How does Steinbeck create sympathy for Candy and his position on the ranch?
Of Mice and Men is a novel written by John Steinbeck, set in America in the Great Depression of the 1930s. The main characters in the book are the clever, quick George, and his slow, child-like companion Lennie. They are itinerant workers who find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley. There are many characters on the ranch, including Curley, Slim, and Crooks. However, the first ranch worker George and Lennie meet is the general cleaner/handyman, Candy. Steinbeck gives the reader a first impression of Candy as a ‘tall, stoop-shouldered old man’ with only one hand. The author constantly refers to him as ‘the old man’, ‘the old swamper’, and ‘old Candy’. Through using this epithet, Steinbeck keeps Candy’s age at the forefront of the reader’s mind, and implies that Candy’s old age is the first thing that the characters in the novel judge him on when they see him. As the only ‘old man’ on the ranch, he represents the position of the elderly in 1930s America. This shows how rare it was for a character of Candy’s age to be working on a ranch in the American 1930s Depression. Steinbeck also creates a sense of isolation for Candy as the only one of his age on the ranch, which creates sympathy for him. Furthermore, the fact that Candy is ‘stoop-shouldered’ makes him seem vulnerable, and because he has a ‘round stick-like wrist’ instead of a hand, he is not of much use on the ranch, and he is going to get fired soon. However, he cannot go anywhere else, because he is too old and handicapped, which creates further sympathy for Candy. However, Candy is very racist, and introduces the idea of Crooks as a ‘nigger’, which is a very derogatory term for black people. Candy’s vindictive comments about Crooks clearly show what the prejudices were against black people in 1930s America. When Candy is gossiping to George, he describes watching the stable buck (Crooks) being beaten as ‘fun’. Even...
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