Slim is an interesting character in the novel, ‘Of Mice and Men’. Steinbeck presents him as a god-like figure who has natural authority and contrasts dramatically with Curley, for instance.
Slim is introduced slowly, which is different from the other characters; who the reader is mainly acquainted with very quickly. The fact that Steinbeck has done this suggests that there is a lot to take in about Slim, so he immediately in our minds as a complex character.
You gradually learn more and more about him rather than just having the first description like with many of the other characters. The diversity between him and Curley or Curley’s wife is clear with Steinbeck introducing him as a positive person; ‘moved with majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen’
Steinbeck presents him as a cut above the rest of the ranch workers the fact that royalty is mentioned is particularly significant because they are the most important humans so if a ranch worker can act like them he must be very special. Steinbeck portrays him as having natural authority and prestige.
Steinbeck shows Slim as a very respected character in the novel, ‘all talk stopped when he spoke’ the other characters are so keen to listen to whatever Slim might say that they simply stop so they can hear because he is the most important ranch worker. ‘Carlson stepped back to let Slim precede him’ is also a key sentence about Slim’s jurisdiction over the others. The fact that he is being allowed to precede the others is a clever way in which Steinbeck has used language to show sovereignty and that he is presenting Slim as powerful over the others.
The way Steinbeck represents Slim does show him as never being domineering. ‘His tone was friendly. It invited confidence without demanding it’ as he is not insisting upon confidence it suggests that Steinbeck is insinuating that Slim respects other people’s privacy and other people just as they respect him. This contrasts him fiercely with the other figures of authority in the book because he has not asked for it, he does not wear ‘high heeled boots’ he works but works so well and is so kind that the characters naturally respect him.
However, Slim can be ruthless, ‘I drowned four of ‘em right off.’ Steinbeck has added this into Slim’s character to try and make it shown that he is not always lovely and kind ‘drowned’ is especially notable because he has killed four puppies and ‘right off’ shows that he did not even hesitate to do it. Steinbeck is adding some color and showing that Slim can be brutal.
Later on, Steinbeck again suggests this with, ‘that dog ain’t no good’ because he is yet again supporting the death of a dog. Slim does act on good intentions though; he drowned the puppies because ‘She couldn’t feed that many’ and they would probably have died anyway. Steinbeck does this to make sure that Slim is still seen in a positive light by the reader.
It has to be noted that it is not just the characters who look up to Slim and show his good character, it is also the narrator of the novel. The narrator is omniscient and ‘talks’ in the third person and it is still supporting the positive view of Slim. ‘Prince of the ranch’ is ‘spoken’ by the narrator and is consistent with the overall image of Slim which Steinbeck offers us. Prince is a particularly interesting word choice because it shows that Slim is seen as, on par with Curley and the boss authority-wise.
But Slim has the power because he has been given while they have given it to themselves. In some ways being called Prince is more flattering than a king would be because Kings are seen with disfavor if they make bad choices. They are the ones who are blamed if something goes wrong. They can also be manipulative and dictators, whereas Princes are not seen in the same light.
This is particularly relevant in the context because if someone disobeyed the Boss of the ranch then they would be ‘canned’ or fired. It is ironic that the narrator, who is all-seeing, describes Slim like this because it is a God-like figure itself and is then showing Slim as one.
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