Harry Weston

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Explore the ways one or two minor characters are presented in Of Mice and Men.

I will be exploring the ways in which Slim and Curley are presented in Of Mice and Men. These two might be considered minor characters in John Steinbeck’s novella; but no character is irrelevant.

This story is set during the Great Depression of the Thirties in America, and it tells how the ideal American Dream has collapsed in a time of poverty and hunger. Each character plays their part in illustrating themes of the book. These include showing how the aims and plans of men and women are broken by the harsh realities of life, and by fate itself. The title comes from a poem by Robert Burns, where the line says: The best laid schemes of Mice and Men, gang aft agley (often go askew).

Slim and Curley are presented as different symbols of manhood. One of the two men is a natural leader, a skilled craftsmen full of masculinity and respected by his peers; Slim is a Man, not a mouse. He cares about others and his character is used to help draw out information for the reader. On the other hand, Curley is a light weight both as a boxer and as a man. He is shown to be a coward and his authority comes only from his position as the son of the boss. He is a mouse, and his weak, cowardly meddling helps ensure that people’s plans do go askew.

Steinbeck presents Curley in the first instance as; ‘… a thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair.’ Looks can be deceiving. John Steinbeck presents Curley in this way so when you find out what he is really like, you start to question your own thoughts about every character; even Lennie or George. You soon find out that Curley is a ‘mean little guy’ who hides behind an artificial status of his fathers, ‘like the boss, he wore high-heeled boots.’

In comparison to Curley there is Slim. Slim is a jerkline skinner, the prince of the ranch. Slim is described by John Steinbeck as royalty. ‘When he had finished combing his hair he moved into the room, and he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen.’ Steinbeck presents Slim as the prince of the ranch, the top of the pile in the men’s eyes. It is apparent that Slim is the prince on page 55 when, ‘… all talk stopped when he spoke.’ John Steinbeck chooses to present Slim in this way to show that Slim has natural power and Curley has power in theory but no natural power in practice. These ways of presenting Slim and Curley have been chosen by Steinbeck to create tension between these two characters. This tension is released on page … when Curley attacks Lennie.

On page … Slim and Curley are presented in different ways compared to how they were before. Slim is presented in this scene still as prince but Steinbeck uses him being first into the room before Curley as a way to show his rank. This is illustrated by ‘Slim came in, followed by Curley and Carlson and Whit.’ The evidence suggests that Steinbeck chooses to present Slim as the head of the pack and as the leader, unlike Curley who is just trying to cause problems. Slim has morals; he is a realist and knows what is right and wrong. Curley is a lightweight; he is a coward and knows only what boxing in about. With this Curley is also presented with his posture and movement. This choice of presenting Curley by Steinbeck invites the readers’ imagination to work, getting the reader involved. John Steinbeck does this with many lines in this scene; ‘Curley was balanced and poised.’ This is chosen by Steinbeck as a way of presenting Curley as it shows his way of movement as a boxer. This also shows that he is always on edge and has a personality which is shown through his hair.

In contrast, Curley is presented by Steinbeck as a coward throughout this scene. He is depicted as hiding behind his father by threatening to fight people who know they would lose their job if they hit him. This cowardliness is fully exposed when there is a confrontation...
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