How Steinbeck Uses Two of His Characters to Explore the Role of Power in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The two characters that I have chosen to examine for exploring the
role of power in the novel are Slim and Curley.
Slim is a highly skilled mule driver and the acknowledged “prince” of
the ranch. Slim is both respected and admired by all of the men he
works with. In the book it says that “Slim’s opinion in law” and that
“Slim don’t need to wear no high-heeled boots” to say that he is
superior over the others because that’s how the men see him anyway. He
is seen as the leader in the bunkhouse because his word is final, for
example, Slim has the last word in the situation of whether to shoot
Candy's dog or not. Unlike Curley, Slim is also kind and
compassionate. He explains to Candy that it was cruel to keep his dog
alive, suffering, and tries to console him by offering him a newborn
Being the son of the owner of the ranch, Curley has considerable power
over the men. Curley chooses to abuse the power he has rather than try
to befriend those beneath him. The men know this and dislike him for
it. Curley knows this and desperately wants more authority on the
Curley wears high-heeled boots to show that he isn’t a working man.
Curley also married an attractive woman and as none of the other men
are married this makes him feel that he is better than the rest. The
men see him as the Boss’s son and apart from having that name there is
nothing at all that sets him above the others. Curley uses blackmail
though and the others know that if they do anything to him then they
will be punished seeing as his father is the Boss. The fact that
Curley has to wear high-heeled boots to distinguish himself from the
workers shows that his power is not natural at all.
Slim has natural power; his authority is gained through respect of the
other men. They come to him voluntarily to ask his advice and to talk
to him. Slim’s height is also used to reflect his status and shows us
that even though he could have physical power over the men, he chooses
not to, instead he respects them. Slim is seen as the leader by the
men even though it seems that he is equal to them. The fact that Slim
is very modest seems to make him even more powerful. The relationship
between Slim and the men is symbiotic because he gives them as much
respect as they give to him. “Carlson stepped back to let Slim precede
him.” This shows that the men are willing to let Slim go before them,
because of the relationship that they have, and it appears to happen
in a natural way.
There is a big difference in the way that Slim and Curley...