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"Of Mice and Men" 2
Transcript of "Of Mice and Men" 2
To be fit or unfit for their social roles on the basis of their physical and intellectual abilities.
Candy's old dog is judged offensive by the more fit members of the
bunk house society
- Slim and Carlson - and so the dog is killed.
Candy can do nothing to stop this; he is weak, and
in this world the strong survive
The dog himself is a symbol of the cruel fate that awaits the feeble
Theme: Social Fitness
This section further foreshadows the upcoming problems between Lennie and Curley.
Crooks, the black stable-hand, comes in and tells Slim that he has warmed some tar to put on a mule’s foot. After Slim leaves, the other men play cards and discuss
, agreeing that she
will make trouble for someone; as George says, “She’s a jailbait all set on the trigger.”
Lennie and Carlson come in. Carlson cleans his gun and avoids looking at Candy. Curley appears looking for his wife again.
Full of jealousy and suspicion, he asks where Slim is. When he learns that Slim is in the barn, he storms off in that direction, followed by Whit and Carlson, who hope to see a fight.
During George’s conversation with Slim, Steinbeck establishes the origins of Lennie and George’s relationship in a few broad strokes.
a childhood relationship grown into a rare adult companionship
. After years of torturing and taking advantage of his friend, George had
a moral awakening, realizing that it is wrong to make a weaker living being suffer for sport.
This conviction runs
counter to the cruel nature of the world of the ranch-hands, in which the strong hunt down and do away with the weak.
In this section,
the death of Candy’s dog testifies to the pitiless process by which the strong attack and eliminate the weak
Candy’s dog—although no longer useful at corralling sheep—is of great importance to the old swamper. Candy’s emotional attachment to the dog is clear.
Regardless, allowing the animal to live out its days is not an option in this cruel environment. Carlson insists that
the animal’s infirmity makes it unworthy of such devotion.
The most comfort he can offer is to assure Candy that he will kill the dog mercifully and quickly.
Slim, Curley, Carlson, and Whit return. Curley apologizes to Slim for his suspicions, and then the other men mock him. Knowing that Slim is too strong to be beaten in a fight,
Curley looks to vent his rage elsewhere
He finds an easy target in Lennie
, who is still dreaming of the farm and smiling with childlike delight. Though Lennie begs to be left alone, Curley attacks him.
George urges Lennie to fight back.
On George’s command,
Lennie grabs Curley’s right hand and breaks it effortlessly
leads Curley away to a doctor, he
warns him not to have George and Lennie fired
. Curley consents not to attempt to have them fired. George comforts Lennie, telling him that the fight was not his fault and that he has nothing to fear.
Lennie’s only fear is that he will not be allowed to tend the rabbits on their farm.
In the world
Of Mice and Men
Candy’s dog represents the fate awaiting anyone who has outlived his or her purpose.
Once a fine sheepdog, useful on the ranch, Candy’s mutt is now debilitated by age. Candy’s sentimental attachment to the animal—his plea that Carlson let the dog live for no other reason than that Candy raised it from a puppy—means nothing at all on the ranch. Although Carlson promises to kill the dog painlessly,
his insistence that the old animal must die supports a cruel natural law that the strong will dispose of the weak.
Candy internalizes this lesson, for he fears that he himself is nearing an age when he will no longer be useful at the ranch, and therefore no longer welcome.
When Slim, the story’s most trusted source of wisdom, agrees, he only confirms that
their world is one that offers the weak and disempowered little hope of protection.
Ones the men return from hoping to see a fight between Slim and Curley Candy says quietly to George that
he should have shot his old dog himself, and not let a stranger do it.
Steinbeck advances the narrative toward the inevitable tragedy through many instances of foreshadowing in this section.
The story of Lennie’s behavior in Weed
His performance in the fight with Curley establish his tendency to exert great strength when confused and frightened.
Combined with George’s earlier observation that Lennie kept accidentally killing mice while petting them, these events heavily anticipate what will happen later in the text.
The American Dream?