Mercy Killing in "Of Mice and Men"

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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 that the ratty old thing was even alive. It stunk like a dozen skunks, was nearly blind, could barely hear, had arthritis that was so bad, the old mutt couldn't sit down, had no quality of life, and probably had urinary and bowel problems, a miserable condition that is almost assured in old dogs. This instance of mercy killing, however, was more driven by peer pressure than the typical case of mercy killing. When someone kills another loved one out of mercy, it is normally done to put the afflicted one out of their misery, torment, anguish, distress, etc. The other ranch hands thought that the dog reeked more than any of its other conditions, which was the only one that they, too, could experience. Candy's dog loved its master, as the two had been working together for a myriad number of years. After all of the time spent together, the two had developed a strong bond for each other, and so the dog, in its old age, was constantly following Candy around. Since Candy slept in the bunkhouse, along with the other ranch hands, the dog stunk up the bunkhouse. For this reason, they could not stand it, nor did they care too much about Candy. They decided to push Candy to put the dog out of his misery by shooting him, not for the sake of...
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