In the end of Of Mice and Men there are three choices the protaganist, George, must decide on. He either must run away with Lennie, not do anything and let the others kill Lennie, or kill Lennie himself. His final decision reflects his personality and his respect for his friends. As George’s character develops throughout the story he realizes the outcome before it even happens. George’s solution to Lennie’s mistake becomes his only reasonable choice. George realizes the solution after predicting consequences of each potential option.
George’s first option was to tell Lennie to run away after meeting in the brush. If George was to choose this option, both Lennie and George would have gotten shot. It would have looked like they planned the killing of Curley’s wife together. There were no ties between Curley or anyone on the ranch, so nothing would have stopped Curley from putting a bullet in both of their heads. George obviously didn’t want to die, so running away would be a bad choice.
Secondly, George could have stayed at the ranch with Candy and done nothing for Lennie. He knew Lennie was going to be hunted and killed. He knew it from the moment he saw Curley’s wife lying dead in the barn. It was clear to George that there was no way out for Lennie. Also, George knew that he could not live with himself if he let the man he was responsible for be killed by Curley. So, opting to do nothing for Lennie would have been a regrettable choice for George.
Lennie didn’t know what he was doing and it was not fair that he should be killed out of hatred. George had learned a lot from Candy when he said, “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog.”(Chapter 3, 61). Candy had taught him that if Lennie’s death was inevitable, it might as well be done by someone who knows him and cares about him. Lennie had to be killed out of love.
The third only possible choice was for George to be forced to kill his best friend. This was a hard decision for George to make, and after he made it, he had even a harder time carrying it out. “And George raised the gun and steadied it, and he brought the muzzle of it close to the back of Lennie’s head. The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied. He pulled the trigger…….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.”(Chapter 6,106). Even though shooting his best friend was a difficult, heart-wrenching occurrence, he knew he had done nothing wrong. It was the only way the ‘problem’ that Lennie had with hurting people could be resolved with no loose ends and no guilty consciences. George may have been harsh in solving the ‘problem’, but he did the right thing.
Of Mice and Men. Dir. Gary Sinise. MGM/UA, 1992.
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin, 1965.