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Slim sat in silence for a moment. "Didn't hurt the girl none, huh?" he asked finally.
"Hell no. He just scared her. I'd be scared too, if he grabbed me. But he never hurt her. He jus' wanted to touch that red dress, like he wants to pet them pups all the time."
"He ain't mean," said Slim. "I can tell a mean guy from a mile off." (3.28-30)
And here's the question: does it matter? To be truly just, do we have to take intention into consideration—or is it the action that counts? Deep thoughts, Mr. Steinbeck.
"I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog." (3.234)
In the (paraphrased) words of George R. R. Martin, you'd better not condemn someone to death unless you're willing to carry out the execution. It's not very manly, and it's not very just.
George said, "Slim, will we get canned now? We need the stake. Will Curley's old man can us now?"
Slim smiled wryly. He knelt down beside Curley. "You got your senses in hand enough to listen?" he asked. Curley nodded. "Well then listen," Slim went on. "I think you got your han' caught in a machine. If you don't tell nobody what happened, we ain't going to. But you jus' tell an' try to get this guy canned and we'll tell ever'body, an' then will you get the laugh. (3.259-260)
Slim is the ranch's judge, jury, and jailor: he assess the situation, decides who needs to be punished, and then carries out that punishment. It works okay if a guy like Slim is in charge, but what happens if a guy like Curley managed to gain control? Or is Steinbeck saying that only a man like Slim could earn the necessary respect?