Curley's wife is an example of how our perception of a character can change without the character actually changing. She is portrayed as both a villain and victim throughout the course of the novel. Despite Steinbeck's rendering she emerges as a relatively complex and intricate character who through the course of the novel, our feelings become sympathetic towards. Throughout the novel she is shown in different lights, as from section 2 to section 5 in the novel, her character evolves and her sweeter and more vulnerable side is shown in contrast to her first appearance which portrays her as imposing and a trouble maker.
Throughout the course of the novel, it appears women are treated with contempt and Steinbeck generally depicts women as trouble-makers who bring ruin on men and drive them mad. Aside from wearisome wives "Of Mice and Men" offers limited rather misogynistic descriptions of women who are either dead, maternal figures or prostitutes.
We first hear about Curley's wife when Candy describes her to George. He describes her using expressions such as "she got the eye" and "tart". Through Candy's words we develop an initial perception of Curley's wife as being flirtatious and even promiscuous. This perception is further emphasized by Curley's wife first appearance in the novel. Steinbeck appears to use light symbolically to show that she can be imposing when he writes "The rectangle of light was cut off". He describes her as having "full rouged lips and wide spaced eyes, heavily made up" as well as "Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages." This builds on our preconceptions of her being villainous and portrays a negative image of her. This makes readers perceive her as a seductive temptress who all the men at the ranch appear to avoid and see as trouble.
As we dwell further into the novel, it appears she is dissatisfied with her marriage to a brutish man and is constantly looking for excitement or trouble...
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