In Of Mice and Men, what is learned about the character Candy in Chapter Two? Why is he described as "the old swamper?"  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Candy, described as the "old swamper" because his position is the menial job of straightening, cleaning, and mopping the bunkhouse, is an old employee who knows all the gossip about the ranch.

The job of "swamper" is given to Candy because he can no longer work in the field with the others for two reasons: He is disabled, having lost a hand, and he is old. When George and Lennie arrive, Candy is careful about what he says to them because he does not want anything he says to get back to the boss. But, as he talks with George, his natural proclivity for gossip overtakes his caution and he gossips about the boss, telling him that he was nice enough to give the workers a gallon of whisky during Christmastime. He also warns George and Lennie about how angry the boss was that they did not arrive in time to work in the morning. 

When the boss arrives, Candy shuffles out quietly saying to the boss, "Them guys just come." After the boss departs, Candy re-enters the room slowly. He reassures George that he was not listening in on their conversation with the boss:

"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."

But he does ask George how he liked the boss. Soon the son of the boss, Curley, enters and wants to know if they have seen his father; when Lennie does not say anything, Curley becomes confrontational. When asked, Candy tells Curley that the boss has just left and headed to the cook house. After Curley departs, Candy looks carefully around, then he describes to George and Lennie the personality quirks of Curley: He "hates big guys" like Lennie, and he is always "scrappy"; that is, he is always looking for a fight. But, adds Candy, nothing will happen to Curley since he is the boss's son; he adds more gossip: Curley is "cockier'n ever since he got married." 

When George voices a personal opinion of Curley, Candy warms to the gossip, having "drawn a derogatory statement from George." He is, therefore, "reassured" and provides the newcomers with even more gossip, this time about Curley's wife. He continues informing the men about Curley and his wife, offering his opinion that Curley's wife is a "tart." Finally, he realizes he must leave and start putting out the washbins for the ranch hands who will soon return for lunch.