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[Candy] said miserably, "You seen what they done to my dog tonight? They says he wasn’t no good to himself nor nobody else. When they can me here I wisht somebody’d shoot me. But they won’t do nothing like that. I won’t have no place to go, an’ I can’t get no more jobs." (3.222)
We're pretty sure (99.9%) that Steinbeck isn't recommending the euthanization of old ranchhands, but this is a problem: if your entire career is based on bodily strength, what happens when you get old and can't work anymore?
Carlson laughed. "You God damn punk," he said. You tried to throw a scare into Slim, an' you couldn't make it stick. Slim throwed a scare inta you. You're yella as a frog belly. I don't care if you're the best welter in the country. You come for me, an' I'll kick your God damn head off."
Candy joined the attack with joy, "Glove fulla vaseline," he said disgustedly. Curley flared at him. His eyes slipped on past and lighted on Lennie; and Lennie was still smiling with delight at the memory of the ranch. (3.241-242)
Live by the fist, get beat up by the fist: as soon as Curley slips up, the men are on him: he might be a fighter, but they all recognize him for the coward that he is. It turns out that picking on people who can't retaliate doesn't exactly make you look strong.
A shot sounded in the distance. The men looked quickly at the old man. Every head turned toward him.
For a moment he continued to stare at the ceiling. Then he rolled slowly over and faced the wall and lay silent. (3.103)
Setting aside the fact that Candy really should have killed his own dog, is this a truly violent act? Or is it an act of mercy? Or—stay with us—can an act be violent and still merciful?