How does Steinbeck present Curley’s wife to the reader? What is her importance in the novel?
In order to discuss how Steinbeck presents Curley’s wife to the reader one would determine that many readers would interpret her character and importance in many diversified ways. In this essay, one must elaborate on Steinbeck’s true definition of the one and only female in the novel.
First and foremost other females in the novel are mentioned but not greeted with a presence like Curley’s wife. A girl that Lennie scares in ‘Weed’ is mentioned in a past tense and most importantly Lennie’s Aunt Clara is mentioned several times where sometimes she can be perceived as the absent centre. Nonetheless the reader is finally graced with Aunt Clara’s presence towards the end of the novel as an imaginary figure to Lennie’s symbolic vision.
Be that as it may, Curley’s wife is the only female character that the reader is properly acknowledged with. As she is the only female in the novel which is set in a mans world, one would come to the conclusion that Curley’s wife is possibly the loneliest character in the novel. Steinbeck presents Curley’s wife as a lonely character by reason of her being introduced through the view point of other characters. In other words she is used as a product of gossip [.
Candy, the old Swamper, will attempt to entertain George and Lennie by making harsh accusations about her at Curley’s wife expense. She is presented as a flirt with loose sexual morals. “She got the eye”. She’s “Jail Bait”. As the ranchers have these subjected views of her they believe the famous saying ‘The female of the species is more deadly that the male.’
In Curley’s wife case, it is simply not true. She is extremely lonely and therefore craves the attention of other men just so that she can be stimulated by innocent conversation, nothing more. “Why can’t I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely”. This is evidence enough of her lonely status. Steinbeck presents all of the characters in the novel as being lonely. However, they are all lonely in different ways, Curley's wife is lonely due to the fact that she is a newly married woman. She is neglected by her husband Curley as she is used as an object for Curley’s sexual desires. She is viewed with suspicion as a “tart”, by the ranch hands. Most importantly Candy is the main person who gossips about Curley’s wife. The technical term for this is that he narrates the gossip in third person. He tells George and Lennie that “Curley keeps his hand soft for his wife”. He implies that Curley puts “Vaseline on his hand”. This Vaseline passage absorbs the reader and disgusts them. We gather from this statement that the ranch hands have no respect for Curley’s wife as she is treated as only being there for her husband’s sexual desires. This extenuates how Steinbeck has made her character to be the true outsider of the novel.
Lennie is the only character who falls under her seduction, as he says “She’s purty”. The word ‘purty’ is deliberately spelt wrong due to the fact, that Steinbeck wanted realism and authenticity in the sound of working class American accents. This adjective is used to describe Curley's wife through out the novel, and finally towards the end of the novel when she dies, the word ‘purty’ is spelt correctly as the narrator describes her features and not a character in the novel. “She was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young”. From Lennie's ‘purty’ comment, George becomes angry and makes oft-repeated assertions that the girl will bring nothing but trouble. George demands that Lennie stays away from her as he perceives her as a hindrance on their ability to achieve their dream of living off the fat of the land. George is obviously concerned about Lennie’s wellbeing as he does not want a repeat of what happened between Lennie and the girl in Weed.
Curley’s wife may be “Jail bait” in the eyes...