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In the attached passage from Of Mice and Men, what methods does Steinbeck use to...

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted September 29, 2013 at 3:26 PM via web

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In the attached passage from Of Mice and Men, what methods does Steinbeck use to present Slim and the attitudes of others to him?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 29, 2013 at 6:47 PM (Answer #1)

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This passage is from near the end of Chapter 2 of Mice and Men at the point where Slim is first introduced in the novella. In this character description, Steinbeck makes us of both indirect and direct characterization; however, he employs primarily direct characterization.

Direct characterization - With this method, the author tells the reader about a character, rather than dramatizes. For instance, Steinbeck writes that Slim

...moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen.

Further, Steinbeck describes to the reader the abilities of Slim as a "jerkline skinner," and states,

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, be it politics or love....His hear heard more than was said to him, and his hands...were as delicate in their action as those of a temple dancer.

This long description resembles the exposition of a play in which the descriptions and information about characters is given. Also, this description somewhat resembles what is called in a script the "Back Story"; that is, experiences of a character that take place prior to the main action. At any rate, from this passage and the description of Slim, it is clearly apparent that Of Mice and Men was written as a potential drama.

Indirect characterization - This method uses a number of different ways to describe a character.

  • Physical description - Slim is tall, with "long black, damp hair" that is combed straight back. He has a "hatchet face" and he is around thirty-five years old; he wears blue jeans and a denim jacket like the other men and carries a stetson hat. His quickness and tremendous dexterity is also described.
  • Character's actions - Slim smoothes out his hat crushed under his arm, adjusts it to the way he wears it, and places it on his head.
  • Character's speech, thoughts and feelings - Slim looks "kindly" at George and Lennie and speaks about the weather as a way of introducing himself and putting the two new men at ease,

"It's brighter'n a b--- outside, he said gently. Can't hardly see nothing in here. You the new guys?"

With his commanding presence, expertise, and congenial nature, Slim appears to be a superior man, one who commands respect and who has no pettiness in him.


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