How Does Of Mice and Men End: Tragic or Justified?

Of Mice and Men is a novella written by John Steinbeck in 1937, portraying the challenging experiences of two migrant workers, George Milton and Lennie Small, during the Great Depression. The story reflects the struggles they encounter, including their dreams of owning a farm of their own but tragically ends with a shocking twist.

In this article, we will discuss the events that led to ‘how does of mice and men end’.

Tragic Ending: Was it Justifiable?

The ending of Of Mice and Men has been a topic of debate for many years. The question that arises is whether George’s decision to kill Lennie was justifiable.

Examination of Lennie’s Mental Capacity and Potential Danger to Society

Lennie, one of the main characters, had a mental disability that made him unable to fully understand his strength. He had a habit of accidentally injuring or killing small animals, and this behavior escalated when he accidentally killed Curley’s wife.

It was clear that Lennie posed a danger to society and could potentially cause more harm to others.

Arguments For and Against George’s Justification for His Actions

Some argue that George’s decision to kill Lennie was justified because it was the humane thing to do. Lennie was going to be killed in a brutal and painful way by Curley and the other ranch workers if they found him.

Additionally, George did not want his friend to suffer or die in fear. On the other hand, others argue that George’s act was cruel and unjustified.

Lennie was innocent and did not understand the gravity of his actions.

Historical Context on Euthanasia and Mercy Killing

In the time period when Of Mice and Men was written, euthanasia and mercy killing were controversial topics. However, the concept of putting someone out of their misery was not entirely unheard of, particularly in cases where a person was in a lot of pain or suffering.

George’s decision to kill Lennie can be seen as an act of mercy, but it is still a morally complex issue that can be viewed from different perspectives.

Justified Ending: Was it the Right Choice?

At the end of the novella, George finds Lennie after he accidentally kills Curley’s wife. Faced with the unhappy realization that Lennie’s strength has caused yet another tragedy, George makes the difficult decision to kill him.

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Many readers wonder if this was the right choice.

However, upon further examination, it is justified because it was a necessary act of mercy for Lennie. George knew that there was no way to protect Lennie from the consequences of his actions, and that he would likely be killed by the other men on the ranch.

By taking Lennie’s life himself, George spared Lennie from a painful and brutal death.

It is also important to note that this was not an impulsive decision. Throughout the novel, George has expressed his concern about the trouble that Lennie’s strength can cause, and had even warned him about what would happen if he got into trouble again.

When that warning becomes a reality, George is forced to act.

While it is a tragic ending, George’s decision was the right one. It is a heartbreaking conclusion to their friendship, but it was an act of love at its core.

Character Analysis: Lennie and George

Lennie, one of the two main characters in Of Mice and Men, is a gentle giant with a childlike mind. He is physically strong, but mentally disabled, which can lead to trouble.

Throughout the novella, Lennie’s intelligence is constantly questioned and underestimated, leading to many problems. For example, Lennie accidentally kills small animals, such as mice, because he doesn’t realize his own strength.

Despite his disabilities, however, Lennie is incredibly loyal to his friend George and always tries to do the right thing.

George, on the other hand, is Lennie’s protector and best friend. He is small in stature, but is quick-witted and intelligent.

George takes care of Lennie, making sure he is safe and protected at all times. However, George carries a significant emotional weight due to Lennie’s disabilities.

Throughout the novella, George struggles with deciding what is best for Lennie, and ultimately makes the difficult decision to kill him as an act of mercy.

The foreshadowing leading up to the tragic ending is significant in highlighting the inevitability of this event. From the beginning of the novella, death is a constant theme, foreshadowing the tragedy at the end of the book.

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The shooting of Candy’s dog, the dead puppy given to Lennie, and Lennie’s obsession with petting soft things all lead up to the fateful ending. The tragic events that occur in Of Mice and Men illustrate the harsh reality of the world in which the characters live and the lengths they will go to in order to protect those they love.

Themes in Of Mice and Men

Loneliness and isolation as a recurring theme in the novel

Throughout Of Mice and Men, characters struggle with loneliness and isolation, highlighting the difficult realities of the Great Depression in the United States. Candy, Crooks, Curley’s wife are examples of characters who are lonely and isolated.

Candy loses his dog and is fearful of becoming useless, Crooks is discriminated against because of his race, and Curley’s wife is left alone because of her husband’s jealousy. The characters’ experiences reflect the alienation and loneliness felt by many during this time period.

The American Dream and its unattainability for the characters

As George and Lennie do their best to achieve their dream of owning a farm and “living off the fatta the lan’,” the novel highlights the futility of the American Dream for many individuals. Despite the characters’ hard work and determination, obstacles such as financial struggles and discrimination make their dream impossible to attain.

The corrupt nature of society and its impact on the characters

The societal and economic circumstances of the Great Depression set the scene for corrupt practices and unfairness in the novel. The most notable example is the treatment of Curley’s wife, who is both objectified and judged for being a woman.

George and Lennie are also at the mercy of their employers and those in positions of power, demonstrating the corrupt nature of society and its impact on those who are stripped of their agency.

At the end of the novel, George chooses to kill Lennie in a mercy killing, bringing a close to the tragic story of their friendship and dreams.

Impact of Of Mice and Men

The novella, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, is a literary masterpiece that has made a significant contribution to American Literature. The book has become a classic, portraying the harsh realities of life during the Great Depression in the United States.

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The author used his words skillfully, giving readers an insight into the struggles of different strata of society such as farmworkers, the poor, and disenfranchised. Steinbeck’s work is celebrated for its masterful storytelling, with its tale of companionship, loyalty, and sacrifice.

The novella has gone on to influence different art forms, including adaptations in film, stage, and TV. The story’s tragic ending has influenced popular culture to this day.

The novel’s impact on the entertainment industry cannot be overstated. The themes of friendship, powerlessness, loneliness, and dreams resonate with audiences across generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was Lennie's mental condition?

Lennie had a mental disability that made him childlike and incapable of caring for himself.

What was George and Lennie's dream?

George and Lennie's dream was to own a piece of land and a farm they could call their own.

Why did George feel the need to kill Lennie?

George felt the need to kill Lennie to spare him from a more painful death at the hands of Curley and his men.

What was the significance of the ending in Of Mice and Men?

The ending of Of Mice and Men highlights the harshness of life during the Great Depression and the tragedy of lost dreams.

Conclusion

At the end of Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck justifies George’s decision to kill Lennie. Throughout the novella, the complex themes of loneliness, companionship, and the American Dream are explored through the characters of George and Lennie, Candy, and Curley’s wife.

The story’s deeper meaning raises questions about human nature, relationships, and the sacrifices we make for those we care about. It is a poignant and thought-provoking tale that leaves a lasting impression on its readers.

References

Jonathan B. Delfs

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