Of Mice and Men was written by John Steinbeck in the mid 1930’s and published in 1937 when America had started to recover from the Wall Street Crash. The 1920's were a 'boom-time' in America, there was plenty of work and money was easily made but the 1930's brought unemployment and poverty. The attitudes to women in his novel are in the main unflattering. Steinbeck depicts them as unintelligent and most of the women in the novel cause some kind of trouble or discomfort for the main characters George and Lennie.
At the beginning of the novel they are on the road traveling to a ranch after having fled from a ranch in Weed. When they arrive they already find a possible source of trouble in the form of Curley's wife. Being attractive and the only woman on the ranch George foresees that Lennie simple minded approach might get him into trouble as it had in their previous job. However Curley's wife doesn't make it easy for them, being married to an unpleasant man she spends her time hanging around the bunk house flirting with the workmen. But despite George trying to keep him out of harms way Lennie's inquisitive nature eventually gets the better of him and so does his strength leaving George with a difficult decision to make.
The only women mentioned in the novel are Curley’s wife, Lennie's Aunt Clara, a girl in Weed and the prostitutes in the 'cat house'. The main female character in the novel is Curley's wife, as she is known to the reader. She has no name, which shows Steinbeck’s disregard for her as an individual, but she is fundamental to the plot development. In a review of the film Of Bindlestiffs, Bad Times, Mice and Men, in 1992 The New York Times interviewed Steinbeck's widow and asked why Steinbeck had never given Curley’s Wife and name and she explained that Steinbeck said “She’s not a person, she's a symbol. She has no function, except to be a foil – and a danger to Lennie." Her