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This research project explores the utilitarian and deontological views on mercy killings in the literary context of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. It includes information on the basic principles of both ethical systems and explains how utilitarianists and deontologists evaluate the justification of mercy killings. Finally, the paper discusses, from both ethical points of view, the murder of a mentally disabled character in Of Mice and Men. While the author of the research paper ultimately does not pick a side and keeps an objective tone throughout the project, she mentions that the author of the literary text she examines leans towards utilitarianism.
This project won third place in the 2021 Signature Course Information Literacy Award. The award recognizes exemplary student work that achieves the learning outcomes of the Signature Course information literacy requirement, that students will be able to create and execute a research strategy, critically evaluate information, and navigate the scholarly conversation. The paper was nominated by Kristin Schulz from her fall 2020 course "Law and Literature" taught with Paula Murry. Samantha Seal's project was chosen for her ability to synthesize a close reading of her primary source, Of Mice and Men, with well-chosen secondary texts. Prof. Schulz supported this project by saying "Her analysis and discussion of deontological and utilitarian principles were excellent and very advanced. She used scholarly research and publications to analyze the principle of "mercy killings" in contemporary and historical literature.”