Sunday, May 06, 2012

Damn you, John Steinbeck!

It's a rainy Sunday and I was about to settle in and improve my mind. The film version of the Steppenwolf Production of Of Mice and Men starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich is on. It's a beautiful play, and this production is like a unicorn. It theoretically made theater history here in Chicago in the 1980s, but I've yet to meet anyone who actually saw it. We were all too broke back then. So here's my chance, right?

No.

I can't.

It's because of Candy's dog. I know it's coming and I cannot bear to watch. Candy's dog used to herd sheep but now he's old and he farts and he doesn't see well and he can no longer enjoy his food because his teeth are so bad. But he's all Candy has in the world and he and that dog are inseparable. They love each other. One of the other farm hands convinces Candy that the dog is an eyesore and probably in pain and the only humane thing to do is put it out of its misery. At least then his old, useless life will be painlessly, quickly over. Offstage, he shoots the dog in the back of the head. Candy is filled with remorse because he betrayed his old and true friend and because now he's alone.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I was awake in English class. I know Candy's dog foreshadows the fates of Lennie and George. But I never got as worked up about Lennie as I did Candy's dog.

But what makes Steinbeck's original work so great is that it's filled with characters bound to burrow into the reader's/viewer's consciousness: slow-witted Lennie, responsible and resentful George, the outwardly flirtatious but deeply disappointed ranch wife … for me it was Candy and his dog. Breaks my heart. Thanks a lot, Steinbeck, you fucking genius.


3 comments:

  1. I saw this. And loved it.

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  2. Love the last two lines!

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  3. I loved this version, too. Poor dog, poor Candy, poor ranch wife, poor George and poor Lenny.

    I always felt for George, although he's not particularly sympathetic.

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