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Victoria Majerczyk

Mrs. Carroll
American Literature
12 March 2017
Do no harm: Actions or Intentions?

The rule do no harm, is not only broad but also a rule that is left to be interpreted in a
variety of ways. Unlike the rule do not kill, there is no definite instruction to this rule. Because
what exactly does it mean to do no harm? To one person it may mean not to physically harm
people, to another, it may mean not to physically and emotionally harm people or any other
living being for that matter. Although this is an important rule, this rule is never completely
followed. The vast majority of people, if not all, did something or said something that hurt
another. That doesn’t necessarily mean one is a bad person, because one may not have had the
intention of hurting another. Therefore, accidentally harming another doesn’t make one a bad
person. Furthermore, the interpretation I have of the rule do no harm is that the rule refers to
trying to avoid doing harm by having good intentions. In other words, do no harm means to not
have the intention of causing harm.This rule is important to follow because it is a leading
influence on how we impact others and whether we are acting morally and ethically. Living by
the rule do no harm is important because it guides people to be more ethical, kind, and positive
when interacting with others.Pursuing ethical conduct is important for the reason that “Ethical
conduct is defined by doing one’s duties and doing the right thing, and the goal is performing the
correct action” (Brown University 16).
In the novel Of Mice and Men, Lennie is one of the main characters. He is described to be a
big, goofy guy. Lennie, however, cannot take care of himself and is accompanied by George who
takes care of him. Lennie has a child-like innocence around him and is often compared to a dog
for his lack of understanding things as others do. Unfortunately, Lennie also does not recognize
his strength, and accidentally kills the small animals he wants to take care of. Towards the end of
the book, Lennie ends up accidentally killing a person- Curley’s wife. Despite the fact that
Lennie killed other beings, I believe he did, in fact, follow the rule to do no harm for the simple
reason that Lennie never had cruel, harmful intentions towards others. “Lennie smiled with his
bruised mouth.‘I didn’t want no trouble,’ he said. He walked toward the door, but just before he
came to it, he turned back….. ‘I di’n’t mean no harm, George’.” (Steinbeck 65)
On the other hand, others may argue that in the end, Lennie did do harm, regardless of
what his intentions were. Lennie has been told multiple times by George to not associate with
Curley’s wife. Ultimately, it was Lennie’s decision to disregard George’s instructions and talk to
Curley’s wife, and eventually, kill her. However, Chapter 1 hinted and showed multiple times
that Lennie had memory problems. It was very hard for him to remember simple instructions
George gave him. Also, because of Lennie’s mental condition, there is reason to believe that
Lennie did not fully understand what he was doing. Lennie did not comprehend the seriousness
of him killing, even when he killed Curley’s wife - his main concern was that George will be
mad. Lennie did not realize that the pattern of him wanting to feel nice things led to fatal
consequences. We cannot blame Lennie for his mental state, and therefore still say that his
intentions were pure. In contrast to George, who slut-shamed and excluded Curley’s wife, or
Curley’s wife herself, who threatened another human being with lynching. Both are examples of
bad intentions, the goal being to cause harm, unlike Lennie- who just wanted to pet nice things.
At the end of the book, Lennie is killed by George. Lennie killed other beings
throughout his lifetime and took the life of another person. Eventually, he himself is killed.
However, it is also good karma that he is killed by the only person who cared for him. Because
Lennie followed the rule to do no harm, he avoided the torture he would experience if Curley
was to kill him. The fact that Lennie died dreaming of his biggest dream, makes Lennie’s death
less tragic and more of a happy ending in comparison to what could have happened if Curley
found him first.