John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men": Character Analysis of Curley's Wife

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Initially the character of Curley’s Wife is described to the readers by the men on the ranch that George and Lennie last work on, in their conversations with each other, before Curley’s Wife’s character is fully introduced with speech and description of physical appearance. Expressions, such as the idiom “she got the eye”, are used to describe her, implying that she is promiscuous and flirtatious, something that is later emphasised by her being referred to by the derogatory term of “tart£, implying that she is suggestive and perhaps even similar to a prostitute in terms of the way she portrays herself. The word “tart” could also suggest that she presents herself flamboyantly in front of the men at the ranch, illustrating her desperation for attention. The fact that she is married and is still promiscuous and portrays herself flamboyantly in front of other men could suggest that she is unfaithful and immoral, or alternatively that her sexual needs are not fulfilled by her husband, providing a reasonable explanation to why Curley wears a glove “fulla vasaline”, something that is seen as “dirty” by George. She is described to be “heavily made up” which could add to her being unfaithful and untrue as she almost is disguised and covered up by cosmetics, covering her real natural appearance. Steinbeck purposefully conveys Curley’s Wife negatively through the ranch men in order to create an initial pessimistic and hateful approach toward her character by the readers. The lack of power and authority that revolves around Curley’s Wife is personified through her being referred to as either merely someone’s wife, or, through derogatory terms such as “tart” and “jailbait”, by the men at the ranch. Her lack of identity could be a symbol purposefully created by the author to inform the readers about the insignificance of a woman’s role in society during the Great Depression, and how men were far more dominant in relationships, leading to women having unequal, if any, power. Men are shown to be more dominant as instead of Curley being referred to as his wife’s husband; his wife is referred to as his wife, and never by her own name. Also, her being talked about as someone’s wife could suggest she is seen more as a possession than a person. Furthermore her lack of identity straight away demotes her status at the ranch, making her seem unimportant and also making her similar to other powerless and low status people on the ranch such as Candy and Crooks. There is a sense of irony in section four when Curley’s Wife refers to Crooks, Candy and Lennie as the “weak ones” on the ranch, when they have been left behind by other workers who have gone out, whereas she doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that she isn’t even called by her name, and is seen more of a possession and item of Curley, rather than a person. As the novel progresses and develops, so does the character of Curley’s Wife. Curley’s Wife is portrayed as bold and dangerous character when she is fully introduced, developing her from being someone who isn’t known well or cared about, to someone who is feared, as she is avoided by everyone, hence making her powerful. At times it seems that even her own husband is trying to abandon her as she is always “Looking for Curley”. Part of the reason to why she is avoided includes the ranch workers thinking of her as “jailbait” and a “rat trap”. The words “bait” and “trap” are cross linked as one has connotations such as allurement, temptation and imply her being provocative, where the other has connotations such as fear suffering and imply her being dangerous, therefore displaying her as powerful. The colour of her lips is red, “rouged lips”, her nails are red “her fingernails were red” and, the colour of her shoes is red “she wore/.. red mules”. The colour red has connotations such as fire, fury, anguish and pain, emphasising the point that she is dangerous. Alternatively, the colour red also has connotations such as romance, allurement,...
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