Of Mice and Men
The novella also explores many social attitudes during this era. One of the workers on the ranch in the novella is Slim who is a jerkline skinner. Steinbeck uses Slim’s character in many different ways. “He is the god like and moved with majesty” people admire him. Lots of people respect him, more than Curley. Curley is given a high social status as he is the boss’s son. Slim is a jerkline skinner.
Yet he still has a higher social status due to his personality. In this way Steinbeck uses him as a voice to portray the futile idea of aristocracy and the influence it has over society. Slim wins our hearts with her personality in which Steinbeck a bestowed on him. “There was a gravity in his manner… all talk stopped when he spoke. ” The use of the word gravity implies Slims significance on the ranch. Gravity is the strong force that keeps all the planets together. This contrasts to Slims good relationship with the members on the ranch and his importance. Yet Curley is given the power, but even he listens to Slim after his fight.
He connotes the cruel, harsh, injustice world where money creates the foundation of your image in society not the personality. Steinbeck also uses Slim as a symbol of the theme of masculinity in society. The reputation of 1920s America men was built upon the superficial idea of physical strength and ability. Steinbeck presents Curley with the ideal physical strength required in every stereotypical man. “He hates big guys. He’s alla time picking scraps with the big guys. Kind of like he’s mad at ‘em because he ain’t a big guy”. The introduction to Curley emphasises on his short temper and ability to fight.
Immediately we are suspicious of Curley’s actions as the plot progresses. This suspicion is proved when Curley wants to shot Lennie after his wife’s death. “Curley’s gonna wanna shoot ‘him”. We know he will be the downfall of our protagonists George and Lennie. By making Curley the antagonist, Steinbeck is questioning whether society should base personality on these petty stereotypes. When Curley fights with Lennie, he does not tell anyone to protect with dignity. This contrast to Slim: “His hands, large and lean, were as delicate in their action as those of a temple dancer. The simile of the temple dancer ontrasts with the size of his hands. By a comparison with a slightly feminine quality despite his talents, Steinbeck shows how vain the idea of masculinity was. Both Slim and Curley has the masculine side, however as the reader we respect Slim more not because of his masculine strength but through his way treating others and his idyllic personality. If masculinity was more significant, Curley would not be the antagonist. Slim also breaks the social boundaries of 1930s America through his treatment of others and inability to follow the prejudice and injustice emphasised in the novella.
One way in which this is shown is through is through his relationship with Crooks. Racism was one of the main social issues in 1930s America and Steinbeck also portrays it as a theme in the novella. Due to racism, Crooks is isolated from the rest of the ranch workers who are white. He lives with the horses and is bitter also “proud and aloof” due to him being a social outcast. We articulate this from his tone when he is talking to Lennie: “You got no right to come in my room. This here’s my room. Nobody got any right in here but me”. This tone is also used when speaking to Curley’s wife and Candy.
However when he speaks to Slim it is completely juxtaposed: “‘Mr Slim. ’ Slim took his eyes away from old Candy. ‘Huh? Oh! Hello Crooks. What’s a matter? ” The effect of using “Mr” infers politeness, something Crooks only uses to address Slim. Slim is the only person to refer to Crooks by his name rather than “Stable Buck” or the offensive term of “nigger”. This shows that Slim has a good moral which creates good relationships with the ranch workers. Slim’s good nature towards Crooks causes Crooks to respect Slim. This shows that what Crooks dreams of is very simple; respect and rights.
Steinbeck shows how treatment of others influences everyday life and personality. By avoiding society’s social sterotypes, Slim’s character is accentuated o the reader. Slim is still highly respected despite avoiding stereotypes. Due to Slim’s good treatment of others and good morals, this causes him to interact with George and Lennie easily and resulting in him understanding the tragedy at the end. “You wouldn’t tell? … No, ‘course you wouldn” George wastes no time into trusting Slim’s good character. He tells Slim of the incident in Weed and of Lennie’s character.
He risks losing his job by confiding in Slim, knowing if Slim tells it would be sacked due to Lennie. Jobs were very rare in the Great Depression and they staked their lives for it. Despite this risk, Slim understands George and instead of telling and putting them at risk, he gives Lennie a puppy keeping him happy and joyful. The rest of the ranch workers are hostile towards Lennie due his child-like personality and not fulfilling the stereotypical man. When George shoots Lennie, Slim says: “You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. Come on with me. George shoots Lennie out of an act of mercy; Lennie’s death is a paradox of being cruel to be kind. Slim’s confrontation and ability to understand people means he understands Lennie’s weakness. He therefore understands why George did it. “But Curley’s gonna wanna shoot ‘im. Curley’s still made about his hand. An’ suppose they lock him up an’ strap him down and put him in a cage”. Slim knows that Lennie won’t survive prison. George kills Lennie out of mercy killing whereas Curley would kill him out of spite and revenge. Both Slim and George know that Lennie doesn’t deserve a cruel death.
This event links with the death of the extra puppies and Candy’s dog. Slims knows that the dog was a liability and would be better off dead than suffering and the puppies would die out of hunger anyway. This shows his ability to think practically as well as understanding. In conclusion, despite Slim being the idyllic character due to his kind nature and personality, Steinbeck also shows that even Slim lives a harsh life. !930s America and the depression were cruel times. The dangers of farm work are shown from Candy and Crooks’s disability, this harsh life is also shown through his practical understanding in the novella.