Sunday, May 29, 2011

john steinbeck

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Steinbeck invents the character of Candy, the disabled swamper of the farm, for protesting against the treatment of old people like him.

Candy is a very weak character, both physical and mental. His physical strength has gone because of his age and the loss of one of his hands. This made him less self-conscious and he does not confide to contradict other people, even if they are on the same social ranking level as himself.

One example for this behaviour is shown on page 4, when he talks to George who accuses him of listening. Candy knows that he cannot do anything against George and Lennie, so he just tells them what they want to hear (page 4, line A guy on a ranch donìt never listen nor he donìt ast no questions.) to stay out of trouble.

But the most important scene that shows the unjust treatment of this weak character is the discussion about his old dog. The dog is the only living thing Candy trusts and he is also very proud of him (page 5, line 8 He said proudly, `You wouldnìt think it to look at him now, but he was the best damn sheep dog I ever seen.ì). Candy would never think about killing him although the dog has outlived his usefulness.

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Carlson, another migrant worker, does not like the dog because it smells. The dog also does not mean anything to him and so, without talking to Candy first, he asks Slim, whose dog just had pups, if he could give one of them to Candy so that his old dog can be shot. This behaviour shows the reader that Carlson does not have any respect for Candy or the dog.

Carlson said thoughtfully, Well, looka here, Slim. I been thinkinì. That dog of Candyìs is so God damn old he canìt hardly walk. Stinks like hell, too. Everìtime he comes into the bunkhouse I can smell him for two, three days. Whyìnìt you get Candy to shoot his old dog and give him one of the pups to raise up? I can smell that dog a mile away. Got no teeth, damn near blind, canìt eat. Candy feeds him milk. He canìt chew nothing else. (page 4, lines 14-)

Of course Candy loves his dog and because the dog was so good once, Candy wants to take care of him until it dies naturally (page 61, line I donìt mind takinì care of him.). But Carlson asks him over and over why the dog cannot be shot. He also explains to him in detail how Candy should kill the dog (page 60, lines 7-10 `If you was to take him out and shoot him right in the back of his head right -ì he leaned over and pointed, `- right there, why heìd never know what hit him.).

Due to his weak character, there is no chance for Candy to escape or assert. The only argument he brings up against Carlson is that he has no gun (page 6, line 6 Candy said hopefully, `You ainìt got no gun.ì) - which is also wrong because Carlson has a Luger of which existence Candy does not know.

As he realizes that he cannot bring up any more arguments, the only thing he says to Carlson is Maybe tomorra. Leìs wait till tomorra. (page 6, line 10). When he notices that Carlson does not accept this, his last hope is in Slim, whose words are law (page 61, line 1 [...] for Slimìs opinions were law.), but Slim shares Carlsonìs opinion and does not say anything to Candy. Candy feels defeated and sadly accepts the death of his dog.

After killing Candyìs dog, the reader is shown another respectless action by Carlson He comes into the bunkhouse and does not look at Candy, but sits down on his bed to clean his gun (page 70, lines 15-0).

And finally, at the end of chapter four, we get the information that Candy knows of his situation and that he is not able to do anything against it. We see this in the dialog between him and Curleyìs wife, when he agrees to her statement

[...] she cried. Nobodyìd listen to you, anì you know it. Nobodyìd listen to you.

Candy subsided. No ... he agreed. Nobodyìd listen to us

(page 10, line 5 � page 104, line )

By showing us how weak, unsure and hopeless this character is, who does not even confide to say no to things he does not like, Steinbeck protests against this unfair treatment of old people. He wants to tell us that old people are, as all other human beings worthy of our attention and our respect (York Notes, page 5). So this is one important theme of protest of the novel.

. Protest against racism

Another theme of protest in this novel is the protest against racism.

Steinbeck created the character of Crooks, the stable buck, to show this injustice to blacks, which was quite normal at the time the action took place.

This seems to be also a very important theme for Steinbeck, as it is the first thing Lennie and George are confronted with when coming to the farm. Candy tells them at their arrival, that the boss is very angry of them because they have not arrived the day before, as they should have by contract. He remarks that the boss gave the stable buck hell (page 7, line 1-0) and after Georgeìs inquiry, Candy begins telling about their black stable buck, Crooks.

The statement Sure. Ya see the stable buckìs a nigger. (page 8, line ) shows that racism is normal for them. Of course not all characters in the story are racists, but they accept it and do not do anything against it. Examples for this are Candy, who also expresses in his talk that he likes Crooks just as the others (page 8, line 5 Yeah. Nice fella too.), and Slim, who knows that he is god-like to the others, but does his work even when Crooks offers doing it for him (page 66, lines 17-7).

But, as already said, these characters also accept racism

Yes sir. Jesus, we had fun. They let the nigger come in that night. Little skinner name of Smitty took after the nigger. Done pretty good, too. The guys wouldnìt let him use his feet, so the nigger got him. If he coulda used his feet, Smitty says he woulda killed the nigger. The guys said on account of the niggerìs got a crooked back, Smitty canìt use his feet.

(page 8, lines 16-)

Other information we get off the novel that should remind us how unfair this treatment of blacks is, is that the boss is a racist. When he is angry, the boss always gets mad and beats the black stable buck. Later in the novel, we hear someone (this might be the boss) screaming in the distance Where the hell is that God damn nigger? (page 40, line 7) which is used to remind us of this theme. Steinbeck wants to tell us that blacks are human beings as whites, and that it is wrong to treat them like animals.

This treatment is also criticised by Crooks himself, when he talks to Lennie about the prejudices the others have against him. Because they do not like blacks and do not want to play cards with Crooks, they treat him like an animal and tell him as the reason for the disacceptance that he is smelling (page 88, line 88 They say I stink.).

There is another key scene that is used by Steinbeck to protest against this. When Crooks talks to Curleyìs wife and tries to get rid of her, we are shown what power a white girl has over a black man. It would be easier for her bringing the death to Crooks than killing an animal. With only a few sentences, she destroys Crooks dignity, and with a few more she could have destroyed his life. This is shown in the following dialogue

Crooks stood up from his bunk and faced her. I had enough, he said coldly. You got no rights cominì in a colored manìs room. You got no rights messing around in here at all. [...]

She turned on him in scorn. Listen, Nigger, she said. you know what I can do to you if you open your trap?

Crooks stared hopelessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk and drew into himself.

She closed on him. You know what I can do?

Crooks seemed to grow smaller, and he pressed himself against the wall. Yes, maìam. (page 10, line 6 � page 10, line )

Steinbeck wants to make the reader think about the problems of racism and prejudices. He created the character of Crooks to show that it is totally wrong to ignore these people just because they are coloured. Other than with Candy, Crooks is not very weak and he is also intelligent (because he reads books). He would really like to have a better relationship with the other ranch hands (he expresses this when he talks to Lennie about the card games), but it is not possible because they will not accept a coloured man to stay with them.

. Protest against loneliness

Loneliness is not only one of the subjects Steinbeck protests against, it is also one of the main themes of the novel. Nearly all characters suffer from it and so there are many scenes that show this. In this chapter of my work I will try to show which characters are used by Steinbeck to protest against this theme.

The best examples are the two main characters, George and Lennie. They travel together to fight against loneliness. This also seems to work, but there are several situations reminding us that they are still lonely.

We can call George a lonely man because Lennie always forgets things he is told and so George does not really have someone to talk to. In the first chapter of the book, we see that this also makes him angry. Ironically George says to Slim in a later part of the novel, that guys who travel alone get mean

I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ainìt no good. They donìt have no fun. After a long time they get mean. They get wantinì to fight all the time. (page 55, lines -1)

So this is one of the many parts of the book that is used to protest against loneliness.

Another scene where George directly talks about the problem of being alone is when he compares his and Lennieìs relationship with the other ranch hands. He believes that loneliness is no problem for them

Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no fambly. They donìt belong no place. [...] They ainìt got nothing to look ahead to.

Lennie was delighted. Thatìs it � thatìs it. Now tell how it is with us.

George went on. With us it ainìt like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. [...]

(page 0, lines -5)

But we get many hints that they are alone, like the others. Another example for this is that George seems to play with his cards the whole time he is in the bunkhouse. He does this because he has nothing else to do.

Loneliness also leads to the sad ending of the story. George leaves Lennie alone and does not have control over him. So loneliness kills Curleyìs wife and later Lennie.

To make clear that the reader understands the protest, Steinbeck also involved many other characters and shows protest through them. For example

Crooks is black and he is not accepted by the others (see chapter . of this work for more information about the theme of racism). He may not come into the bunkhouse and therefore stays most of the time alone in his own, isolated room. He expresses his dislike for this in the talk between him and Lennie in chapter four.

Like Crooks, also Candy does not receive enough respect from the other ranch hands. They do not like him as he is not very useful for them due to his high age. His suffering from loneliness is shown in chapter three after his dog has been killed. The dog was his only true companion on the ranch and his death made him sad and lonely. After he handed the dog to Carlson, the only information we get about Candy is that he stares at the ceiling. This action is his quiet protest against what the others have done to him (they made him being alone).

Another character who is lonely because of discrimination and protests against it is Curleyìs wife. She is the only female character introduced in the story, and seems to be the only woman on the ranch. Her loneliness is shown by her acting every time we see her, she is looking for her husband. She does not seem to have any hobbies or friends, so she comes into the bunkhouse hoping to find company there. But she is not accepted by the men � not only because of her sex, but also because she is the wife of the ranch ownerìs son.

Steinbeck lets her say the following sentences to Lennie and the others, with which she directly protests against loneliness

Well, I ainìt giving you no trouble. Think I donìt like to talk to somebody everì once in a while? Think I like to stick in that house alla time? (page , lines 10-1)

I get lonely, she said. You can talk to people, but I canìt talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. Howìd you like not to talk to anybody? (page 10, lines 6-8)

Whit also suffers from loneliness, but there is no direct protest in the corresponding scenes. We just see that he talks about unimportant things like a letter printed in a magazine that has been written by a former worker of the ranch. We do not get any special information from him, nor is he important to the story.

It might be possible that Steinbeck just wants to show the reader one of the other guys George talks about. However, the reader can figure out that Whit is a lonely person without a bright future.

Steinbeck involved so many characters to show clearly what the consequences of being alone could be. He wants the reader to notice and understand his protest so that they do not simply over-read it.

. Where there is no protest at all

In this part of my work, I will look at the different issues of the novel where there is no protest at all. This might sound unbelievable because we have already found so much protest, and there is certainly much more in the novel as the few points presented in section two of this work. But if you read the novel by looking at the way Steinbeck presents life, you are able to find some non-protesting themes where you normally would expect protest against.

.1 No protest against treatment of Lennie

Lennie Small, one of the two main characters of the novel, is not very bright. He always forgets what he is told and behaves like a kid. People like him need much love and need to be understood and accepted by the society.

Because Steinbeck gives this character such a position in the novel, we get much information about the way he acts and what the others think of him. We also feel sorry for him and see that most of the ranch hands do not do this because they do not realize his problem or do not know how to behave towards him.

The treatment of him seems sometimes fair and sometimes unfair, and there are several scenes worth mentioning here. They all show Lennie, the strong man with a kidìs heart, in different situations on the farm. We see that he is mostly helpless, but Steinbeck does not protest here in any way against wrong treatment of him. He just presents the behaviour of Lennie and the ranch hands to the reader.

A good example to start with is the relationship between Lennie and his best friend George, who takes care of him. George knows how Lennie thinks and what he feels because they know each other for a long time. He also likes him and does not want to lose him, because he hates travelling alone without having someone he could speak to (page 48, line 1 Itìs a lot nicer to go around with a guy you know). This is shown in several scenes of the novel.

But because Lennie gets them into trouble very often or because he does not understand his friend, George can also become angry and mean. One example for this is the discussion about the dead mouse in chapter one of the novel. George gets angry and mean. He takes the dead mouse from Lennie and throws it away.

As the mouse is the only thing Lennie wants to have, this action is not very fair towards him. But there is no protest shown. We only see that George realizes after a while how unfair he is and that he tries to be nice again because he does not want to lose Lennie as company, who offers leaving him (page 1, line 1 No � look! I was jusì foolinì, Lennie. ìCause I want you to stay with me.).

Another scene where we do not see any protest is in chapter three. George talks to Slim about the fun he had with Lennie (page 54, lines 7-5). We get the information that he treated him like an animal until he nearly killed him. Slim does not say a word against it. Maybe Steinbeck also wants to show, that George and Slim (who is described as being god-like in several parts of the novel) are only human and therefore not perfect.

We also do not see any protest from Slim when George proudly tells him how much power he has over Lennie.

George spoke proudly. Jusì tell Lennie what to do anì heìll do it if it donìt take no figuring. He canìt think of nothing to do himself, but he sure can take orders. (page 5, lines 4-6)

Although George knows that it is wrong to treat Lennie like an animal, he does this several times in the novel and there is no complaint. He also calls him a bastard all over the novel (e.g. on page 1, line 7 Poor bastard) and tells him several times how great his life could be without him.

I could get along so easy and so nice if I didnìt have you on my tail. I could live so easy and maybe have a girl. (page 11, line )

God aìmighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job anì work, anì no trouble. No mess at all, [...].

(page 16, lines 18-0)

We also see that several other characters do not fully accept him. Curleyìs wife for example calls him a sonny boy (page 10, line 6) and Crooks wants to see what power he has over Lennie and how far he could go. This is shown on page , when he wants Lennie to suppose that George does not come back. The sentence Crooks pressed forward some kind of private victory expresses that he wants to dominate Lennie. Maybe he does this because the other ranch hands treat him always like a lower-level human, and now he has found someone he can rule over.

Another part which shows that Crooks does not fully accept Lennie is the following. Crooks makes fun of Lennie and tells him what he is thinking about him. Again, Crooks is very direct and we do not see any protest.

Crooks laughed again. A guy can talk to you anì be sure you wonìt go blabbinì. Couple of weeks anì them pupsìll be all right. George knows what heìs about. Jusì talks, anì you donìt understand nothing (page 1, lines 14-17)

But it seems as if there is another character, next to Slim and George, who understands a little bit how people like Lennie should be treated. This is Candy. We see that he tries to defend Lennie against Curleyìs wifeìs attack.

Candy broke in. You let this guy alone. Donìt you do no messing arounì with him. Iìm gonna tell George what you says. George wonìt have you messinì with Lennie. (page 10, lines 16-1)

But as the other characters, Candy can be mean and egoistic too. Maybe he also only tries to defend Lennie, because he wants to defend their dream of own land.

However, after the dead body of Curleyìs wife has been found, Steinbeck shows us the real character of Candy, or at least an attitude which we did not expect. We see how egoistic Candy can be and that he does not care about what happens to Lennie.

[...] and his anger grew into words. You God damn tramp, he said viciously. You done it, diìnìt you? I sìpose youìre glad. Everìbody knowed youìd mess things up. You wasnìt no good. You ainìt no good now, you lousy tart. (page 10, lines 1-4)

When the other characters arrive in the barn to see what happened, they only think about killing Lennie for what he has done. They also do not care about his child-like mind. The hunt for a man seems to be an adventure for them, because they all want to take part of it. None of them respects life and says anything against Curleyìs plan.

[Curley] worked himself into a fury. Iìm gonna get him. Iìm going for my shotgun. Iìll kill the big son-of-a-bitch myself [...] (page 11, lines 6-)

Carlson said, Iìll get my Luger, and he ran out too.

(page 11, line 10).

The only character who could have prevented Curley and the others from shooting Lennie is Slim. George knows this and talks to him, but Slim says that it would not be better for Lennie being locked up in a prison.

Again we see that Slim accepts the dead. He said nothing against the killing of Candyìs dog and now he does not keep the others from shooting Lennie. As Crooks, also George accepts Slimìs opinion and does not express any more protest.

I guess we gotta get ìim, Slim repeated.

George stepped close. Couldnì we maybe bring him in anì theyìll lock him up? Heìs nuts, Slim. He never done this to be mean.

Slim nodded. We might, he said. If we could keep Curley in, we might. But Curleyìs gonna want to shoot ìim. Curleyìs still mad about his hand. Anì sìpose they lock him up anì strap him down nd put him in a cage. That ainìt no good, George.

I know, said George, I know. (page 11, line 5 till page 1, line5)

As there is no protest against this wrong treatment of Lennie, we could call this theme a presentation. Steinbeck shows us two days of Lennieìs life. He shows how other ranch hands treat him, sometimes good and sometimes bad. We see that many of them are egoistic in general and also do not realize that inside Lennieìs strong body there is a child.

.. No complaint against the ranch owner

Another theme the reader might expect protest against is the behaviour of the ranch owner. Although he is a racist, very aggressive and way to proud of himself, the farm hands do not criticise him and there is no complaint shown.

His racist attitude is expressed by the way he treats Crooks, the black stable buck. Every time the boss is angry (which seems to be very often), he gets mad and beats him (page 7, line 1-0 Anì he give the stable buck hell, too.). But there is no protest against this behaviour, just acceptance.

The boss also wants to make it plain that he is on a higher social level, that he is a better human being than the ranch hands. This is shown by his outfit and the way he acts towards the others. Steinbeck writes on page (lines -10), that he wears high-heeled boots and spurs to show that he is not one of the ranch workers. He also wants to make himself look important by carrying a book and a pencil with him. This makes him appear businessman-like.

The only comments we get about the boss are from Candy and George. Candy says that the boss is a nice fella (page 8, line 10 and also on page 4, line 15) although he knows his strange character and attitudes (since he is for a long time on that ranch). George seems to like the boss, too, and also does not criticise him. He says to Candy that he likes the boss pretty good and that he seems awright (page 4, line 14).

While reading this book, which contains so much protest, we also expect to get more information

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