Hierarchy within the ranch Candy: Candy is the first character from the ranch that is introduced within the book. As a swamper, his role is to clean up in the ranch, therefore meaning he is not of much importance. Steinbeck offers a brief description of Candy, revealing to us that he is old and has lost one hand. Other than that, Steinbeck does not go into great detail regarding Candy as he does with the other characters, which does not give much away. This could simply mean that Candy is merely another worker in the ranch and is not of a high position within the hierarchy.
However, the way in which he retells stories of what occurred in the ranch to George and Lennie gives the impression that Candy has been in the ranch for a long time and knows of what goes on. E. g. ‘know what he done Christmas? Brang a gallon of whisky right in here’. Boss: As the boss, he is obviously at the top of the ranch hierarchy. His clothing further emphasises his high position e. g. ‘he wore high heeled boots and spurs’. The apprehensive way in which Candy behaved around the boss also signals his high position. E. g. ‘shuffled to the door rubbing his whiskers with his knuckles as he went’.
Candy was wary of the boss and was effectively ‘walking on eggshells’ when around the boss. Curley: One of the very first things we are told about Curley is that, like the boss, he wore high heeled boots which, in this book, seems to symbolise a certain degree of wealth and a high status. He clearly has an aggressive streak (e. g. ‘His glance was at once calculating and pugnacious’) and behaves in a very hostile manner towards George and Lennie. E. g. ‘His arms gradually bent at the elbows and his hands closed into fists’. Being the boss’ son he, inevitably, is of a high position in the ranch.
Not higher than the boss, but still high. Curley’s wife: Upon entering, Curley’s wife cut off the rays of sunshine into the bunk. This almost immediately signals that she is going to be trouble. She wore mostly red (a scarlet woman) and her makeup was heavily done. E. g. ‘she had full, rouged lips and wide spaced eyes, heavily made up’. As the boss’ daughter in law, she too has a high position within the ranch, but the workers do not seem to receive her well. George instantly takes a disliking to her (e. g. ‘Jesus, what a tramp’), and all of the others are wary of socialising with her.
Socially, she is rather low down in the hierarchy, but when it comes to influential power, she is rather high. Slim: Straight away, one can see that Slim is of high importance within the ranch. Steinbeck gives him majestic qualities, instantly leaving the impression Slim is respected and well established in the ranch. E. g. ‘He moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen’ and ‘the prince of the ranch’. The words ‘prince of the ranch’ says it all. He is not quite head (king) of the ranch, but he is of very high importance. He is not higher than the boss, but is quite possibly second in command.