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The character Carlson of Of Mice and Men is the embodiment of the detachment of the itinerant worker of the Great Depression. Insensitive, he callously offers to take the old dog out and shoot it, even describing how he would do this. When Candy wishes to postpone this shooting, Carlson replies, "I don't see no reason for it." In fact, this insensitivity verges on the fanatical:
"....I wisht somebody'd shoot me if I got old an' a cripple."
When the other men in the bunkhouse converse about a former worker who sent a letter to the editor of a magazine, Carlson refuses to be drawn into the group, instead glaring at the dog that he wants to kill. In fact, brutality is all that interests Carlson. For, he does not reappear in the narrative until the end as, hearing the news of the death of Candy's wife, he rushes to get his Luger in hopes of shooting Lennie, to whom he gives no more consideration than that given Candy's dog.
A foil to the real hero of the novella, Slim, who listens to the men and hears more than is said and, with "God-like eyes" is highly perceptive and kind, Carlson speaks the final lines of the narrative as he looks at Slim and the despairing George walk back to the bunkhouse,
"Now what the hell ya' suppose is eatin' them two guys?"
In contrast to Slim, who is established at the ranch and has respect and friendship, Carlson represents the consequence of the alienation that results from men not belonging anywhere. Thus, he is the embodiment of the worst effects of the dispossessed workers who have no home and no fraternity with other men. As such, he symbolizes the devastating results of the disenfranchisement of the American worker in the worst period in American history to date in Steinbeck's time.
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