In John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck conveys the main themes, isolation, loneliness, and insecurity through many characters. One of the characters who best embody the theme(s) is Candy. Candy is an old, disabled, isolated, unhappy, lonely, insecure, swamper. Candy’s loneliness is greatly attributed to the loss of his hand and his age. He believes he is a worthless old man who, like his old dog, is just wasting away. Candy also offers much symbolism and parallelism to a few characters in the novel. Steinbeck also develops the character of Candy very well using characterization. Symbolism and foreshadowing are also used widely throughout the novel. Candy, an old, useless swamper exemplifies the main themes of this novel.
Steinbeck uses characterization to build up the description of Candy so well that the reader feels the isolation and loneliness of which Candy experiences everyday. Candy is an old, physically disabled swamper who has worked on the ranch for a good majority of his life. While working on the ranch a few years ago, Candy got into an accident which resulted in the loss of one of his hands. This unfortunate accident left him a little bit of money and whole lot of loneliness. As a result of Candy’s age and disability he has a feeling of uselessness. Since Candy feels that he is old, he places himself in a state of mind that disables him more than his missing hand ever will. A old worthless man wasting away his last few years is how Candy sees himself. He is often afraid of losing his job, as well as his whole life. I got hurt four years ago. They’ll can me purty soon. Jus’ as soon as I can’t swamp out no bunk houses they’ll put me on the county.
Candy, in many ways symbolizes his dog. Both Candy and his dog are very old and they are both coming towards the end of their lives. In their younger years, Candy and his dog were excellent workers. Candy loves his dog with all of his heart. It has been his best friend for years and according to Candy he has Had him since he was a pup. I herded sheep with him. Even though the dog can no longer run as fast or herd sheep like he did when he was younger, Candy loves him the same. He appreciates all of the joy and loyalty that his once great dog has brought to him during his life and is ready to let his friend now live out the rest of it’s natural life. Unfortunately that is not the way that some of the other people in the bunkhouse see it. Carlson feels This ol’ dog jus’ suffers hisself all the time. If you was to take him out and shoot him right in the back of the head… right there, why he’d never know what hit him?. Carlson even offers to give him a new dog to replace the one that he is about to kill. The way that Candy sees it is that his dog isn’t not hurting anyone and that there is no reason to have to end it’s life prematurely. Even though Candy loves his dog more than anything else in the world he chooses to let someone shoot his dog in the back of the head. After all that they had been through and all the years of loyal service that his supposed best friend had performed for Candy, when pressured into a decision, he chose to defy his loyal companion and make the decision on when he should die. This lets the reader know that Candy has such little respect for himself that he won’t even stand up for what he believes is right. Candy knew that his dog had limited time left in his life, and after it dies, Candy would have no one to call a friend. He let Carlson kill his dog in hopes that the other workers would then give him the friendship and loyalty that his dog had provided him for years. If this happened, Candy would not have to spend the rest of his life alone and desolate in his old age; he would then have friends and people who he could talk to. Lacking this for many years and wanting to obtain it desperately, Candy betrayed his oldest friend. This situation is ironic; Candy permitted the death of his best friend in order to gain the friendship of the other workers. His notion backfired because not only did he loose his best friend, he gained nothing but heartache from it. Worthless and alone, Candy now felt he didn’t have a single important thing. Candy and his dog had the same relationship that George and Lennie had shared for so many years. While Lennie had George and the ranchers had each other, Candy did not have anybody and this put him in a condition of sorrow and depression.
Candy’s loneliness greatly is demonstrated when Candy is in the bunkhouse with George and Lennie and they are discussing the dream. Desperately, Candy explains how he wants to become a part of it. Candy is so depressed that he puts himself into a state of solitude. He is allowed to go out with the other guys, but he always refuses due to so because of his negative mind frame towards himself. Candy thinks that no one wants to be friends with him because of his disability. Eventually, he tries to find a friendship by attempting to join the dream of George and Lennie. Their dream is to own and run their own little ranch where they ?can live off the fat of the land.? This is one of Candy’s desperate attempts to find a place in society and meaning in life. Candy offered his money and what little abilities he had to become a part of George and Lennie’s friendship and dream. I’ll wash dishes an’ little chicken stuff like that. But I’ll be on your own place, an’ I’ll be let to work on our own place. Candy was attempting to overcome his loneliness and regain a positive outlook by looking for which would enable him to get involved with other ranchers. Candy may have been sad and lonely because he was in search of the right person to be friends with. It is also ironic that the reason Candy got involved in the dream is because of the death of a friend (his dog). The dream is later shattered by the death of another friend (Lennie).
Parallelism and foreshadowing is also greatly exhibited between Lennie and Candy’s old dog. Lennie and the dog are both mentally slow. Both Lennie and the dog are shot in the back of the head. Both Lennie and Curly loose their best friends and their dreams. As much as their deaths are similar, they are totally different. Candy’s poor old dog was led out by a stranger and shot in the back of the head. George, Lennie’s best friend shot him in the back of the head. Candy should have shot his best friend himself and he knows it. Candy regrets not giving his dog the respect of a proper death. George killing Lennie is actually a resolution to Candy’s mistake. ?I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to let no stranger shoot my dog.?
The only other characters in the book shared the same interests and/or dreams as Candy did were Lennie and George. This is why Candy tried so hard to gain the attention and friendship of Lennie and George. He offers everything that he had to support the friendship including money, but money will never buy genuine friendship. Maybe if I give you money, you’ll let me hoe in the garden even though I ain’t no good at it. All of these characters are similar because, not only were they affected by loneliness, they were all in pursuit of a dream that could never be caught. Candy was the perfect example of the themes: loneliness, isolation, and insecurity.