How Significant are the Minor Characters in Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’
Steinbeck uses the minor characters in the novella ‘Of Mice and Men’ to portray the internal complexity in the novel and ideas he is attempting to convey by integrating them into the plot. He also uses them to juxtapose other character’s personalities, actions and emotions in an effort to express the meaning behind the plot through his varied use of language, style and description.
Steinbeck uses ‘stock characters’ to portray character stereotypes of the time, for instance Carlson’s stereotypical practical and insensitive mindset that is typical of a ranch hand at the time. His realistic, practical approach to daily life causes him to see no immorality in killing Candy’s dog as it appears to be taking up space and “stinking the place out,” and it thus does not possess the ability to empathise and look at things sympathetically. Subsequent to Lennie’s death, Carlson simply cannot identify with George and Slim’s distress, stating, “Now what the hell ya suppose is eatin’ them two guys?”
Similarly, the ‘boss’, who sustains the archetypal lower class authority figure of the time, appearing apathetic and brazen, whose world revolves around keeping his ranch going. Although he is only physically presented when Lennie and George first come to the ranch, he is often made reference to and this portrays the separation of authority from labour, which Steinbeck successfully portrays. Overall Steinbeck’s use of ‘stock characters’ enables him to give the reader an insight into what ranch life was like in 1930s post Wall street crash America and helps Steinbeck to juxtapose the main characters’ characteristics, actions and emotions.
However he also inverses this technique of using ‘stock characters’ when he portrays Slim as he appears to venture away from the archetypal ranch worker as he is empathetic, intelligent and reasonable. He is respected to the extent that he appears ‘God like’ and is looked...