Mercy Killing in 'Of Mice and Men'

1062 Words May 5th, 2006 5 Pages
In John Steinbeck 's classic novella, Of Mice and Men, one of the predominant themes that govern the story and characters in the book is friendship. One of the ways in which friendship plays a large role is in the area of mercy killing, which affects the main characters as well as the supporting ones. The two major mercy killings that occur in the book are those of Carlson 's killing of Candy 's old dog, and of George 's killing of Lennie. In both of these examples, the killer kills the other out of mercy and love, not for the usual motives of hatred, rage, anger, etc.

The killing of Candy 's dog is an excellent example of mercy killing in the aforesaid novella. Candy 's dog was in terrible condition, and it could barely be said
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In order to prevent this agony from befalling his dear friend, George took it upon himself to kill Lennie with a quick, painless death by shooting him in the back of the head. This form of killing someone results in a painless, instantaneous death, as by shooting in the back of the head as done by George and Carlson, the spinal cord is obliterated, instantly killing the victim, so that they feel nothing. George decided to kill Lennie at his very happiest, while he was thinking about their plans for their piece of land. In doing so, George prevented Lennie from causing any harm to anyone else, or himself. He also saved Lennie from any grief or pain from being executed or shot by someone without sympathy, as well as having Lennie know of his death. One moment, Lennie was bubbling over taking care of his rabbits, the next he was dead, blissfully unaware of dying. This is the noblest motive for killing, and one that was highly justified by George, as well as preferable for Lennie. "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. The crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again. Lennie jarred and then settled slowly forward to the sand, he lay without quivering."(p. 106) The theme of