The novel “Of Mice and Men” is filled with characters that portray weakness. They are Steinbeck’s commentary on the general attitude towards the “weak”, and on the stereotype of “weak”, and perhaps even on the belief of “survival of the fittest”-social darwinism. Candy’s dog and Lennie are two characters that do so perhaps the most significantly, although in the case of Candy’s dog it is slightly less obvious as he’s not given much of a personality. Upon digging deeper into these two characters, you will find that they share similarities despite one of them being human and the other a dog.
Both Lennie and Candy’s dog are seen as weak and useless. This is especially true for Candy’s dog-nobody, not even Candy, can seem to find a use for him. He is described as stinky, old, and practically lifeless. Candy doesn’t agree nor disagree with this; but he defends his dog by saying “I been around him so much I never notice how he stinks. ” and “he was the best damn sheep dog I ever seen. ” Both of these characters are kept around because their companions love them. For Candy’s dog, that is the only reason he lives for as long as he did. Until he finally gave in, Candy refused to let his dog die.
Lennie, on the other hand, is somewhat useful. He is strong and bulky, which makes him great at his job. But the downside to Lennie is that he is mentally weak. Many characters in the book feel this way about Lennie. Like Slim, for example; “Maybe he ain’t bright, but I never seen such a worker. ” Both of these characters are also a burden to their companions. Although Candy and George don’t like to admit it, Candy’s dog and Lennie are perhaps more trouble than they’re worth. When further exploring the details of these two relationships, you’ll find that Candy’s dog and Lennie “belong” to their companions.
It would be accurate to refer to Candy and George as their “owners”. Of course, Candy’s dog being a pet, it goes without saying that he is owned by Candy. But in Lennie’s case, the relationship is unhealthy-even abusive. Many aspects of George and Lennie’s relationship suggest that Lennie may as well be a dog. This is shown when, for instance, Lennie gets into a fight with Curley. He breaks off the fight only when he is ordered to do so by George, similarly to the way a master would issue commands to his dog. Neither Candy’s dog nor Lennie really get the chance to think for themselves.
Of course, Candy’s dog cannot speak as humans can, so Candy must “be” his voice. Lennie, however, is perfectly capable of speaking for himself; but George is afraid that allowing Lennie to speak will cause trouble for them both. Like when George threatens Lennie in order to keep him quiet so that they don’t lose their job. Although Lennie and Candy’s dog are considered useless, their companions depend on them as much as they do their companions. Candy is lonely and his dog keeps him company. He doesn’t care that the dog is of no value or use to him, he’s just glad to have someone who makes him happy.
After Candy’s dog is killed, Candy is pushed further into loneliness; he feels as though part of him died when his dog did. This is a contributing factor in Candy’s enthusiasm to live with Lennie and George on their “dream farm”. Candy is sick of his life as a rancher, and now that his dog is gone he feels as though he can never be happy again. Continuing on with this tired, colorless life will only remind him of his dog, and he wants to rid his thoughts of him. He wishes to start a new life where he can find new sources of happiness, now that his last remaining one is dead.
This is similar to the dependency in George and Lennie’s relationship. George claims that he only keeps Lennie around because he is a good worker, but really there’s much more to it than that. Lennie makes George feel needed. George sees Lennie as his responsibility; Lennie is childish and George needs to take care of him. Without Lennie, George would not know what to do with himself. Lennie and George explain this when they say “But not us! An’ why? Because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you,” Despite the fact that Lennie is strong and capable of hurting people, he choses not to do so.
On the other hand, Candy’s dog is probably incapable of doing harm to people. But the dog is seen as an object rather than an individual, so the way that he feels towards other characters is unclear; therefore it’s hard to say what actions he would take against people if he were given the chance to. It is said in the novel that Candy’s dog is strong, but he is too weak to make use of his strength. While Lennie could hurt anyone he wanted to, but he chooses not to. This is one of the differences between Lennie and Candy’s dog; Lennie is in control of his actions, Candy’s dog is not.
However, George tries to control Lennie’s actions. While he thinks this will help Lennie, by doing this George is robbing Lennie of his voice. Contrastingly, Candy is doing the opposite for his dog. By speaking up for his dog, Candy is giving his dog a voice; his dog cannot communicate in the way humans can. Another difference between Lennie and Candy’s dog is their quality of life. Much of the excitement and happiness that Candy’s dog probably used to have in his life is now absent. He is only wanted by Candy-he’s considered useless to everyone else, and he has nothing to look forward to.
Candy’s dog may have wanted to die. Lennie, however, had a life that was practically just beginning. He dreamt of owning a farm with George, and he actually had a chance to make this dream a reality. But Lennie’s dream died along with him. Another similarity between Candy’s dog and Lennie is their deaths. Although Candy’s dog is killed early on in the story and Lennie is killed at the end, they are related to one another. The death of Candy’s dog foreshadows the death of Lennie. These two are, based on society’s standards, weak, inferior creatures.
In a world where only the strong survive, there’s no room for them, and so they must be eliminated. This becomes apparent when Candy’s dog is killed, and it puts this idea in the reader’s-and the character’s-heads. This foreshadowing continues when Candy tells George: “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog. ” Although George doesn’t seem to think much of this conversation at the time, it later comes into play after Lennie kills Curley’s wife. Candy’s dog is old, blind, and a burden to his owner. Candy allows Carlson to shoot the dog to put it out of its misery.
When George realizes that Lennie will be lynched by Curley’s men or thrown into jail for killing Curley’s wife, he realizes that he needs to put his friend out of his misery like Candy’s dog was. George takes it upon himself to kill Lennie out of compassion. He uses Carlsons gun-the one the dog was shot with-and shoots Lennie himself. George puts his friend out of his misery as Candy wished he had done with his dog. Although it’s safe to say that Lennie and Candy’s dog were two of the “weakest” characters, they were also two of the strongest. They possesed something that the rest of the characters in this story did not.
They made the reader and the other characters think, but they could never figure Lennie and the dog out so they were shrugged off and given labels. They had different, new perspectives and ways of life that people back then could not accept. Lennie and Candy’s dog were ridiculed because others failed to understand why they were the way they were. The society in place in the setting of “Of Mice and Men” didn’t know what to do with individuals like Lennie and Candy’s dog; so they took the easy route and got rid of them rather than trying to understand them.
Courtney from Study Moose
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