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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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While George continues his conversation with Slim, Lennie walks into the bunk house. He is crouched over. George knows exactly what is going on. Lennie is hiding his puppy just as he had hidden the mouse the night before. George warns him, prophetically, that he'll kill the puppy if he handles it too much.

The rest of the men come into the bunk house after their game of horseshoes. When Carlson enters, Steinbeck presents another pair of light/dark images. Carlson turns on a light and declares "Darker'n hell in here." This line is setting us up for what is to come next-a dark moment.

Carlson begins pressuring Candy to shoot his dog. He says it's for the dog's own good, but that's not true. Carlson's senses are offended by the dog's smell and the fact that "he don't have no fun." Slim tells Candy, "I wisht somebody'd shoot me if I get old an' a cripple." Since Candy is the only old cripple on the ranch, he is probably a little worried by this last comment.

Why do you think Carlson wants to get rid of the dog so badly? And why does Steinbeck present such a long scene around the killing of the dog? Here are a few possible reasons. Decide which one or ones you think may be right.

For one thing, Steinbeck wants to show that Carlson and the other ranch hands live only for today. They can't understand why Candy would prefer an old, crippled dog to a new puppy. Ranch hands like Carlson, don't think about the past or the future. They work for a month, spend their money on Saturday night fun, and start over again from scratch. Maybe that's why most of them have trouble understanding why George and Lennie want to plan for the future. Candy's dog is part of his past and a symbol of future old age of all of the men. Carlson wants to remove this reminder.



Here's a second possible reason. All of the ranch hands are loners, except George and Lennie, and Candy with his dog. Killing the dog restores nearly total loneliness to the bunk house world.

A third reason may be that Carlson wants to show his manhood by killing the dog. When Candy challenges Carlson about whether he has a gun, Carlson says proudly, "The hell I ain't. Got a luger." He then puts the pistol in his hip pocket like some Western gunslinger. Steinbeck may be showing us how far this "new West" has fallen from the "old West" of movie, book, and magazine fame. Carlson is not out to kill an outlaw to prove his manhood. He's going to shoot an old, crippled animal.

Still a fourth reason involves Steinbeck's foreshadowing technique. We'll learn more about what is being foreshadowed later.

Whatever the reason, Candy eventually does give in, largely because Slim backs Carlson, and Slim's word is law. Carlson continues to demonstrate his lack of compassion before and after the shooting. He shows Candy exactly how he will shoot the dog and then afterwards cleans his gun in front of Candy.

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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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