How did Candy lose his hand in “Of Mice and Men”?

Updated 21 March, 2023
Candy, the swamper in Of Mice and Men, lost his hand in a work-related accident. The exact details of the accident are not revealed in the story, but it is mentioned that Candy's hand got caught in a machine and was mangled so badly that it had to be amputated.
Detailed answer:

In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Candy lost his hand in a farming accident. The incident occurred when Candy got his hand caught in a piece of machinery. Steinbeck writes, "I ain't much good with on'y one hand. I lost my hand right here on this ranch. That's why they give me a job swampin'" (Chapter 3). The fact that Candy is unable to perform the same tasks he used to, as a result of his lost hand, highlights the challenges and difficulties faced by those with disabilities during the Great Depression.

Moreover, Candy's injury reflects the harsh realities of the time period, where the workers' compensation was virtually non-existent, and the cost of medical care was prohibitive. As a result, Candy feels that he is trapped on the ranch, unable to leave and forced to take a menial job "swampin'" (cleaning the bunkhouse) in exchange for a place to stay. Candy's situation underscores the desperation of the characters in the novel who are all trying to cling to a sense of purpose and dignity in the face of overwhelming odds.

Candy's loss of his hand also parallels the idea of the "American Dream" being shattered for many during the Great Depression. Candy had aspirations of buying a piece of land and living off of it with his dog, but after losing his hand, he knows that his dream will never come to fruition. Thus, the loss of Candy's hand becomes a metaphor for the dreams and hopes that were shattered for so many during the Great Depression.

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