Of Mice And Men: Can The Killing Of A Person Ever Be Justified?

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In the book Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, where a mentally distant protagonist named Lennie inadvertently strangles a woman putting his best friend George in a precarious position where he has to put Lennie down. Due to these circumstances, George made the right decision in saving Lennie’s life because he would have been locked up forever or killed by someone else.

Lennie could be a possible threat to maybe himself or others. Due to Lennie’s mental deficiency, he has a rather difficult time processing things and understanding the things he’s done and how his antics affect the people around him. Lennie’s oblivious of how his actions are an issue and he finds it impossible to act normal and not get in trouble. One quote in the novel was, “And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck” (Steinbeck 91). This is referring to when Lennie broke the neck of Curley’s wife when they were alone in the barn. He had only attempted to feel her hair but once she tried to turn away and tried to get him to let go, he grabbed her and wouldn’t let go because she was screaming and he didn’t want to get in trouble. Lennie doesn’t fully understand what he does, he only listens to George so he can play with rabbits once they own a farm. Another part of the book that can support this was this, '‘He was so little,’ said Lennie. ‘I was jus playin’ with him… an’ he made like he’s gonna bite me… an’ I made like I was gonna smack him … an’… an’ I done it. And’ then he was dead’” (Steinbeck 87). In source A it says you are eligible if the person is mentally retarded to a very severe extent (BBC). This is something Lennie struggles with. Lennie doesn’t mean to harm things but still does because he lacks the smarts and knowledge of consequences and therefore he’s a danger to others. Lennie’s lack of carefulness and overwhelming stupidity is only a danger for others. The fact that he can’t process things and doesn’t know how to be sensible someone or something is a problem for everyone around him.

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If George didn’t kill Lennie, Curley or even the police could have killed him anyway. After Lennie had snapped the neck of Curley’s wife he ran to a creek where George had said to meet him if there was any trouble. Once they found Curley’s wife deceased, they all went out on a manhunt to look for Lennie to kill him. Once George found the creek, the rest of the men were tailing not far behind him. They made George go along and find him because they wanted to make sure it wasn’t him who had actually killed Curley's wife. Curley and his men were closing in on Lennie when George pulled the trigger on Lennie. Right after Lennie’s killing, Curley and his men came out of the brush. “The voices came close now. George raised the gun and listened to the voices.” (Steinbeck #106). Curley and the rest of the men were within distance when George had killed Lennie and if he hadn’t they would’ve got to him. If George hadn’t killed him when he did they would’ve found both Lennie and George and if they did they would’ve shot him and that also leaves a chance for George to get shot as well for maybe sparing him or in their minds letting him escape or hide. They would’ve scared Lennie and he would’ve been locked up or had a miserable death compared to when George shot him because when George did it he wasn’t expecting it and got to talk about what made him happy so he could die happy. The other men and Curley would’ve never turned them over to the law, there would’ve been no chance for Lennie to go to a mental center or jail. Curley would’ve just killed him on sight . When Curley left the ranch andon the manhunt began, he never had the intentions of bringing him to the police, he wanted Lennie dead. “‘I’m goin’ he said. ‘I’m gonna shoot the guts outta that big bastard myself, even if I only got one hand. I’m gonna get ‘im’” (Steinbeck 96). This also gives Curley another reason to kill Lennie because we all know he hated him from the start. Curley had hated Lennie right from the start because “he was a big guy and Curley hates big guys”. Source B states that non voluntary euthanasia is being deemed justified if the person has an “extremely poor quality of life (suffering) in terms of functional disability, pain, discomfort, poor prognosis, and hopelessness” which is exactly the state Lennie would be in if George hadn’t killed him and Curley had his way with Lennie (Verhagen). Although this may seem like there’s no doubt that it was justified, there’s still the argument that it’s not.

Some believe that even though the actions of George gave Lennie a peaceful death, that he never prolonged his life or saved him. Even though he wasn’t killed by someone other than George, Lennie still faced death in the end and did not live a full life. Even though he ended up dying at the end that was the only real fate he could’ve faced. George knew he’d be killed eventually and wanted to save Lennie the distress and suffering. Of course, they could’ve run and maybe they would’ve gotten away like they did in Weed, but you can only run for so long. Lennie has had a history of hurting things, mice, puppies and now humans, he’s killed them all. A mouse is one thing, and so is a puppy, but he killed a woman and the line was crossed. Intentional or not, Lennie’s actions came with the ultimate price tag and as we saw, George decided to let him go peacefully. If there’s a pattern of Lennie getting worse and worse throughout the book, the sky’s the limit for the possible havoc George can cause. No matter what there will always be two sides to the story, but it seems like George was in a bad spot and had no other choice.

Lennie’s death was necessary, for himself, George and everyone else that around them. George loved Lennie, they were best friends, traveled together, and always had each other's backs. George knew this was the Lennie’s fate and it was dealt with peacefully. Lennie never wanted to hurt anyone or anything but he couldn’t help it and it bothers him that he did these things even when he hurt Curley, the man who attacked him. In the end, George made the right call, it was best to put Lennie down.

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Of Mice And Men: Can The Killing Of A Person Ever Be Justified? (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/of-mice-and-men-can-the-killing-of-a-person-ever-be-justified/
“Of Mice And Men: Can The Killing Of A Person Ever Be Justified?” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/of-mice-and-men-can-the-killing-of-a-person-ever-be-justified/
Of Mice And Men: Can The Killing Of A Person Ever Be Justified? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/of-mice-and-men-can-the-killing-of-a-person-ever-be-justified/> [Accessed 12 Jun. 2024].
Of Mice And Men: Can The Killing Of A Person Ever Be Justified? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2024 Jun 12]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/of-mice-and-men-can-the-killing-of-a-person-ever-be-justified/
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