John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a classic novella with an important theme that takes charge in the story as well as the characters in the book. This theme would be the theme of friendship. Friendship plays a huge role in the story by killing with the motive of mercy. This concept affects the main characters in the novella and the minor or supporting characters. Two major examples of mercy killings that occur in the novella are when Carlson kills Candy’s dog, and when George takes the responsibility of killing Lennie. In each of these examples, the killer kills the other out of mercy and love, not for the usual motives of hatred, rage, or anger.
The killing of Candy's dog is an excellent example of killing out of mercy. Candy's dog was in awful condition, and it could hardly be said that the old stinky dog was even alive. It stunk like a dozen skunks, was nearly blind, could barely hear, had arthritis that was so bad, the old dog couldn't sit down, and had no quality of life. This situation of mercy killing, however, was more influenced by peer pressure than the typical killing because it is what’s best. Most of the time, when one kills another loved one out of mercy, it is normally done to put the suffering one out of their misery, torment, anguish, or distress. The ranch hands, however, thought that the dog smelled bad more than any of its other conditions, which was the only one that they could relate too. Candy's dog loved him, because the two had been working together for a numerous number of years. After all of the time spent side by side, the two had developed a strong bond for each other, and so in the dogs old age, he constantly followed Candy around. Since Candy slept in the bunkhouse, along with the other ranch hands, the dog made the bunkhouse smell terribly. For this reason, the ranch hands could not stand it, nor did they care about Candy. They decided to persuade Candy to put the dog out of his misery by shooting him, not for the...
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