Of Mice and Men – Character study of Slim
Of Mice and Men is set in California during the 1930s. This is an important time in US history because it was the time of the Great Depression, which did not end until the start of the Second World War. During this period of failed businesses, harsh poverty and long-term unemployment, many migrant workers came to California from other parts of America in search of work. The ranch workers in the book are all examples of people who have been affected by the Great Depression, as most of them are itinerant worker.
One of them being Slim, who I am to be analysing from the book, to see what contribution and importance he makes in this Novel.
Slim is described as a highly skilled mule driver and the acknowledged “prince” of the ranch. Steinbeck describes Slim in much greater detail than any other character, which indicates to us that he is a very important character in the novella. The description is also very unusual because the story just stops for a while as Slim is being described over two pages.
He’s the only character who seems to be at peace with himself. Steinbeck also describes him as something of a living legend “he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen”. There was gravity in his manner and a quiet yet so profound, that all talk stopped when he spoke, as I he had mystical powers. His hatchet face was ageless. Slim is not only respected for his skill as a ranch hand as they say ‘he could kill fly on the wheelers butt with a bull whip without touching the mule’ but he is also seen as a man who thinks things through especially before speaking when it says ‘his ear heard more…’
His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought. His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love. Slim lingers in the shadow of his overwhelming description throughout the novel. He serves as the fearless, decision-maker when conflicts arise among the workers and wins the confidence of George, offering advice, comfort, and quiet words of wisdom. Steinbeck from the start makes Slim above the other men and this is continuous throughout the whole novel till the end of the story.
Slim’s presence is first noted in the bunkhouse. Even though it is here that he is introduced in a proper manner, we are already aware of the fact that he is an agreeable and pleasant man through certain statements made by other characters previously. For example, Candy states that Slim is a “Hell of a nice fella”. Furthermore, we learn that he is a likable and attractive man on account of Curley’s wife, “Hi, Good-lookin’”. Steinbeck’s use of biblical light imagery immediately emphasizes the fact that Slim’s character signals a sense of hope and a way out of the darkness. For example, as the text states, “Slim reached up over the card-table and turned on the tin-shaded electric light. Instantly the table was bright with light, and the cone of the shade threw its brightness straight downward, leaving the corners of the bunkhouse still in dusk.” I think not only the description implies to the light and hope of Slim’s character, but also the importance of Slim’s presence, as the light is the brightest at where Slim is, and darker as it gets further away from Slim. I think there is an underlying hint of Slim’s status as the “core” on the ranch.
One of the most distinctive contributions Slim brings is when George confides in him about how he and Lennie travel round together. Slim is clever in the way he brings this topic up as he says ‘”funny how you an’ him string along together”. But he says it calmly and invitingly to George, also the tone Slim uses offers confidence to George to talk. Slim does not prey or resort to bullying tactics when extracting information about George’s past, rather he exudes a “calm invitation to confidence”. The effect of this is that George appears to feel comfortable and at ease, and he is able to expand his relationship with Lennie. George does not appear to hold back when describing the close and loving relationship he shares with Lennie. For example, George states, “Him and me was both born in Auburn. I knowed his Aunt Clara. When Aunt Clara died, Lennie just come along with me out workin’. Got kinda used to each other after a little while”. .
When George and Lennie arrive together at the bunkhouse people think it is strange for men to travel together. This shows that society is use to people travelling alone. So through Slim, Steinbeck uses him as a way of criticising society. With all of Slim’s God-like features it is hard for us to understand why he is there at the ranch until this scene as it opens up the story a little bit more. Slim’s calm and gentle presence allows George to reveal these intimate personal details about his shared history with Lennie. George also mentions the incident that took place at Weed and this shows how much integrity Slim has and how he now acquired Georges respect. It is as George’s voice takes on the tone of a confessor. The fact that George feels he is able to reveal these details to Slim allows the plot to appear more realistic.
Of Mice and Men
The character of Slim, unlike the others doesn’t have any real ambition; he has nowhere to go and no American Dream. I think that Slim even with his wisdom and perfect like characteristics still, has nothing to call his own and will, by every indication, remain a migrant worker until his death. Slim differs from the others in the fact that he does not seem to want something outside of what he has, he is not fooled by a dream, and he has not laid any plans like the others. I personally think that Slim still has ideas and a dream inside but one that he has control over unlike the others. Slim just seems to have somehow reached the sad conclusion that dreams rarely work in a world full of obstacles.
Slim is a contrast to Curley. Slim only uses his strength when it is necessary whereas Curley’s uses his openly. For example when Curley attacks Lennie for thinking that he is laughing at him, Slim wants to end the fight but George stops him. Slim only decides to jump in after Lennie attacks Curley. Afterwards Slim shows his cleverness when he thinks of a plan to keep George and Lennie on the ranch. When Lennie breaks Curley’s hand George says to Slim, “Slim, will we get canned now?’…Slim smiled”. George and the reader think that George and Lennie will be sacked but Slim makes a massive impression on the readers in this scene as he thinks of an intelligent plan. He says to Curley, “I think you got your hand caught in a machine.” Otherwise Slim would have told the truth and Curley’s would lose his pride.
Slim’s plan is important because I think that nobody else would have thought of it as they all stood in shock. Both of the characters use their authority differently. Curley has authority because he is the boss’s son, while Slim has the friendship of all around him. Curley’s uses his power to bully people but Slim has on certain occasions used his against Curley. This happens when Curley pesters Slim about where his wife is. Slim says, “you lay offa me.” And Curley reply is, “I didn’t mean nothing…I jus’ thought you might of saw her.” Curley is threatened by Slim because he does not know what Slim is capable of. Whit said, “Nobody knows what Slim can do.” This shows that Slim has never lost his temper to the extent that it would end up in a brawl. This is an example of the wonderful power Slim possess in the ranch.
Slim is quite unlike any other character in the novel. I feel that Steinbeck uses Slim to show the extent of the Great Depression. Slim comes across as being civilized and educated but as I have said earlier Slim is only a jerk line skinner and nothing more. We also get the impression that he will become nothing more. This shows that even characters of Slim’s status could not find work. Through out the book it is made to sound that Slim is the hero where infact it is more so the case that he is not the hero everyone else is just a failure.
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