How does Steinbeck present hierarchy in society in Of Mice and Men?

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hierarchy in Of Mice and Men is clearly delineated.  On the top of the ladder is the boss.  He is a white man who owns the ranch.   His word goes, and the other men know this point and follow. 

Below him are the workers.  Within the workers, there is also a hierarchy.  This hierarchy, however, is not based on wealth, but experience and character.  All the men on the ranch look up to Slim. They respect and even revere him. Below him are the other men, who are pretty much in the same boat. 

Then, there is Curley.  He is the boss's son.  He has some authority, based on this relation with the boss, but the men on the ranch do not like him at all. 

Finally, there are two other "outsiders."  Crook is the lone black man on the ranch.  For this reason, he is ostracized, and he is powerless. Curley's wife is also an outsider.  She is not even given a name, and the men fear her, because they believe that she is trouble. 

All of this shows that in Steinbeck's world, there is a hidden hierarchy and generally speaking there is powerlessness among everyone.  And for certain groups of people it is very bad - blacks and women.