In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, how does Candy show loneliness?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, Candy is a sad, lonely figure whose most important companion in life is an old, sickly dog that the other men in bunkhouse would rather was dead because of its awful stench. The dog clearly means everything to Candy, and the constant complaints about the dog’s smell invariably meet with the same reply, such as occurs in the following exchange, in which Carlson has just entered the bunkhouse after spending time outside playing horseshoes:

"Damn right he is," said Carlson. "He don't give nobody else a chance to win-" He stopped and sniffed the air, and still sniffing, looked down at the old dog. "God awmighty, that dog stinks. Get him outa here, Candy! I don't know nothing that stinks as bad as an old dog. You gotta get him out."

Candy rolled to the edge of his bunk. He reached over and patted the ancient dog, and he apologized, "I been around him so much I never notice how he stinks." 

The importance of the dog to Candy is evident right up until he finally succumbs to his coworkers’ complaints and allows them to shoot the dog. The emotional trauma associated with the imminent loss of his closest companion is noticeable in Candy’s being reduced to a near-catatonic state in which he seeks to shut out the world to insulate him from his pain.  The following passage illuminates the old crippled man’s emotional pain at the loss of his beloved pet:

Slim said, "Candy, you can have any one of them pups you want."

Candy did not answer. The silence fell on the room again. It came out of the night and invaded the room.

The door opened and Lennie and Carlson came in together. Lennie crept to his bunk and sat down, trying not to attract attention. Carlson reached under his bunk and brought out his bag. He didn't look at old Candy, who still faced the wall.

That the dog represented the only family Candy had is made further evident in the passage during which George is discussing his and Lennie’s plans for a place of their own, where they’re the boss.  Candy, anxious to join this hypothetical endeavor, appeals to George for a place at the table: 

“. . .I could cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some. How'd that be?"

George half-closed his eyes. "I gotta think about that. We was always gonna do it by ourselves."

Candy interrupted him, "I'd make a will an' leave my share to you guys in case I kick off, 'cause I ain't got no relatives nor nothing.”

Steinbeck makes clear that Candy is alone in the world, and that the old dog was all he had to call his own.  In a story full of sadness and despair, Candy stands out as a lonely, solitary figure.

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