Who is Candy in Of Mice and Men?
Introduced in chapter two as the “old swamper,” Candy is an elderly man whose days of effective manual labor on the ranch are over. After an accident that resulted in the complete amputation of one of his hands, Candy sued the ranch for his injury. Previously a migrant worker who would have traveled from one assignment to another depending on the season, Candy leveraged his disability to earn himself a permanent position at the ranch.
This distinguishes Candy from the other men at the ranch, all of whom are younger temporal figures whose impermanence is affirmed by Candy himself. Immediately, Candy presents himself to George and Lennie as a congenial gossip. Candy provides the two friends with a quick summary of what the men need to know about Curley, his young wife, and the other workers. This immediately establishes Candy as a friend of the novella’s protagonist, placing him in the reader’s trust as well.
However, as the novel progresses, Candy’s role in the story is challenged. He is portrayed sympathetically when Carlson insists on shooting Candy’s elderly, disabled dog. When he asks to contribute to George and Lennie’s “stake” to purchase a piece of land, he is hopeful. At the end of the novel when Candy discovers Curley’s wife in the barn after Lennie breaks her neck, Candy is portrayed as resentful and angry when he curses at the woman’s lifeless body.
These contradictory snapshots of Candy’s personality and function in the narrative mirror Steinbeck’s portrayal of other characters in the text. Each character is morally ambiguous, depicted as having both flaws and virtues that might even counteract one another. This objective perspective, typical of Steinbeck’s Naturalist style, forces the reader to draw conclusions about the characters independent of the author’s influence.
In light of this, it is appropriate to say that Candy is whomever the individual reader believes him to be based on his or her reactions to the details presented about the “old swamper.”
check Approved by eNotes Editorial