How does Steinbeck create and sustain suspense while the men are waiting for the dog to be shot in Of Mice and Men?

Steinbeck creates and sustains suspense while the men are waiting for the dog to be shot by using the word "silence" five times to communicate the tension in the bunkhouse, drawing the scene out by interrupting the core conflict between Carlson and Candy with a detour story from Whit and the description of time passing "minute" by "minute." Additionally, using words such as "uneasily,” and “hopelessly” to describe Candy further sustains the scene's tension.

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Steinbeck creates and sustains suspense while the men are waiting for the dog to be shot by repeatedly using the word "silence" to communicate the tension in the bunkhouse, drawing the scene out by interrupting the core conflict between Carlson and Candy with a detour story and the description of time passing "minute" by "minute."

Earlier in the chapter, before the scene in which Carlson badgers Candy to euthanize his dog, we get the picture of Lennie coming into the bunk with his new puppy hidden in his coat. Steinbeck specifically juxtaposes the new puppy against the old dog in the chapter to show the fragility of both animals.

Thus, when Carlson first introduces the idea of putting the dog down, it follows the discussion about the puppy—new life—and seems more startling. He says,

"He's all stiff with rheumatism. He ain't no good to you, Candy. An' he ain't no good to himself. Why'n't you shoot him, Candy?"

Then Steinbeck cuts away from the scene between Carlson and Candy momentarily, leaving the reader in suspense about the outcome of their conflict. A young ranch hand named Whit comes in and interjects with a tangent about a man who once worked on the ranch. Many of the men get involved in this detour discussion, including George.

Carlson, however, “had refused to be drawn in” to the detour conversation. Once that discussion is done, he picks up right where he left off. Steinbeck uses words such as “uneasily” and “hopelessly” to describe Candy’s emotions during this harangue from Carlson, letting the reader understand the tension in the atmosphere.

Then, as Carlson leaves the bunkhouse with the old dog, his “footsteps died away. The silence came into the room. And the silence lasted.” We sense the tension in the room and we feel it ourselves. Steinbeck uses the word “silence” a third and fourth time:

“The silence fell on the room again. It came out of the night and invaded the room.”

The use of the word “invaded” underscores the silence, which refers to the tension that Candy—and the reader—feels in this scene. Steinbeck then repeats the exact sentence a second time:

“The silence fell on the room again. A minute passed, and another minute.”

Steinbeck describes time passing in minutes, which serves to elongate the sense of waiting. Then another instance of the word “silence” and finally the silence is broken when

"a shot sounded in the distance.”

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Steinbeck creates and sustains suspense in chapter 3 when Carlson takes Candy's ancient dog outside to put it out of its misery. After Slim gives Carlson the okay to shoot Candy's dog, Candy reluctantly acquiesces, and Carlson grabs his Luger as he walks the old dog out of the bunkhouse. When Carlson leaves the bunkhouse, the atmosphere inside becomes intense as the men anticipate the sound of Carlson's gun. Everybody is on edge, while Candy proceeds to stare at the ceiling in his bunk without saying a word. Candy's silence and tranquil demeanor contribute to the solemn atmosphere of the bunkhouse.

Both Slim and George attempt to change the subject to lighten the mood but are unable to do so. Steinbeck builds suspense by illustrating the pervasive, oppressive silence that fills the room and continually refers to Candy's solemn demeanor. Steinbeck writes,

The silence fell on the room again. It came out of the night and invaded the room.

In the midst of the oppressive silence, each man's attention is immediately drawn to the "little snapping noise" of the gun before silence once again falls over the room. Candy continues to stare at the ceiling. The little gnawing sound coming from under the floor briefly gains everyone's attention, with the exception of Candy, who continues to stare into space. Steinbeck repetitively referencing Candy's stare contributes to the suspense, reminding the reader of his close relationship with the dog.

Steinbeck's brilliant use of imagery captivates the intensity of the moment as the audience experiences the suspense of waiting to hear the sound of Carlson's gun, along with the characters sitting in the bunkhouse. Suddenly, a shot is sounded in the distance, and everyone turns toward Candy, who rolls over slowly to face the wall.

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Gathered in the bunkhouse in Chapter 3 of Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men, the men play cards and talk; that is, all but Carlson who looks down at Candy's old dog.  After a while, he tells Candy that his old dog has no reason to continue living since it is difficult for the dog to walk and eat and see anymore, and he offers to put him out of his misery.  Hoping to deter Carlson in his intention, Candy says, "Maybe tomorra. Let's wait till tomorra."  But, the cruel Carlson will not be deterred,

"I don't see no reason for it....Let's get it over with....We can't sleep with him stinkin' around in here."  

At this point Candy looks for a long time at Slim with his "god-like eyes," hoping "to try to find some reversal" of his dog's fate. However, Slim will not interfere.  So, Candy is forced to say despairing, "Awright--take 'im."

After Carlson leads the old dog out gently, Candy stiffens and lies unmoving on his bed.  Slim speaks loudly, hoping to drown out any outside sound, in an effort to draw the men's attention to something else.  But, "[T]he silence came into the room.  And the silence lasted."  Chuckling, George, too, tries to divert attention to what is going on outside:  "I bet Lennie's right out there in the barn with his pup." This suggestion of another dog leads Slim to suggest to Candy that he can have one of his pups.  But Candy does not answer.  Instead, Steinbeck writes,

The silence fell on the room again.  It came out of the night and invaded the room.

Again, George attempts a diversion, "Anybody like to play a little euchre?"   When George does not shuffle the card deck, but ripples it instead, the snapping noise "drew the eyes of all the men in the room," so he stops it.  Clearly everyone is on edge waiting for the shot of Carlson's Krueger.  Again Steinbeck writes, "The silence fell on the room again," and, "Candy lay still, staring at the ceiling." When there is a sound under a bunk, the men are grateful for another distraction; only Candy does not move, staring still at the ceiling.  Finally White breaks out nervously, "What the hell's takin' him so long?  Lay out some cards, why don't you?"  George holds the deck of cards, staring at the backs of them while "[T]he silence was in the room again." Finally, a shot is heard in the distance; all the men look quickly at old Candy, who rolls slowly over to face the wall silently.

Steinbeck's repetitive intrusion of phrases such as "the silence fell on the room" interrupts the action and dialogues of the men.  This use of the pall of silence lends a suspension of time in the sad scene of Candy's loss of his old companion.

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