Although he is a worker on the ranch, not its owner, Slim is its leader and its soul. He is honest, sincere, careful, and in some ways otherworldly, as he seems too good to be real.
When George and Lennie arrive, the character of Slim is introduced by the boss as a “big tall skinner” and assigns them to work with his team. In addition to a physical snapshot, this mention indicates that he is a leader. When they get to the bunkhouse, the old swamper who chats with them also refers to Slim as skinner and says he is a “helluva nice fella.” In contrast to Curley, with his exaggerated rancher style, Slim is described as practical—the swamper that “don’t need to wear no high-heeled boots.”
George and Lenny, along with the reader, also hear Slim before they see him. He is overheard outside the bunkhouse speaking with Curley’s wife, who is standing in the doorway. When he enters, he is described as “a tall man” with “long, black, damp hair” that he is combing while he holds his cowboy hat under one arm.
Steinbeck’s lengthy description that follows is awe-inspiring: he seems more like a hero from folklore than a real person. Slim is not just portrayed as the “royalty” of the crew, with an innate quality of leadership and highly skilled as a skinner, but he is endowed with an almost mythical aura. The author says he has the “majesty” of “royalty” in his movements, and he is the “prince” of the ranch. This sense of majesty applies to his way of moving, and at the end of the passage, Steinbeck says his hands’ actions were “as delicate . . . as those of a temple dancer.” Slim’s natural leadership stems in part from being a careful listener and not a big talker.
His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.