Curleys Wife - of Men and Mice

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Examine How Steinbeck presents the character of Curley’s wife. Refer closely to the text in your answers to support your views.

Of Men and Mice is not kind in its portrayal of women. In fact, women are treated with contempt throughout the course of the book. Steinbeck generally depicts women as troublemakers who bring ruin to men and drive them mad. Curley’s wife, who walks the ranch as a temptress seems to be a prime example of the destructive tendency. Despite the author’s rendering, Curley’s wife emerges as a relatively complex and interesting character. Although her purpose is rather simple in the book’s opening pages, she is the “tramp”, “tart” and “bitch” that threatens to destroy male happiness and longevity. The social setting of the novel is also important, as it could later explain characters attitudes towards other people. It is set in the U.S. in the 1930s; this is the time of the Great Depression. This was a result of the First World War. It affected the rich and poor alike, factory workers and farmers, bankers and stockbrokers. In short, it affected everyone; no one was left untouched. But of all the people hurt, farmers were the worst off. Curley’s wife is first introduced in person to us in a symbolic way; this is shown when George is talking to Lennie about the dream and when Curley’s wife first meets both men. “Both men glanced up, for a rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off.” The symbolic meaning of the word sunshine is hope, freedom, happiness and dreams. This foreshadows that she may cause trouble or come in the way and could ruin it all for Lennie and George. She is also described as a “girl”, which tells us that she is very playful, childish and vulnerable. Her appearance later in the novel becomes more complex. But even before this we are forewarned about her, Candy tells George and Lennie about her, making her out at the wrong type to begin with, “Married to weeks and got the eye? Maybe that is why Curley’s pants is full...
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