Of Mice and Men - Character study of Slim

Categories: Of Mice and Men

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.

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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.

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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.

During the novel Slim is respected and trusted by his fellow ranch workers and even has Curley following his orders. Slim advises George and becomes George’s confidant. As he acts as George’s confidant he subsequently becomes the moral arbiter of the play, he is the main character who can recognize things from right and wrong. Slim is a special character because he speaks to everyone from Crooks to Candy and even Curley's wife. In the novel the idea of hierarchy is important, as Slim is trusted by the whole ranch he is the one who is at the top, this is shown in the novel with his authority. However during the play he is the character who represents the noble ranch worker. Slim represents a sympathetic influence in the otherwise hostile nature of everyday life on the ranch. When the reader first meets Slim in the novel he is presented as being high in the hierarchy in the novel. Slim is presented as a respectable man which is why the other ranch workers trust him, this consequently leads him to becoming the man who George can confide in about Lennie, as Slim realizes that Lennie has the mentality of a child.

This shows how Slim is presented as a man who is very wise which leads people to trusting him. This is shown when it says, “his tone was friendly. It invited confidence without demanding it.” This illustrates how people can trust because of Slim’s gentle nature. The ranch workers are shown in to respect because of the hierarchy and because he is the noble ranch worker when it says, “they precede him.” This shows his authority within the ranch as they respect him and because of his position in the hierarchy of the ranch. As Slim is part of the hierarchy of the ranch he described as when moving “with a majesty only achieved by royalty.” This is shown to emphasize his position within the ranch hierarchy and this presents the idea that he is like the prince of the ranch. As slim is skilled he is called a “Jerkline skinner” which shows he is very noble. This gives the impression that as he has great skilled and a great depth of perception he almost emanates calm and understanding.

In the novel Slim is shown to have a personality which is very unique compared to the other workers on the ranch. Slim is described as having a “hatchet face” which is “ageless.” This gives the impression that Slim has a sense of immortality around him, which is described as being extraordinary. This illustrates how Slim as he is ageless is almost like a piece of furniture for the ranch as he is high up in the hierarchy which further enforces the fact that Slim is a noble ranch worker who is trusted by the men. Steinbeck uses slims “ageless” and “hatchet face” to employ the use of similes to show the character of Slim. He employs similes when Steinbeck writes that Slim’s hands are “delicate” and are “those of a temple dancer.” Steinbeck uses similes to show Slim’s elegance within the novel, which also represents his persona as a character who is able to tell right from right from wrong which is a skill in itself. This is also illustrates how he has great skill with his hands. Furthermore, Slim is a character who is “capable of killing a fly on the wheeler’s butt with a bull whip without touching the mule.”

This shows how Slim is trusted among the workers; this also emphasizes how Slim is character who is very powerful but controlled. Steinbeck presents Slim in the novel as a character who is almost like a father-figure for the other ranch workers. This is shown when Steinbeck wrote that Slim has a “understanding beyond thought.” This illustrates how Slim is the father figure as he is the wise man of the ranch and is the person who is also very perceptive. This shows that his measured way of living gave great hope to the other ranch men and gave them inspiration and a friend who they could talk to. Steinbeck uses positive adverbs to show his kindness towards Lennie and George. As Slim is wise and very clever he realizes that Lennie has a mind of a child. This is shown when he uses the adverbs “kindly” and “Gently.” This shows how he has a caring attitude towards them as George has almost looked after Lennie his whole life. In this way he is almost sympathetic towards George because he realizes how much George has had to deal with because of Lennie, which is why Slim becomes the confidant of George.

Steinbeck makes the character of Slim become the confidant of George. He uses this so Steinbeck can relate back to the original story of George and Lennie. This is shown when it said, “Slim neither encouraged nor discouraged him, He just sat back quiet and receptive.” This illustrates how Slim gained the trust of George because of his gentle nature and because he is the father figure. This shows how he is in touch with other ranchmen although according to the hierarchy he is much higher than them, this shows how he is a very noble and wise man because he considers himself as one of the common men. So he is able to listen to them with their problems like they are the same his. As Slim becomes the confidant of George, in the conversation with George he says that Lennie is “a nice fella” and that “He ain’t mean” This shows how Slim has a different attitude towards Lennie as if he is looking after him as well as George. This is why the reader becomes sympathetic because Slim is sympathetic towards Lennie which encourages the reader to become sympathetic.

This creates a key role for Slim because without Slim the reader would not have been encouraged to become as sympathetic to Lennie. Slim is pivotal towards the treatment Crooks because he is one of the only people in the ranch to treat Crooks with the respect he deserves. This is shown when he says, “He’s plenty good.” This illustrates how Slim is fair and compassionate because it shows how he knows the difference between right and wrong which shows how he is unprejudiced. This is because during the 1930s it was normal for black people to be treated very badly because to many people they were still known as slaves, which is shown through the isolation in which crooks lives. This is further enforced when Slim is the very first character to address Crooks by his actual name instead of the name “nigger” which is a black slave or “stable buck.” This shows how he treats him with more respect than the other characters do. This gives the impression that Slim clearly seems to have a conscience during the novel, this shows why men trust his judgment. Through this it gives the impression that Slim could be the metaphorical voice of Steinbeck presenting his views on prejudice and the way people are treated and how they should be treated.

During the novel the pragmatism of Slim is shown when he acts like a leader and guide because the dog has been shot. This is shown when he says “Take a shovel,” to Carlson. The use of an imperative shows Slim’s commanding nature and authority. Furthermore as he is commanding, he is also a realist which is why he understands that the dog needs to be shot for the better of the dog. The short syntax creates an effect because it shows Slim’s commanding nature. Slim has a very commanding nature which is why Slim is the moral arbiter during the novel and which is why he knows that Candy’s dog has to die. This is shown when “Candy looked helplessly at him, for Slim’s opinions were law.” This enforces the idea of Slim being the moral arbiter because it shows how it is an emphatic idea which is strengthened by the fact that it is a statement. In the novel Slim has a lot of power and different personas to his character. As he is kind to many characters, not many ranchmen know what he really would do. This is shown when it says, “Nobody don’t know what Slim can do.”

This illustrates how Slim does have a bad side which known wants to get on the bad side with. This idea that no one’s what he can do implies that Slim is capable of great violence. This is shown when he “drowned four of em right off.” This is because his “bitch” could not feed them which shows that he will only do violence if it is necessary and so for the better not the worse, this emphasizes his overwhelming power Slim has. Slim’s position in the hierarchy is high because he is able to make Curley stop what he is doing. This shows his assertiveness when he says, “you lay offa me.” This implies that due to the hierarchy and Curley’s fear of Slim, he is prepared to do what Slim tells him to. However when Lennie is getting beaten up by Curley, it shows how Slim is very peaceful but at the same time threatening and always looking out for people who are not in the wrong. This is shown when “Slim jumped up,” this shows how Slim is protective over Lenny which makes the reader feels sympathetic towards Lennie. On the other hand his aggression is shown when says, “get um myself.”

This illustrates how Slim has a hidden strength, and almost acts like a noble dark horse. When Curley’s wife dies, the character of Slim reveals that he did care about Curley’s wife which is why he is respectful and caring during her death. This is shown when Slim tells Curley “stay here with your wife.” Slim uses an imperative to show how he knows that Curley needs to stay there for his own benefit but for Lennie’s as well. But, as the situation escalates Slim realizes that “we gotta get im.” As he takes control of the situation he does not do because he wants to kill Lennie but because he wants them to go easy on Lennie and not hurt him. This is because Curley wants to, “strap him down and put him in a cage.” This illustrates how Slim cares for Lennie and does not want him to die. When Lennie dies he has to act as a confidant where he goes to George and not the opposite way round because he has to reassure him because otherwise he knows that George will be feeling very bad after. He uses his realistic look on life to show how in life that is a harsh life, this is shown when he says, “A guy got to sometimes.”

This illustrates how he has to keep George calm and does this by the use of repetition, which is shown when he says, “you hadda George. I swear you hadda.” He is exonerating George so that he feels better which is further enforced when Slim “twitched George’s elbow.” So Slim uses positive encouragement to cheer up George. This is in contrast to when Slim had to cheer candy up for when they killed his dog, it is like Lennie is George’s pup and so Slim has to now cheer up George. While confronting George about killing Lennie Slim says to him to sit down and so “sat down beside him, sat very close to him.” The repetition of the word “sat” shows how he Is again using the idea of repetition to calm him as they are friends and Slim is the father figure for George, the way George was for Lennie. This creates a physical proximity which is created by the calming and repetition.

The author uses Darwin’s theory to present a theme to the reader that only the strongest can survive in the world and the weak must die, which is why Lennie must die. This is because Lennie is like the sick pup because it would be “cruel to keep him alive” like Carlson said. Overall Slim is presented in “Of mice and men” as the father figure of the ranch and so the leader to whom everyone respects and can talk to in times of need. As he is the father figure of the ranch he is very noble and sees himself as one of the common workers, this is why he is the moral arbiter during the play who voices the opinion of Steinbeck. As George never really had anyone talk to, Slim becomes the confidant for George helping him through George’s grief when he kills Lennie. Slim provides a pivotal role in the Novel because he is the character who is unprejudiced and is one of the common men who is high in the hierarchy.

English Coursework

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.

Updated: Apr 19, 2023
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Of Mice and Men - Character study of Slim. (2017, Oct 25). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/of-mice-and-men-character-study-of-slim-essay

Of Mice and Men - Character study of Slim essay
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