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• SLIM AND CARLSON
Slim and Carlson, two of the ranch hands, make their appearances in the bunk house at almost the same time. The differences between them are striking, yet they too seem to complement each other to form a two-sided whole.
Slim is called the "prince of the ranch." He is tall, thin, and quiet. He is also almost too good to be true. His ear hears more than is said to him; he looks through and beyond people. His voice invites confidence without demanding it. He has understanding beyond thought. His actions are majestic, and he is a master craftsman. Slim is both respected and admired. Everyone seeks his approval, even Curley, who seems to have contempt for everyone else on the ranch. When Slim joins the argument in favor of killing Candy's dog, Candy knows he has to give in. Slim's word is law.
Slim is also the voice of reason and understanding. When the men discover Curley's wife's body, Slim confirms George's need to put Lennie out of his misery. He says, "An' s'pose they lock him up an' strap him down and put him in a cage. That ain't no good, George." After Lennie's killing, Slim is the only one who understands what has really happened. He consoles George and leads him away to get a drink.
Carlson presents a totally different picture of a ranch hand. His big stomach is the feature Steinbeck chooses to point out first. Carlson is coarse and insensitive. He continually illustrates his lack of concern for or understanding of other people's feelings. Carlson is the one pushing for the killing of Candy's dog. He does so not for the dog's sake, or Candy's, but because the dog's smell and looks offend his own senses. He volunteers his Luger to kill the dog and also later to use in tracking down Lennie. He even graphically demonstrates to Candy how he will shoot the old man's dog. After George has shot Lennie and is upset about it, Carlson says, "Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin' them two guys?"
Pairing Slim and Carlson will give you some interesting insights into Steinbeck's view of man within his ranch microcosm of the world. Slim is kind and perceptive. Like George, he is an "ego" figure. His majesty also makes him seem like one of the angels before the fall from heaven, as described in Paradise Lost. Carlson is insensitive and brutal. He is described in physical terms and, like Lennie, seems to be motivated only by his bodily senses. He is an "id" figure. He seems to symbolize a fallen angel or man.
Slim is that self-possessed man George hopes to become by owning his own place. Carlson is the type of man George wants to avoid becoming.
Taken as a pair, Slim and Carlson give us a view of man's high potential and his low reality. That Carlson's words and point of view should be the last ones Steinbeck presents in the book is an indication of the author's own sense of despair.