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Of Mice And Men –Symbolism Of Candy’S Dog 

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In ‘ Of Mice and Men’ the killing of Candy’s dog represents the fate of anyone who has outlived their purpose. Once a great sheep dog now hindered by age and sentenced to die. Candy’s plea to Carlson to allow the dog to live out its days naturally, the fact that Candy raised him, means nothing to Carlson. Steinbeck uses Candy and his dog to show the lack of sympathy to those who have lived past their usefulness, leaving them to live with what ever means they can obtain. Candy who is old and “no good with only one hand”, and his dog, “a drag-footed sheepdog,” have little place on a ranch, with heavy physical work. Candy realizes he is really no longer needed on the ranch, he is only their doing the jobs that no-one else would want to do, in order to keep a living and a little further away from his inevitable fate, of a slow decline in poverty and then, death.

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Although Carlson promises to kill the dog painlessly, his insistence that the old animal must die supports this cruel natural law that the strong will dispose of the weak. This idea of survival of the fittest represents the vicious cycle of 1930s America, you are either useful or not. Steinbeck makes the readers think about what would usually happen to old people in this intolerant society. As Carlson makes his case for ending the dog’s life, Candy does not argue back. He lacks the courage to fight back “The old man squirmed uncomfortably. ” and looks to others to support him. He is scared, to an extent, of the other ranchmen, because they are stronger than him and can easily replace him and he would get “canned”.

An important factor in understanding Candy ‘s character is how he clings on to the animal even though he knows he should put it out of his misery. He says “Well – hell! I had him so long. Had him since he was a pup. I herded sheep with him. You wouldn’t think it to look at him now but he was the best damn sheepdog”. He thinks back to a time when both he and the dog were useful and of value, and didn’t struggle to make ends meet. Candy finds himself in the same position as the dog almost useless and of no value. Another thing to consider when understanding Candy ‘s character is his reaction to his dog being shot. Candy had his dog for a long time, and in some ways, it was his only companion, he undoubtedly felt guilty and pain as he sat, motionless, as Carlson led his dog out to die. When he heard the “shot sounded in the distance. . . . “, his pain increased, and he did not know how to cope with it. Rather than let the others in the bunkhouse see his pain, revealing weakness, he chooses to “Candy lay rigidly on his bed, staring at the ceiling”.

The other men’s reactions show that they are clearly uncomfortable about the shooting, and try to change the subject, “Anybody want to play a little euchre”. The men don’t know how to approach and comfort Candy and do to things; try and distract him; try and forget about it. Rather than approach him and comfort him most of the men leave Candy to cope on his own, only Slim, bluntly attempts to comfort him by saying “you can have any one of them pups you want ”, he is trying to sees the dog as only a dog, not a companion that cannot be so easily replaced.

18 March 2020

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