This lesson will examine the minor character of Slim in ‘Of Mice and Men’ who is portrayed as a quiet, wise, and thoughtful man. Though Slim is technically a secondary character, he counsels the main characters in many critical points of the novel.
Slim: Strong and Silent
Slim is a very likable character in Of Mice and Men who everyone on the ranch seems to respect. When we first meet Slim, John Steinbeck writes:
He was a jerkline skinner, the prince of the ranch…. There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke. His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject….
Slim is the jerkline skinner, or the head mule driver, on the ranch. He is a static character throughout the novel, not changing over the course of the events, and is always quiet, strong, and kind, offering helpful advice and mediation.
Slim is described by Steinbeck as ‘the prince of the ranch,’ and his authority and confidence reinforce this image. He is not portrayed as a perfect moral character, as he goes to the whorehouse with the rest of the men and is possibly having an affair with Curley’s wife, but he has many positive attributes. Although he rarely plays a major part in the events of the novel, he is usually a supporting character in them.
Slim in Action
When Carlson recommends that Candy shoot his dog because of its odor and uselessness, Candy searches for someone to support him in not wanting the dog to die. Unlike Carlson, who is brash and insensitive when suggesting this, Slim, after ‘studying the old dog with his calm eyes,’ suggests to Candy, Carl’s right, Candy. That dog ain’t no good to himself. I wisht somebody’d shoot me if I get old an’ a cripple. Slim’s thoughtful advice and his agreement that Candy can have one of his dog’s puppies convinces Candy to let Carlson kill his old dog.
Slim is also responsible for mediating the situation between Curley and Lennie when they get into a fight. Curley picks a fight with Lennie, who does not fight back until George encourages him to, but when Lennie does, he crushes and mangles Curley’s hand, which Curley plans to tell his father about to get Lennie fired. John Steinbeck writes:
You got your senses in hand enough to listen? he asked. Curley nodded. ‘Well, then listen,’ Slim went on. ‘I think you got your han’ caught in a machine.
He explains that if Curley tells on Lennie and gets him fired that they will tell everyone the embarrassing story of how Curley got his hand hurt and everyone will mock him.
George and Slim strike up a gradual friendship throughout the book, and Slim provides George with much needed advice and friendship at the end of the book. When the men come into the barn to examine the corpse of Curley’s wife after Lennie has fled, George talks to Slim, asking if they could save Lennie from being killed by Curley. Slim replies, ‘An’ s’pose they lock him up an’ strap him down and put him in a cage. That ain’t no good, George.’ Slim’s wisdom makes George realize that the best solution is for him to kill Lennie himself, much like Candy wishes he would have with his dog. After Lennie’s death, Slim realizes George has killed Lennie and tells him that he did what he had to. John Steinbeck writes, ‘Slim twitched George’s elbow. Come on, George. Me an’ you’ll go in an’ get a drink.’
Throughout Of Mice and Men, Slim is a static character, meaning that he does not change over the course of the novel. He is a likable, wise, and strong person. He is the jerkline skinner, or head mule driver, on the ranch. Although he rarely is part of the action of the plot, he provides advice and support to the other main characters.