EDIT: All the students who looked at this before the exam, congratulations! The exam did ask about Slim and I bet you were all well-prepared.
This is for all the AQA GCSE English students who will do their Modern Texts literature exam on Monday, 20/05/2013.
Today, I’d like to tackle the character of Slim. He fulfils a variety of purposes in the novella.
1. He is the ‘prince‘ of the ranch and allows a very obvious contrast and comparison to form in the reader’s minds between him, the idealised and perfect leader, and the real ‘prince’ of the ranch, Curley. His gentle and charismatic manner contrasts with Curley’s keenness for violence for proving his legitimacy as the true ‘prince‘.
2. He is the figure of authority in the book and his authority is only used for violence if it serves a purpose – he doesn’t enjoy violence for the sake of it like Curley seems to. This is symbolised in his method of doing his job as a ‘jerkline skinner’ as well, for he is said to be ‘capable of killing a fly on the wheeler’s butt with a bullwhip without touching the mule’. His empathy for the mute animals who work under him is mirrored in his concern and authority over the ranch workers that also look to him for leadership.
3. He serves as the moral centre of the novella and also perhaps serves as the author-surrogate for Steinbeck to show his views. This means that he may be portraying Steinbeck’s thoughts and values in the novella. He pardons Lennie when he crushes Curley’s hand with a kind ‘it ain’t your fault’ and most importantly, understands George’s motives to kill Lennie to spare him a worse death when he says, ‘A guy got to sometimes’.
4. He acts as George’s confidante. George, who is usually said to be a solitary and quiet man, opens up to Slim and we hear more about his motives for looking after Lennie. George has an almost inexplicable trust for Slim for he himself corrects his doubts about Slim’s secret-keeping skills: ‘You wouldn’t tell? – No, of course you wouldn’t’.
5. Slim is a symbol of the apathetic man who survives in peace because he has no dreams and doesn’t need to have any – for he has a good position on the ranch, an indispensable position on the ranch for his work requires specific skill not just brute strength, and he is a solitary Caucasian male. Perhaps, Steinbeck suggests that in the lonely and harsh world of the Depression, where ‘the best laid plans often go awry’, it is best to not dream.
*His description at the beginning is also the stereotypical description of a Western hero!*
Slim is a definitely a meaty character to talk about in my opinion. Please comb through the book for quotes about him.
Remember, that character quotes can also be used for themes: for example, no. 5 can serve as a point in an essay about dreams and 1 and 2 could be for an essay about power in the book.
Please ask me any questions you have in class or leave it in the comments.