Whit Of Mice And Men

What is the significance of the minor characters in Of Mice and Men?

Please explain the significance of Whit, Carlson, the Boss and Slim.

Expert Answers
literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Minor characters in any text are important given they tend to play off the main characters and can add to the conflict. In Steinbeck's novel, Of Mice and Men, this is no different.

Many texts tend to use what one calls stock characters (a character based upon typical stereotypes). For the novel, some of the minor characters are stock characters. These types of characters are used so that the reader can identify and characterize them.

Therefore, the following minor characters are significant for the following reasons:

1. Whit- important because of the cry for friendship which is shown by his obsession with the letter published in the magazine by an old rancher he worked with (iimportant because of ties into the themes of loneliness and friendship).

2. Carlson- important because he is the stock male ranch hand. Carlson is the man's man--full of brute strength, true skill and lack of emotion. His significance comes when he orders Candy's dog to be put down (without thinking how anyone would feel about it) and his failure to understand why George and Slim are upset at Lennie's death.

3. The Boss- important because he is the stock "boss" character. Brash and indifferent, he is only concerned with the running of the ranch. Although only seen when George and Lennie come to the ranch, his power is alluded to throughout the novel. This shows the separation of the blue collar workers from the white collar workers (which is typical even today).

4. Slim- important because of his tendency to pull away from the characteristics typically seen by the best workers. Slim is understanding and firm. He is not swayed by Curley's tendency to threaten and understands the true meaning of brotherhood.