Curleys Wife

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What do we learn about Curley’s Wife in “Of Mice and Men”?

John Steinbeck is an author who is effectively able to describe his characters not just through direct speech and description, but also indirectly through description. The reader is able to extrapolate and formulate ideas about the character for themselves, and this is truly an impressive tool.

Curley’s wife’s reputation precedes her. Candy, the old swamper talks to George and Lennie about Curley’s wife. His short, yet powerful sentence “Wait’ll you see Curley’s wife” is warning enough to George who realises that she may not be completely honest or trustworthy. Continuing the discussion, it becomes apparent that Curley’s wife has “got the eye”. From this, the reader can deduce that Curley’s wife is coquettish, as she looks at men frequently. Thus, George’s suspicions are valid as the reader finds out progressing through the story.

The reader is able to get a more in-depth description of her when she physically appears for the first time in the bunkhouse. Steinbeck describes her as having “full, rouged lips”, and eyes “heavily made up”. This suggests that she may frequently use too much make-up creating the impression of her being a “tart” as it was so delicately put previously in the novel. Her body language is provocative as she positions herself in the doorway so that “her body was thrown forward”. She smiles “archly” and “twitched her body”. The general impression the reader gains is of a young girl who is pretty and wants the attention of men.

As soon as Lennie announces that he thinks Curley’s wife is “purty”, it’s quite clear to George that she is a potential threat. To George, she is “jail bait”. They way she acts does indeed suggest that after what happened in Weed, she could make life difficult for the two men. However, whether Steinbeck’s intent is to make us condemn or condone Curley’s wife is intriguing. She’s an interesting character, and the reader gets to see...
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