Of Mice and Men

who are the powerful characters and who are the powerless characters?

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 There are different forms of power at play in this story. In terms of economic power, the boss and Curley have power over all the men. The boss gives the men jobs they desperately need. Curley, the boss's son, merely has power because he is the boss's son. Slim is the only character that has both power, over the crews of men, and respect. The rest of the characters have very little economic power, which is so important during the depression. Steinbeck has a Darwinian hierarchy to the rest of his characters depending on their use on the ranch. Candy, for instance, is an aged and hunchbacked man who is thus relegated to a low place in the social hierarchy - he is a swamper. Similarly to Candy, Crooks - named for his crooked back - works menial tasks. The relegation of these men to such unrewarding jobs may be cruel, Steinbeck suggests, but so is life. As long as they remain isolated and individualized (rather than collective, where they could find power in numbers), these "sub-par" people are treated disrespectfully. The same rule applies just as mercilessly to other characters in the novel, animal and human alike.   

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