How is Candy central to our understanding of life on the ranch?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Candy is an old handicapped swamper on the ranch, who is the first worker to befriend George and Lennie when they arrive. Candy's job is relatively insignificant on the farm because he is missing his right hand, which he lost in an unfortunate work accident. Candy is also old and...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Candy is an old handicapped swamper on the ranch, who is the first worker to befriend George and Lennie when they arrive. Candy's job is relatively insignificant on the farm because he is missing his right hand, which he lost in an unfortunate work accident. Candy is also old and owns an "ancient" dog, which has difficulty seeing and eating. In chapter three, Carlson petitions Candy to shoot his old dog before Slim gives Carlson permission to shoot the dog and put it out of its misery. Candy regrets allowing Carlson to shoot his dog and the moment foreshadows George's difficult decision to kill Lennie before Curley's mob captures him.

After listening to George and Lennie's plan of purchasing an estate, Candy agrees to contribute financially to their homestead and the men become closer to achieving their dream. Tragically, Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife and their dream becomes unattainable. After discovering Curley's wife's lifeless body, Candy acknowledges that his dreams were simply illusions and would never be fulfilled. He also understands that it is only a matter of time before he is driven from the ranch and forced to survive on his own. Candy's difficult life emphasizes the harsh environment on the ranch, where the weak, defenseless, and old suffer and die.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In John Steinbeck's classic novella Of Mice and Men, one of the most realistic characters is Candy, an old ranch worker who had lost his hand years before. Candy represents the toil and personal sacrifices of ranch handymen and of ranch workers in general. Candy embodies both optimism and uncertainty about the future.

This is illustrated by his willingness to invest his life's savings, $350, towards a farm that George and Lennie dream of buying. Candy, like the dog that Slim gave him, is loyal to the ranch and to the routine of hard work. He represents the past for the other characters—someone they admire but do not want to become when they get older—but he also symbolizes the importance of being open-minded and open-armed about the future.

John Steinbeck worked as a journalist for a San Francisco newspaper before devoting his career to fiction, and he had interviewed and observed actual migrant workers in California and Oklahoma. Steinbeck's journalistic, first-hand experience allowed him to construct characters such as Candy with realism.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team