In Chapter 3, Whit, a minor character, is brought to the forefront. What purpose does this character serve in Steinbeck's portrayal of migrant workers?

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mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 3, Whit, a character not often seen in Of Mice and Men, is brought to the forefront of the novel when he reads a comment in a magazine from Bill Tanner. The comment doesn't say much more than Bill Tanner appreciating the stories in a magazine, but to Whit, they reveal some deep desire to find a connection with someone in this difficult and lonely life.

Whit says that Bill Tanner and he "worked in that patch of field peas. Run cultivators, both of us. Hell of a nice fella." Whit's excitement is dismissed by the other guys in the bunkhouse. Slim seems nonplussed at the letter asking, "What you want me to read that for?"

Another person who ignores Whit's excitement is Carlson who "had refused to be drawn in." Instead, Carlson diverts his attention to Candy's old dog, who he says, "Can't eat, cant's see, can't even walk without hurtin'." The thing about Candy's dog and its placement so soon after Whit's excitement is that Candy is one of the only people in the bunkhouse, until George and Lennie arrive, that has some type of companion. And Carlson wants to "put the old devil out of his misery right now."

When Carlson goes out and shoots Candy's dog, Whit becomes really anxious, crying, "What the hell's takin' him so long?"

Steinbeck's placement of these events is no accident. He connects Whit's desire for an end to his loneliness to the removal of Candy's dog.