Candy, the old swamper who has lost his hand in an accident, is a rather tragic character as he fears that soon, like his old dog, he will outlive his usefulness. When George Milton and Lennie Small first arrive on the ranch and are taken to the bunkhouse, Candy--like his dog would be--is cautious as he talks to the two new men. He eludes the questions that George asks about the small yellow can that contains lice poison:
I don't know....Tell you what--last guy that had thiss bed was a blacksmith--hell of a nice fella and as clean a guy as you want to meet. Used to wash his hands even after he ate.
Candy does not want the men to leave for fear that the boss will attribute their departure to something he may have said.
Later in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, warmed and strengthened by the friendship of Lennie and George, and hopeful of joining them in the purchase of some land on which he can live out his life, Candy becomes emboldened. He is quick to insult Curley's wife as he tries to repel her; he knows she is trouble and wants to keep her from endangering Lennie's and George's positions on the ranch.
When Curley's wife, "heavily made up," comes to the barn where Lennie and Candy are with Crooks,
'Curley aint been here,' Candy said sourly.
After she refuses to leave, Candy becomes angered. As he rubs the stump of his wrist on his knee,
he said accusingly, ' You gotta husband'. You got no call foolin' aroun' with other guys, causin' trouble.'
When she asks the men what has happened to Curley's hand, it is Candy who seeks again to protect his new friends. He says, in a much more polite tone,
'Why...Curley...he got his han' caught in a machine, ma'am. Bust his han'.'
After she laughs, Candy repeats his statement "sullenly" this time.
Interestingly, Candy's behavior is much like that of a stray dog. He is lonely and wants to be accepted; at first, he is very cautious, then when shown love, he becomes loyal and protective. But, faced with a formidable adversay such as Curley's wife, he backs down some and is submissive, saying "ma'am." However, he will only lie down on his back for so long. His second reply is sullen, much like the dog who gets up by walks away from his adversary.