Curley, the boss' son, is an evil character in Steinbeck's world. Even Lennie feels the sense of menace when Curley first comes into the bunkhouse. Curley is a "thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair." According to Candy, Curley is an amateur boxer and is always picking fights, especially with guys who are bigger than he is. Curley tries to prove his masculinity by picking fights. Another way to prove himself is by marrying a physically attractive woman. His wife is never given a name, but by calling her "Curley's wife," Steinbeck indicates she is his possession. Curley refuses to let her talk to anyone on the ranch, isolating her from everyone and setting the stage for trouble. He makes a big show of keeping his hand soft to caress her, yet patronizes the local whorehouse on Saturday night. While he may strut around the ranch because of his position as the boss' son, he obviously cannot satisfy his wife and is mean to her. Curley beats up any man who dares to talk to her; the only one he listens to and seems to respect is Slim.
Slim is described always in terms of dignity and majesty. When he first comes into the bunkhouse, he moves "with a majesty achieved only by royalty and master craftsmen. He was a jerk-line skinner, the prince of the ranch, capable of driving ten, sixteen, even twenty mules with a single line to the leaders." Slim is tall, ageless, and an expert in his job. His voice is the voice of rationalism. When Carlson suggests killing Candy's dog, Candy appeals to Slim as the final authority. Slim is so respected and admired on the ranch that even Curley listens to him. When Lennie smashes Curley's hand, Slim is the one who intercedes and tells Curley he will not have George and Lennie fired. Slim understands Curley's fear of ridicule, and he uses that fear to help George and Lennie. Slim also inspires confidences because he is not judgmental. When George first meets Slim, George tells him about...
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