The way the characters react towards the shooting of Candy’s dog reveals a lot abut the characters that we might not have expected. Carlson offers to shoot the old dog, complaining many times of the smell. The shooting of Candy’s dog shows the callousness of Carlson and the reality of old age and infirmity. Carlson typifies the men George describes as “the loneliest guys in the world”. He is outwardly friendly, but essentially selfish. He finds the smell of an old dog offensive so the dog must be shot. He shows very little regard to the dog’s owner, Candy. He relentlessly pursues the dog’s death, more for his own comfort than to put the dog out of its misery. However, Steinbeck does show some sympathy in Carlson, when he suggests “he won’t even feel it”, referring to Candy’s dogs death. This is contrasted to Candy’s procrastination to put this event off when he says “maybe tomorra, Le’s wait till tomorra” Steinbeck displays that Candy is trying to delay the put down of his dog and his reluctance to end his dogs life shows how much he loves the animal. “Carlson had refused to be drawn in” this suggest that Carlson is determined and not to be put off.
When Carlson brutally keeps after candy, candy’s reaction is described in the adverbs Steinbeck has used: “uneasily,” “hopefully,” “hopelessly,” and the way candy reacts: “Candy looked for help from face to face.” When he reaches out to Slim for help, even Slim says it would be better to put the dog down. Slim is portrayed as serene and a good listener/observer in this novel, and when Steinbeck suggests “the skinner had been studying the old dog with his calm eyes” – referring to Slim, it suggests that he had been very thoughtful about the whole incident and even showed his understanding and considerateness when he reminded Carlson to take a shovel, so Candy will be spared the glimpse of the corpse. “I wisht somebody’d shoot me if I get an’ a cripple” are the words Slim uses that Candy later echoes when he considers his own future.
This perceptibly puts Candy in deep thought, it shows Candy’s realisation of his own mortality when Slim states this. The dog, in this case tells us something of the owner. When Steinbeck shows the dog nearing the end of its days it could show that candy was too. Also Steinbeck employs irony by saying that he wanted someone to ‘shoot’ him when he got ‘old’ and ‘crippled’ which he almost is. Slim also reassures Candy when he says “you can have a pup if you want to”. When Candy finally gives in and allows Carlson to shoot his dog, it shows the reader that candy wants to be over and done with and wants his dog a swift and painless death. There is some empathy shown when Carlson says “come on boy” to soften the blow for the dog and more so Candy. Once Carlson has taken the dog to shoot, Steinbeck builds the tension within the characters just before the dog is killed.
“George followed to the door and shut the door” – this proposes George’s kind nature and sympathy towards Candy and his dog- this could be one reason as to why George did not give an opinion on whether Candy’s dog should be shot. When George offers “anybody like to play a little euchre” it is evidently shown that George is trying to change the topic and he doesn’t want to worry Candy about the dog, this makes the reader see George taking people’s emotions into account before his own, we also saw this earlier in the book when George stands up for Lennie. We see this again when George “ripple the edge of the deck nervously” this shows that he is also concerned about the whole situation.
It is evident that whit also showed concern indirectly when he says “what the hell is taking him so long”. When Steinbeck repeats “a minute passed, and another minute” he purposely extends the sentence which is a reflection as it prolongs the moment. And then when Steinbeck says “the silence came into the room. And the silence lasted.” Steinbeck employs short length sentences which make the moment seem longer and intensify the significance of that specific time. After “the shot sound in the distance” we are told that Candy “slowly rolled over and faced the wall and lay silent”, this reaction suggests that candy tried to bravely take in what just happened by turning his back to it and attempting to keep unruffled.
The use of short sentence shows us that initially after the shot, there were no comments by anyone which implied that it left them in shock and the realisation of what just happened was slowly sinking in everyone’s head. Steinbeck’s employment of repetition of conjunctions with ‘and’ lengthens the sentence at the end, expanding the climax of the scene, as the audience wants to know what happened to Candy, after his most beloved companion has gone. Carlson even cleans his gun in front of Candy after the deed is done, this reinforces his brutal character. While it may be true that killing the dog put it out of its misery, little concern is shown for Candy’s feelings after a lifetime of caring for the dog. Now Candy is like the rest of them — alone.