The significance of Candy and his dog

We have just read Chapter 3/Section 3 of Of Mice and Men. During this part of the book Steinbeck describes the death of Candy’s dog, the sharing of ‘The Dream’ with Candy and the fight between Curley and Lennie.

Candy’s dog represents the fate awaiting anyone who has outlived his or her purpose during the time the novel was set (1930s). Candy’s dog was originally a useful addition to the ranch however due to old age the dog is now viewed as useless. Candy’s allegiance to the dog means nothing on the ranch, amongst workers who travel alone and try to avoid striking up relationships and bonds with others. Carlson’s promise to kill the dog painessly contradicts Steinbeck’s aims/message – in the cruelty of life the strong will dispose of the weak. Candy’s own fears are represented through the death of the dog – he fears he himself will soon reach a point when he is not longer useful on the ranch and therefore no longer welcome. An important point to note is Slim’s approval of the killing of Candy’s dog – Slim convinces Candy it is the right thing to do:

“Well, you ain’t bein’ kind to him keepin’ him alive,” said Carlson. “Look, Slim’s bitch got a litter right now. I bet Slim would give you one of them pups to raise up, wouldn’t you, Slim?”

The skinner had been studying the old dog with his calm eyes. “Yeah,” he said. “You can have a pup if you want to.” He seemed to shake himself free for speech. “Carl’s right, Candy. That dog ain’t no good to himself. I wisht somebody’d shoot me if I get old an’ a cripple.”

Candy looked helplessly at him, for Slim’s opinions were law. “Maybe it’d hurt him,” he suggested. “I don’t mind takin’ care of him.”

Carlson said, “The way I’d shoot him, he wouldn’t feel nothing. I’d put the gun right there.” He pointed with his toe. “Right back of the head. He wouldn’t even quiver.” 

Below are a few resources that will help you understand more about the character of Candy and the significance of his dog.

Take a look at this website: Analysis of Chapter 3

Additional points to consider:

Have you considered the ways in which Steinbeck creates suspense and tension while the bunkhouse men waited to hear the sound of Carlson’s gun outside, killing Candy’s dog? The men playing cards and engaging in small talk while waiting for Candy’s dog to be shot is very tense – how and why?

We will continue to work on this chapter during tomorrow’s lesson.

Miss O

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