What reason might Steinbeck have for including an idealistic and inspirational character such as this?
I think that it is fairly evident that Steinbeck rests hope for redemption with the characterization of Slim. He is a "doer," someone that possesses great skill and talent in what he does. He is reflective and thoughtful, willing to study people and situations before judging on both. Slim is also an individual that is not afraid to exert power, but does so in a manner that speaks for the community and the larger sense of the good. In a setting where characters deal with the implications of how difficult consciousness is, Slim represents that there can be hope and there can be a sense of redemption within individuals. It is here where I think that Slim can be seen as someone that provides hope. For this reason, it is Slim that provides comfort to George at a moment of unspeakable anguish. It is also for this reason that Slim becomes the bane of hope for life on the ranch, in that if individuals can follow his example, there can be hope in a setting where despair and sadness seems to be so prevalent. It is for this reason that Steinbeck includes Slim, as a representation of what can be in the overwhelming face of what is.