennie he won't leave him; but he has Carlson's gun with him and has him sit down next to the river.

Nature seems to chime in to tell George it is the wrong decision to kill Lennie as well because of the following omen:

"On the wind the sound of crashing in the brush came to them. . . George had been listening to the distant sounds. For a moment he was business-like" (105).

But then George hears the other men searching for Lennie getting closer. The question at this point is if it is better for George to allow the others to kill him, or for George to kill Lennie himself. George clearly struggles with the decision to kill Lennie himself because he can't get the hand that holds the gun to stop shaking.

"George raised his gun and his hand shook, and he dropped his hand to the ground again" (105).

The fact that George doesn't go through with the first attempt to shoot Lennie shows that he is having a tough time making the decision. He knows that he will have to live with this decision for the rest of his life, so it better be the right one. As the men get closer to Lennie, George makes his decision for good or bad.

"George shivered and looked at the gun, and then he threw it from him, back up on the bank, near the pile of old ashes" (106).

Stunned that he actually killed Lennie, George looks at the gun and probably wonders how he was able to do such a thing. It doesn't really matter at this point, though, because there's no bringing Lennie back to life, now. When Slim gets to George, he tries to let him know that he had no choice and it was all for the best; but Carlson, wonders what Slim and George are so upset about by saying the following:

"Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys?" (107).

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