Steinbeck introduced many new characters over the course of the second chapter, most of which are not set at the ranch in Soledad, and met in the bunk house. This new living space, known as the bunk house, provides proof of a very simplistic lifestyle. The small boxes given to each worker for their possessions shows in depth the limited amount of items they have. Each character have attributes and characteristics that differed from one another. Among these new characters is the old swamper, Curley, Curley’s wife, Carlson, Slim, and Crooks. Crooks, who is “a nigger” (Steinbeck,), acquired the role to be “the stable buck” where “the boss [gives him] hell” when he gets angry.
As far as social hierarchy the boss, who “gets pretty mad sometimes, but [is a] pretty nice” (22) guy, holds the most power throughout the ranch, and is closely followed by a character named Slim. This is an extremely interesting insight on how race is approached and dealt with on the ranch. Although Crook’s is a “nice fella” many take it for granted that he should be treated badly since he is black. This notion seems to be imprinted in the minds of the ranchers, even when people such as the old man are full of compliments for Crook’s.
George and Lennie have a very strange relationship. The guys that “work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in they world. They got no family” (13-14) which is the main reason why Lennie and George have stuck together. Nobody wants to be apart from family in hard times like these. Times have significantly changed in George and Lennie’s life. Therefore, they “better start swimmin’, or [they will] sink like a stone” (Bob Dylan) in terms of success and hard work. Some believe in a time where hard work runs parallel with achievement. This is not the case, as Steinbeck portrays a time and place where social hierarchy controls the ranch. Curly, who is a fairly powerful figure among the men, “hates big guys” and often “picks scraps with big guys.
Kind of like he’s mad at ’em because he ain’t a big guy”. He also has a wife in which he is far too proud of, to the point where he shows off to the workers by wearing a glove on one of his hands. This is unusual but is a symbol of their sexual relationship shown off to make himself seem superior and greater than. With the power that Curly holds, thoughts are given off that his wife holds the same level of power because she is Curly’s husband. This is a wrongly noted thought since she is among a farm full of male workers.
Therefore, her sex acquires no power in terms of work and ideas on the ranch. By bringing Curly’s wife into the picture in such a flashy and ‘slutty’ type of fashion, he is possibly giving foreshadowing in the sense that she could be a dangerous force throughout the story and a real “piece of jail bait” (31) towards the men on the ranch. Curly’s power causes “most of the other men to avoid her eyes, but Lennie stares with fascination at this beautiful woman”. Steinbeck possibly gives off this foreshadowing hinting that something special will happen between the two.
Steinbeck’s use of dialogue is very powerful and assuring. It brings a slight authenticity to the setting in which creates an easier scenario to paint pictures in the minds of his readers. Another theme that is introduced in the second chapter is the idea of social isolation. The story deeply thrives on the notion that everyone is isolated, and that everyone appears to get along well with one another by talking about their isolation. Apart from obvious reasons associated with race, Crook’s is also isolated when he becomes disabled when “a horse kicked him in the back” causing him to be slower and unable to accomplish certain tasks.
Another important symbol that has been introduced is Candy’s dog, which symbolizes the fate that is waiting for the people who have ‘overstayed their welcome’ and who have outlived what they are able to accomplish. More times than not, a new pair of fresh legs beats and old pair. Although, when the old pair still has experience and skill to bring to the table he can still be used effectively. The relation between Candy and his dog are very close because when Carlson suggests that Candy should take one of Slim’s puppies it signifies that the same idea could be drawn up about Candy.