The Decision Between Life and Death

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck follows the story of two men- George and Lennie- during the great depression. The two find work on a farm in California. There is a rotating cast of characters, including a one-handed and mean old man, the seductive wife of the plantation owner’s son, and the son of the plantation owner who instantly takes a disliking to Lennie. Lennie is a large, mentally disabled, and kind man. George, who is more of a brother than a friend, is constantly trying to get him out of trouble and keep him safe. The two are working in order to buy a farm. The farm is a symbol of hope for the boys, and always helps Lennie calm down when he gets in trouble. One instance of trouble is when Curley, the plantation owner’s son, starts a fight with Lennie. Lennie crushes the smaller man’s hand, establishing him as nearly superhumanly strong, but entirely unaware of how to wield his power. Next, Lennie accidentally kills a puppy as he was petting it. The final, sad instance of this strength is when the wife of Curley tries to seduce Lennie. Lennie kills her, snapping her neck while he tries to simply pet her hair. Lennie goes to George. A chase ensues, with George and Lennie running from packs of people in order to get Lennie far away. They become surrounded by hounds, police, horses, and Curley. George realizes they are trapped, and will not be able to escape. George then makes the decision to kill Lennie. As Lennie looks out onto the woods, and dreams of the farm, George shoots him. This is heartbreaking, and shocking. At first, I was not sure why George did this. However after some more comprehension and thought, I understand why George had to do this. Lennie was a disabled man, who would not understand how prison would work, and could potentially hurt more people. George understands that and chooses to kill him. Lennie is happy when he dies, and he cannot hurt anyone. I understand the logic behind the decision. However- I still have a hard time agreeing with the choice George makes. Death is so final, and if Lennie was to live there would still be a chance he could get out, or keep those around him safe. I think that because there is that sliver of hope, I cannot agree with this choice. George should not have made that decision for Lennie either. George incriminates himself by killing Lennie. George takes the full blow of Lennie’s actions and by doing so, he is ending his own life. George will no longer have his brother, his job, and likely he will go to prison. That is something that absolutely breaks my heart, and because of that I do not agree with the choice. In the end, Lennie was far too good a person than the world and the farm would let him be. Lennie has a child-like innocence, and George sees this. Because of George’s view of Lennie, George knows Lennie must die. As much as I understand, I still cannot bring myself to agree.

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