In Of Mice and Men, how does Candy deal with being the loneliest character in the book?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whether Candy is the loneliest man in the narrative of John Steinbeck is debatable as many interpret Crooks as the character who is separated from others and is the most alienated. However, because Candy is handicapped and old, and he loses his beloved dog, he certainly feels very much alone.

Here are some reasons that Candy is very lonely:

  • Candy is marginalized as he remains behind when all the other men go out into the fields to work.
  • He fears saying anything that might anger others. When he returns to the bunkhouse after the boss talks with George and Lennie in Chapter 2, for example, Candy is quick to say that he was not listening in on the conversation:

"I didn't hear nothing you guys was sayin'. I ain't interested in nothing you was sayin". A guy on a ranch don't never listen nor he don't ast no questions."

  • In his loneliness, he tries to ingratiate himself to Lennie and George, telling them the boss is "a nice fella...You got to take him right."
  • Candy tries to be friendly and inform the newly hired George and Lennie about others.  For instance, after Curley leaves, Candy explains that Curley is the boss's son and he does not care what he says or does. "Seems like Curley is cockier'n ever since he got married," he adds.
  • When he "draws a derogatory statement from George," Candy feels reassured and opens up with George and Lennie, hoping to have someone with whom to talk.
  • When Carlson complains of his old dog, Candy "looked for help from face to face," and he "looked for a long time at Slim to try to find some reversal."  But, when Slim tells him that the dog should be put down, Candy acquiesces and puts his arm over his face. When he hears the gun shot, Candy rolls over on his bed and turns to the wall in his grief and aloneness.
  • After overhearing George and Lennie speak of their dream farm, Candy cannot help asking them, "S'pose I went in with you guys....I could cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some. How'd that be?" He also informs them that he has $250.00 from his accident.  The idea of living on a farm with others entrances Candy because he is alone and worried about his future.
  • After discovering that Curley's wife is dead, Candy expresses "his greatest fear. 'You an me can get that little place, can't we, George?'" Then he drops his head as he knows the dream, too, has died. He "looked helplessly back at Curley's wife" as his terrible aloneness returns.

Here is how Candy has coped with his loneliness:

  • After George and Lennie let Candy in on their dream of owning a piece of land, Candy is much happier, for now he has a purpose to live and the hope for a comfortable future.  This dream gives Candy something to ward off his loneliness; it also provides him a reason to live, for he feels he will not be lonely with George and Lennie.
  • Whenever he sees Curley's wife, he hopes she will go away because she is troubling.
  • He asks to be included in George and Lennie's plan to have a farm of their own.
  • Thinking of the farm and calculating about it gives Curley hope; he rushes into the barn and tells Lennie in front of Crooks, "I got it figured out. We can make some money on them rabbits if we go about it right...."
  • When Crooks mocks his optimism, Candy retorts," ...we gonna do it now, and don't make no mistake about that....That money's in the bank...."