The old man came slowly into the room. He had his broom in his hand. And at his heels there walked a dragfooted sheep dog, gray of muzzle, and with pale, blind old eyes. The dog struggled lamely to the side of the room and lay down, grunting softly to himself and licking his grizzled, moth-eaten coat. The swamper watched him until he was settled. “I wasn’t listenin’. I was jus’ standin’ in he shad a minute scratchin’ my dog.”
There is a direct comparison between Candy and his dog here; both are old, both are to some extent lame “dragfooted”, “struggled”; both are nearing the end of their useful life. Consequently, we can see what Candy is feeling from the way the other men regard his dog.
We also see here that Candy tries to say he was not listening in on Curley and George, even though, from the way he discussed Curley’s marriage, we know he’s a bit of a gossip.
“Well—she got the eye.”
“Yeah? Married two weeks and got the eye? Maybe that’s why Curley’s pants is full of ants.”
Colloquial language again reveals the setting in time and place. The metaphor of Curley having “ants in his pants” makes clear that he cannot sit still – he is constantly trying to see what his wife is up to.
“The eye” is also slang, and it is one of the first things we learn about Curley’s wife. The men are clearly mistrustful of her, and fear the repercussions of getting drawn into any trouble with her.
Lennie’s eyes moved down over her body, and though she didn’t seem to be looking at Lennie she bridled a little. She looked at her fingers…
Lennie watched her, fascinated…
She smiled archly and twitched her body. “Nobody can’t blame a person for lookin’,” she said.
Lennie is almost hypnotised by the glamour and beauty of Curley’s wife. There is a sexual element to this attraction, in that his “eyes moved over her body” – sort of like a child experiencing sexual attraction without really understanding it. However, even though she pretends not to notice, Lennie’s staring makes her uncomfortable – “she bridled”. Notice the focus on Curley’s wife’s body in this section – it is the central area of interest to the other characters, both because it attracts them, and because it is dangerous to them.
The boss pointed a playful finger at Lennie. “He ain’t much of a talker, is he?”
“No, he ain’t, but he’s sure a hell of a good worker. Strong as a bull.”
Lennie smiled to himself. “Strong as a bull,” he repeated.
George scowled at him, and Lennie dropped his head in shame at having forgotten.
Again, Lenie is compared to an animal – this is key as it suggests both his strength and his lack of self-control. George uses the simile to persuade the boss that Lennie is worth hiring, even though he is not very intelligent.
Notice Lennie’s sense of shame at failing George’s simple instructions. Again, like a child, he is most miserable when he disappoints someone he wants to impress.
The swamper considered… “Well . . . tell you what. Curley’s like a lot of little guys. He hates big guys. He’s alla time picking scraps with big guys. Kind of like he’s mad at ‘em because he ain’t a big guy. You seen little guys like that, ain’t you? Always scrappy?”
This is Candy’s analysis of the character of Curley. Curley seems to have a Napoleon complex – because he is small, he tries to show the world that he is just as good as someone bigger. This “picking scraps with big guys” is clear foreshadowing – we know that Lennie will come to blows with him.
Lennie cried out suddenly—”I don’ like this place, George. This ain’t no good place. I wanna get outa here.”
Like a child, Lennie’s temper bursts out of him here. He responds with honest emotion, stating what he fears – he does not hide from his emotions, or conceal them.
Slim looked through George and beyond him. “Ain’t many guys travel around together,” he mused. “I don’t know why. Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”
Slim is characterized as a wisened man – he sees the problem with the life of the ranchers – loneliness. In the middle of the depression, Slim puts his finger on the issue – people are afraid of one another because they are all trying to achieve something for themselves – in competition with other people. George and Lennie buck this trend by working together.