Steinbeck’s power intriguing tale of ranch men represent the hostilities, isolation and violence that plagues 1930s society. This is shown through a minor yet significant character Carlson who exemplifies the concept of the survival of the fittest. Carlson is a product of the harsh economic circumstances as this is the only way he will survive.
Steinbeck employs Carlson as a character that represents the strong, predators of society who dictate others who appear physically weaker. Steinbeck emphasizes his physical presences by: “A powerful, big-stomached man”. The emphasis of ‘powerful’ conveys how he appears stronger to show that he can defeat all of the other ranch men which means it is less likely for his job to go.
As at the time unemployment was widespread showed how Carlson does not merely dominate and as his job is unstable, therefore to keep his job he had to defeat the other ranch men as he has an assumption that people will respect him. Therefore, this presents the 1930s culture of hostility as harsh place as Carlson is having to be aggressive and attempt to exert his authority to mask his insecurity he may also be signaling to the other ranch hand that he is better.
Moreover Steinbeck portrays Carlson as a violent figure who seems to love physical conflict. We realize how brutal life was at this time as violence was the means of escapism from isolated migrant worker lifestyle. Steinbeck emphasizes this by the harsh and insensitive tone of Carlson when he says “whyn’t you get Candy to shoot his old dog… I can smell that dog a mile away.” Here, Steinbeck possibly suggest that it is the proper and just action as in the desperate times of the depression a utilitarian approach to life was necessary and sentimentality was actively discouraged.
However, the fact that Carlson has prepared carefully by speaking to Slim first shows how manipulative and knows how the power of the hierarchy works. This shows how cruel society is as they have to use other people to voice their opinions. Also the ‘luger’ Carlson carries shows how he may have been a veteran in World War one and therefore he may have been traumatized and yet is having to live a hard life. He fought for society but now the government isn’t even looking after him and he is having to work on the ranch.
Furthermore, Steinbeck conveys the unrealistic of dreams,he reinforces how pointless the dreams are through the brutality of Carlson’s actions. Lastly, Carlson is an insensitive individual who does not consider any feelings for anyone.
This shows how Carlson is a conventional person who is physically capable to make enough money to survive therefore ha has no ambitions in life to gain freedom. As he knows dreams are unachievable he doesn’t bother to pursue the American dream. Carlson is aware of reality therefore he believes you have to live in the present in order to have a happy life instead of giving hopes to yourself.