They say that you can tell a great deal about a man by his handshake. In the novella Of Mice And Men, Steinbeck uses hands as a strong motif to help us to understand the essence of each of the characters. By the end of the story it all comes together and we are introduced to the ingenious symbol of hands and how it fits together.
Lennie's hands, or “paws”, tell us that he is powerful yet clumsy. These monstrosities represent dangerous dominance. They are like superpowers in that the can either be used for good or for evil. This is shown multiple times throughout the story. For instance, he kills mice by petting them to hard, kills a puppy by playing with it too aggressively, kills Curly’s hand by squeezing it too tightly, and kills Curly’s wife by stroking her hair to impulsively. Given, he does do an amazing job transporting barley, but it comes with a price.
Just the opposite is George. George's hands are small yet tough, which is exactly what he’s like. He is controlling of Lennie and for good reason. I think it’s cute how George takes care of his slow friend. I appreciate this because I have a brother with a severe oral motor delay (he talks funny) so I understand what George goes through. He doesn’t want Lennie to devastate the aspiration of the American dream for them. These are the hands of a man with a proposal that cannot be achieved.
Candy is missing one of his hands entirely. This is a symbol of his vulnerability and fear of getting old, being thought of as useless, and even getting “canned”. He thinks that, soon, he and his one hand will not be enough so he wants a part in George and Lennie’s goal. When Carlson kills his dog the fear of being alone skyrockets into unimaginable torture for Candy.
On the other hand...