Of Mice and Men (spoiler alert)

This book had a big impact on me when I read it in high school. It’s always been one of my all time favorites. It wasn’t until recently, when hearing something about the evils of euthanasia on the radio, that the question of the morality of what George did came into my head. I think he shot Lenny because of his love for him - to save him from the mob and the torture and suffering that Lenny would not be able to understand. Do you think his actions were moral? Please respond only if you have read the book (I don’t know about the movie, I never saw it).

I read the book a long time ago so my memory may be faulty.

From a strict Catholic interpretation, I would guess the action was not morally correct. We can’t do wrong to prevent a wrong or to prevent suffering.

However, if you were to ask me if thought God would condemn George for it, I would guess no. I don’t remember if George would agree that his act was wrong - so if he lacked full understanding, his culpability would be reduced.

Can a classic like this really be “spoiled?”

I think that the hallmark of a great work of art is to raise serious questions within the context of the real challenges of life. This is what Of Mice and Men does.

I think he meant “spoiler” as in giving away a key plot point, not that the book was ruined by the morality concern.:slight_smile:

Yes, I know. But is there ANYONE who hasn’t read this book in freshman or sophmore year high school? It used to be pretty standard fare, afterall. So spoiling the ending of a famous book in the repartory of classic literature is difficult to do.

In my not so humble opinion there are far more problems with this book that George shooting Lennie. I mean I’ve read it or bits of it twice. It has swear words on every page, references to prostitution, et cetera.


The sex and profanity is just a realistic representation of what the situation would have been like. It was a hard life, unsheltered.

But the cartoon version of George and Lenny still rocks!

:rolleyes: I’m sure there have been plenty of people who lived in the same conditions, worked the same jobs, and still managed to recommend themselves to God, going to Mass on Sunday, avoiding pre-marital sex, et cetera.


The book wasn’t required reading me, so I imagine there are folks who haven’t read it. Somehow I did get stuck reading “Romeo and Juliet” twice in school - that got old. And I studied the Odyssey at least three times. :shrug:

Yes. But that wasn’t the environment that the characters in the book were a part of, unfortunately. And theirs was one which was all too real.

And, even among the “Mass going Catholics” et al, very real stories can be heard from old timers about how, for instance, the men returning from work on the streetcar would be cussing and talking saliently, then pass a Catholic Church, remove their hats, make the sign of the cross, and return right to what they were doing beforehand.

Life is most often messy.

Read the book, seen the movie.

My daughter (21) hates to read, but she has read this book several times. I think it has shaped a lot of her personality. She is incredibly compassionate and will always speak up for the helpless.

What I got out of Of Mice and Men is that we need to have relationships with and defend the helpless, as George did. To me, he is a hero.

He was a flawed hero because when he was backed into the corner and felt he had no choice, he took a course of action that we would consider wrong.

But before he did this, he did all the right things with Lenny. He was a hero.

How many of us, especially when we are kids or teenagers, get involved with the “retarded” or “different?” Don’t most of us, especially young people, walk by on the other side of the hall and keep our eyes averted?

There is a storyline in the comic strip “For Better or For Worse” that I just love, where April is friends with the “special needs” kids. A few weeks ago, they did a marvelous plotline where April stood up in the cafeteria and told all her “normal” friends to shut up and stop making fun of the special needs kids.

WOW! To me, April is George. If I were an English teacher, I would bring in that comic strip and do a comparison of this plotline and Of Mice And Men.

I would like to be a “George” when it comes to the “different” people in our culture. I believe that Jesus was a “George” (or more correctly, George was like Jesus!). We need to be friends with the lowly. And we need to think of them not as “the lowly,” but as fellow human beings like ourselves.

In case anyone is wondering, I’ve been friends for years with a college buddy who was and still is a paranoid schizophrenic. She is on many meds, without which she would be totally unfunctional. She lives in an institution, but I see her once a week and take her “into the community” for dinner. THAT will end in January, 2008, because in Illinois, a smoking ban will make it illegal for people to smoke in public places. Most of the schizophrenics in that group home chainsmoke. This awful law will force them to become even more isolated from society and make sure that they never leave their institution. IMO, this law is a cover-up, and the true intent is to “hide the undesirables” in our society. All of the people who DON’T smoke and don’t want to be around smokers have plenty of options never to associate with smokers and their unhealthful emissions. But my friend and her friends don’t have any choice but to stay behind closed doors in their institution. Grr! What’s next–not allowing junk food in public and forcing all of us who are fat to hide so that we don’t embarrass anyone?

You see, my rant IS on-topic! We need to think about how we treat those who are “different” than us, including the smokers. We need to include them in society rather than making laws that result in their seclusion.

I will continue to go see my friend and bring in take-out food for her. Sigh. Poor thing.

I do think George’s actions were ‘moral’.

What we sometimes forget is that ‘morals’ are a code a behavior and ethics; but they might not be God’s morals.

As Christians, we understand that our morals flow logically out of putting God first and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Other codes of behavior have one or more flawed central premises but they result in curiously logical ‘morals’.

Some moral codes are based on a premise that puts the greatest good outside of the individual; others are rooted in the ‘good’ of the individual. Within a given moral society, the actions of others are judged by how well that individual obeys the moral code. Obviously a society that puts the individual in first place is likely to have frequent conflicts. The self-first society can encounter a curious paradox if the individual must sacrifice something to help another. Is compassion a good thing or a bad thing? Does it depend on the ‘returns’ for the compassionate act?

I think George’s central premise was very primal: survival under the most agreeable circumstances possible. By befriending Lenny, he was demonstrating a great deal of compassion. But eventually he concluded he could no longer obey the greatest commandment if he stuck with Lenny. And it was apparent to him that Lenny had no hope of ‘surviving’, with or without him. George’s final treatment of Lenny was as compassionate as he believed possible.

Steinbeck is often very sympathetic to characters like George. I think Steinbeck found them to be the most honest. He was skeptical of people who professed to be living for something outside of themselves, although he admired those who managed to do so.

It’s almost as bad as the Old Testament, then :wink: - if “Of Mice and Men” is as good as “To Kill A Mocking-Bird” (which is surely one of the great American novels), it must be well worth reading

Of Mice and Men is the only Steinbook book I’ve been able to stand reading. It does raise a lot of points to think on but in regards to George shooting Lenny at the end I think that although killing someone is morally wrong you also have to look at the reasons. George loved Lenny even though he was a burdon he shot him out of love and the desire to prevent the suffering he would have endured at the hand of the law. I’d be tempted to say he did it out of compassion.

I think his reasons should be taken into account before judgement is passed and even though for me the action holds no spiritual/religious consequence the guilt and suffering within George after he killed Lenny would need to be dealt with.

No, it is never alright to kill someone no matter what.:eek:

Rather than seek justice, or even mercy, George chose to Murder someone who was as close to him as a brother. There were other circumstances for sure, but he committed murder and took another’s life and acted as judge and jury of a situation.

That book is absolutely excellent. So is “The Grapes of Wrath.” Both books take morality and ethics and play them out in extreme circumstances. Much like what many on these boards do every day.
Steinbeck really keyed in on human weakness and strength. And justification of acts.
Murder, Stealing, etc are played out to their ends in the highest examples of “what ifs”

What George did was commit murder, a grave act, and potential mortal sin. Hell could await him. Whereas Lennie also killed another, but perhaps was mentally not culpable. Ultimately what stands out to me is that as a society we absolutely MUST have resources and help for those who are the “least of these” But when you take God’s morality out of it, tragedy will result.

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