This passage is found almost halfway through the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’. It is the scene in which Carlson persuades Candy to allow his dog to be shot to ‘put the old devil out of his misery’ (p74). Steinbeck has cleverly and carefully constructed this extract, (like the rest of the novel), so it appears as a moving and significant moment using various methods and due to various different reasons.
One reason is to convey the theme of the Old and Useless, ‘he ain’t no good’, and what is to become of them, (i. e.to show the utilitarian attitude towards one another). The fact that Carlson shoots the dog is significant because it may be an ominous hint towards Candy’s future. ‘I … somebody’d shoot me… get old an’ a cripple’. If this wasn’t said by Slim, I would have believed this to be a hint towards Candy to suggest that he is just a waste of space and should be put down as if he were an animal, like his dog. It is ironic that Candy’s dog is shot ‘right back of head’, as Lennie is later on in the book, with exactly the same gun.
This is why it has been said that the death of Candy’s dog foreshadows the death of Lennie. Other similarities can be detected in this extract between Candy’s dog and Lennie. For instance, the ‘old dog’ is a setback to Candy, by preventing him from making any friends just as Lennie is to George. Maybe this is one of the reasons Candy grew old without a wife or a friend, and maybe what would have happened to George. This is because Candy has his dog and George has Lennie and therefore they feel they do not need anyone else.
‘Why don’t you shoot him, Candy? ‘ Candy later regrets being a coward and allowing someone else to shoot his dog when it should have been him. This is significant because it gives us an understanding of why George shoots Lennie. When Candy ‘patted the ancient dog’, it shows us that he is affectionate and is attached to his dog, which makes it sad when he gets bullied into having his dog shot, even though he is reluctant for it to occur. This is mainly due to his low status which is brought up various times in the passage.
For example, when he ‘apologized’ to Carlson this shows he is of low status because it shows a sense of nervousness and discomfort. The issue that Candy is of low status means that he doesn’t have a choice in the matter as to whether he should allow his dog to be shot and that is mainly due to the fact that he is old. This is shown because in the passage it says Candy was ‘helpless’, which makes it emotional because he can’t do anything to prevent it, furthermore, maybe he wouldn’t be able to prevent it from happening to himself.
George is also put in the same situation near the end of the book in which he hasn’t really got a choice as to whether he should shoot Lennie. The relationship between Candy and his dog, and George and Lennie have many equalities, such as the fact that Candy ‘had him since he was a pup’, so did George, in a sense, have Lennie since he was a pup (i. e. since he was very young).
It is extremely upsetting to know that when Curley’s dog is killed, Candy will be lonely and have no sense of need; this is another similarity between George and Candy, because George would probably feel the same when he shoots Lennie (i.e. they both lost something they loved). The shooting of the dog in the back of the head, a supposedly painless maneuver, foreshadows later events in the story, such as Lennie’s death. They are very similar, not only in the way they were shot but by the outcome of George and Candy being in the same conditions; lonely, isolated and merely like the others at the ranch. Candy makes his presence most moving in the story through his tranquility.