top-rated free essay

How Does Steinbeck Present Curley's Wife in of Mice and Men

By sonoframbow Mar 02, 2013 1286 Words
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men does not portray women very respectively. Curley’s wife walks the ranch as a seductress. Bored, lonely and always looking for her husband, Curley. When we first encounter her appearance, Steinbeck describes her as having ‘full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up’ this is a prime example of her superfluous character. She is flirtatious and her body language is provocative. Before Curley’s wife makes her first appearance, her personality is emphasised by Candy who gives us a prejudice description of her. “Purty, but... she got the eye”. This shows us that she is attractive though isn’t very loyal and will flirt with anyone. She wears too much makeup and is proud of her hair, “don’t muss it up” – I believe she uses her looks to get attention. Curley’s wife also seems to be obsessed with the colour red – ‘rouged lips… red mules… little bouquets of red ostrich feathers’. Red is the only colour used to describe her and is associated with sex and danger, but also links her to the girl in Weed with the red dress – Steinbeck’s hint that Lennie might hurt Curley’s wife, too. Her relationship with others isn’t very positive at all. She approaches the men at the ranch under the pretext of looking for her husband, “Any you boys seen Curley?”, although it is apparent that she just wants to flirt with them. These men call her “rattrap” and “jail bait”, though this turns out to be true as Lennie is lured by her. They also call her a “God damn tramp”; the men are disgusted by her using her sexuality to get attention. It’s mainly Candy who calls her these things, for example, “tart” this word suggests that she presents herself in a flamboyant manner. No one seems to care about her, not even Curley – when he finds his wife dead, he decides to kill Lennie instead of staying with her. “I’m gonna kill that big son of a bitch. I’ll shoot him in the guts. Come on you guys.” - I got the impression that he sounded almost excited when he said this. He’s using his dead wife as an excuse to brutally kill Lennie. He doesn’t really care about her, he’s just angry that Lennie took something belonging to him. She is referred to throughout the book as ‘Curley’s wife’ and as far as we know, doesn’t have a name. The lack of a name could imply that she is not a woman but rather a possession of her husband. Her identity is merely being someone else’s wife. Candy’s dog also doesn’t have a name, this suggests that they both belong to someone else and emphasises the fact that their destinies are controlled by other people. Also, because Steinbeck might have thought that she wasn’t worthy of a name. At the time it was written, Steinbeck, as a writer of social issues, may have wanted the reader to recognise the role of women in the world, as the lack of a name demotes Curley’s wife to insignificant status. During the great depression in the 1930’s, women were greatly oppressed and were not treated equally to men. Curley’s wife’s entrance, into Crooks’ room, is quite sudden. Steinbeck does not need to introduce her, as the reader can guess it’s her by her phrase, “Any you boys seen Curley?” She looks down at the three men, “left all the weak ones here” and insults them as “a nigger, a dum-dum and a lousy ol’ sheep”. She calls them names as a sort of revenge for all the horrible things she gets called. In this chapter, Curley’s wife wants some power. Like Crooks teasing Lennie, she attacks Crooks because she has power over him. “I could have you strung up on a tree so easy, it ain’t even funny”. She’s implying that she could say he raped her and because he is black, he would be found guilty. Her attitude towards the weaker characters also shows her lack of compassion to other’s feelings. Crooks and Curley’s wife share one thing, which is loneliness.

In chapter 5, Curley’s wife enters the barn, as Steinbeck writes, ‘very quietly’. This suggests that she’s scared of getting caught by Curley. However, she is described as wearing ‘a bright cotton dress and red ostrich feathers’, which is contrasting the word ‘quiet’ because this suggests that she wants to be noticed. Her relationship with Lennie in this scene is rather friendly; she calls him “sonny boy”, she is searching for conversation, at this moment we start to wonder if she’s trying to get anything out of Lennie, or if she is talking to him out of loneliness. When Curley’s wife’s dead body is in the hay, she is described as the same as she was when she was first described in the book. ‘Rouged cheeks and reddened lips.’ this could be that Steinbeck is trying to show that all she lived for was to look pretty. Though, the description this time has a very different atmosphere to it; here she appears young and pretty, like a child that has put on make-up to dress up, not someone who is trying to look like a prostitute. This makes her seem more innocent and vulnerable, she sounds a bit like a china doll which links to Steinbeck describing her voice as ‘brittle’, as china dolls can be brittle. One of the major themes of Curley’s wife is loneliness, “I get awful lonely”; she’s the only woman on the ranch and the men have branded her with derogatory terms, Curley’s wife feels isolated because of this. Because she is so lonely she is always seeking attention and putting great effort into her looks. Curley’s wife also doesn’t suit the ranch. “Ranch with a bunch of guys on it ain’t no place for a girl, specially like her.” George may be implying that she behaves much too enticing and does not meet the ‘criteria’ for a 1930’s housewife living on a male dominated ranch. She fights loneliness with her dreams. Curley’s wife wants recognition. “If I catch any one man, and he’s alone, I get along fine with him. But just let two of the guys together an’ you won’t talk.’ This emphasises to the reader how rejected she feels because the men have their own society on the ranch and she is not a part of it. Steinbeck names the nearby town ‘Soledad’, which is Spanish for ‘loneliness’. He does this to emphasise the point that the characters are lonely. Another key theme Steinbeck’s given her is dreams. Curley’s wife dreams of being a glamorous Hollywood actress, “coulda been in the movies” Curley's wife's naivety is in her attitude towards her dream, “I coulda made something of myself” she refuses to accept that her dream has no chance of becoming true by continuing to say “maybe I will yet” this suggests that she still hopes for a better life. Her dream is very childlike and shows her as a girl rather than a woman. This dream makes her seem young which makes the reader sympathise for her. She talks rapidly about her dream to Lennie. ‘Her words tumbled out in a passion of communication’ this shows that she is truly obsessed by this dream of hers. The word ‘tumbled’ suggests how determined she is to talk about her dream to Lennie, while the word ‘passion’ illustrates her urgency to talk to another to cure her insecurity and loneliness. Though, her death meant that she will never pursue her dream of being a movie star. Nevertheless, her death helped her achieve her dream as it made Curley’s wife the centre of attention.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.