In Of Mice and Men, what are Curley and Slim's status within the group?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The social hierarchy on the ranch has two "camps," the management and the labor.  On the management side, the boss is on the top; then, there's Curley.  Among the laborers, the ranch hands, Slim is on top.

Clearly, Slim is Steinbeck's working-class hero of the novella.  A man of action, he works without complaint.  He doesn't resort to manipulating others by holding his status over the heads of his underlings.  Steinbeck describes him thusly:

His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.

Slim regularly compliments Lennie on his work ethic.  At the end, he sympathizes with George over Lennie's death.

Curley, on the other hand, abuses his power as the boss's son.  As a little man, he suffers from a Napoleon complex and baits Lennie any chance he gets.  After Lennie crushes his hand, and his cowardice is revealed, he takes his rightful place in the social hierarchy, below Slim.

Only after Lennie kills his wife does Curley function again as a leader, of the posse.  He resorts again to preying on the weak only after the lust for quick vengeance gives him justification.

Steinbeck seems to be saying that some forms of capitalism, those that abuse workers' rights, are tantamount to old pagan customs of lawless brutality.