In Of Mice and Men, I never understood why it was necessary for

George to kill Lennie,

when George simply could've pulled some sort of diversionary tactic and falsely led the rest of the lynch mob somewhere else in the forest. By the time the lynch mob realized it was a false clue, George could've snuck back to him and have been on his way to the next town. Is the reason it was necessary for

Lennie to die

because the lynch mob was already too close to the pair of them for them to escape?

  • 6
    I really am not a fan of using the spoiler tag on this site. It makes everything hard to read. And arguably, spoilers are more of a thing for the science fiction and fantasy community than they are for the literary community. Mythology.SE, for example, doesn't use spoiler tags.
    – user111
    Jan 19, 2017 at 1:48
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    @Hamlet I absolutely hate it when people think it's just fine to ruin a book for me.
    – Paul
    Jan 19, 2017 at 2:25
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    @LaurenIpsum It does not matter when the book was written if I haven't read it.
    – Paul
    Jan 19, 2017 at 2:31
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    @Paul What's "common knowledge" is a dangerous thing to assume. For instance, the "I am your father" line from Star Wars is pretty famous at least in western English-speaking culture, but I had no clue about it until I started spending time at Science Fiction & Fantasy SE. (I agree with your other comments here though.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 22, 2017 at 15:58
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    Surely one worries about spoilers only in potboilers where the only essential pleasure lies in the surprise. If the only pleasure you take in Of Mice and Men is finding out how it ends, it probably is not the right book for you.
    – user406
    Apr 29, 2017 at 18:47

4 Answers 4


It's been a while, but my recollection is that the idea was that Lennie 1) was ultimately dangerous and 2) killed a woman, albeit unintentionally.

Lennie liked to pet rabbits because they were soft, but he killed them because he didn't understand nor could he control his strength. He did the same with the puppy he was given. Lennie simply didn't have the mental capacity to be gentler — imagine a three-year-old with the strength of Mike Tyson.

When George realizes Lennie has killed the woman whose hair he was "petting," like the small animals, he knows that Lennie will be easily caught and tried for murder. The trial will be terrifying for Lennie, who can't understand what's happening, and his death will be frightening and possibly painful. Or worse, he'll simply be lynched.

George puts a bullet in his head out of kindness, both for Lennie so he doesn't suffer and for anyone else who might be hurt by Lennie's accidental maulings.

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    I'm not sure if this fully answers the spirit of the question. It's all perfectly correct, but the question is asking about why George couldn't have just led the lynch mob away from Lennie and then come back to get him, which isn't addressed by explaining that George killed Lennie out of kindness. If you edit to put a little more stress on the argument that a similar thing would have happened again even if they'd escaped this time and moved on to the next town, then I'll upvote :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 22, 2017 at 16:22
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    I would also add that he does it because he wants the best for Lennie. Given that it is evident that Lennie would be killed eventually, George wanted to make his last moment a happy one, with hope instead of fear and confusion Feb 8, 2017 at 6:34

Everything Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum writes is true. Lennie did indeed kill accidentally just because of his nature, and without understanding what he did or why. George does want to spare Lennie from the pain of a trial, a hanging, or a lynching. Yes, he could have led the lynch mob away.

But George realizes an important thing. Even if he rescues Lennie now, there will one day be another woman and another lynch mob. He won't be able to protect Lennie for ever. Not only will Lennie still get to suffer, but there will be another dead woman in the future. It is better to have Lennie die now, at peace and with his friend, than painfully in the future that must come, and with another woman needlessly dead.

There are likely to be other factors. In good literature, as in life, decisions like this are rarely for one reason. Lennie does deserve to die. He did really kill the woman. Lennie's death will free George from the intolerable burden of caring for him. It will mean George won't have to lie to cover for his friend. And any future killings by Lennie would be on George's conscience, since he could have prevented them. Deciding which factors weigh most with George is part of the enjoyment of the book.


Here is a cold-blooded answer -- he may have wanted to protect Lenny from the violence of the lynch mob but it is also may be that he finally decided to do something selfish. He realized that there was no way to escape and even if they managed to, two things: Lenny would almost certainly get them into trouble again and also, the mob, if they caught George with Lenny, might well lynch George also -- he was after all assisting a murderer escape and Curly had a strong dislike, if not hatred, for George who had brought Lenny to the ranch.


Having just read the story myself, my presumption was that George knew Lennie couldn't survive on his own for any length of time. The mob was fixated on finding Lennie and the police had been called.

Curley said, "You go in Soledad an' get a cop. Get AI Wilts, he's deputy sheriff.

So there will be a manhunt on from two directions, which won't be given up easily until Lennie is caught. George needs to try and stay with them to demonstrate his own innocence. In the meantime, it's quite possible that Lennie is so childlike that he will be unable to hide successfully in any case. Thus, a diversion is unlikely to work and will take considerable time to pull off.

Several times in the Story, when he is feeling guilty, Lennie talks about going to live in a cave somewhere so as not to be a burden to George any longer. However, to the reader, it's obvious this is an empty threat. Lennie's faculties are so impaired that he can barely even remember simple instructions and he has no real understanding of the consequences of his actions. Hiding alone he would be unable to even feed himself, possibly even to get water or shelter. George makes this plain at one point.

"Yeah' How’d you eat. You ain’t got sense enough to find nothing to eat."

So even if George could lead a successful diversion, the likelihood is that Lennie would suffer a miserable death while he did so. Better, George reasons, to have him die quickly at a moment of happiness.

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