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The first person who greets George and Lennie and introduces us to ranch life is not a handsome cowboy; he is a stoop-shouldered old man carrying a broom. Candy informs the two men that they are already in hot water with the boss. He's "sore as hell" because they didn't arrive in time for the morning work shift. Candy points out their bunks with his handless right arm. Candy seems like something out of a Halloween story.
George immediately notices a problem with the bunk. The person who had the bunk last has left behind a can of roach powder. The powder will kill various insects that George refers to as "pants rabbits." Why does he choose the word "rabbit" here? It stands out because of Lennie's passion for rabbits that we learned about in the first scene. One interpretation might be to contrast nature in the outside world with nature in the bunk house. Rabbits outside are soft and promise good things; pants rabbits inside are "scourges." Or maybe Steinbeck wants to show us a contrast between Lennie's gentle, soft view of nature and George's more sarcastic view.
Candy quickly begins to defend his bunk house world by pointing out that the guy who used that bunk was a
neatness freak. He washed his hands even after he ate. George is still not convinced and wants to know why
the man quit. "Why.... he.... just quit, the way a guy will," Candy says. People move around a lot in the ranch
George lifts his mattress and Lennie imitates him. This is the first time Lennie has been mentioned in the chapter. He is clearly following George's instructions about not standing out.
Candy continues with his description of the people on the ranch. He mentions Crooks and the boss, the two opposite extremes of the ranch society. Crooks is the black stable buck who handles the dirty work around the ranch. Candy is fascinated by Crooks, who is both a "nigger" and reads a lot. We will learn more about Crooks in Chapter 4.
George is more interested in the boss, the other end of the scale. Candy tells him the boss has a temper but is pretty nice. He even gave the men a whole gallon of whiskey on Christmas Day. On that day Crooks was allowed to enter the main bunk house, only to be pushed into a fight. Following the fight the men, except for Candy (too old) and Crooks (black), headed into town to a whorehouse. Why do you think Steinbeck mentions this strange Christmas celebration? He could be trying to show how informal or simple the ranch world is. He could be trying to illustrate examples of discrimination in the society. Or he could be trying to help us understand Candy's character a little more by showing us the kinds of things he thinks about.
The boss arrives. He doesn't enter, he just stands in the doorway in a bosslike stance. His thumbs are stuck in his belt and he is wearing high-heeled boots that distinguish him from the workers. Candy notices the boss and immediately changes from a talkative guide to a quiet servant. He rubs his whiskers and shuffles from the room. The changes in Candy are another indication of how the ranch reflects the class structure of American society as a whole. It is a microcosm.