How Does Steinbeck Present the Character of Curleys Wife

Topics: Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, Great Depression Pages: 6 (2332 words) Published: March 26, 2013
How does Steinbeck present the character of Curleys Wife?
In this essay I am going to be assessing the character Curleys Wife from Steinbeck’s book Of Mice And Men. The book is set in the 1930s during the Great Depression it features two farm workers called George and Lennie. The travel around together in search of work sharing a dream of a place of their own, a small ranch where they can live and work for themselves. It tells the story of how violence may erupt to destroy those dreams. Curleys wife is a character in the book who from the brief encounters with her is presented in two ways. Firstly the dangerous, flirtatious character who isn’t trusted by the rest of the ranch workers but then later one we realize how she is just a victim of loneliness with her being the only girl on the ranch and how she too has an incomplete American Dream to pursue an acting career. Curleys wife is a very important character and is heavily involved in the outcome of the story when George ends up shooting Lennie however there is the question of her innocence. Before we meet Curleys wife, Steinbeck deliberately gives us a first impression of her to let us know their honest views on her with Candy and Georges conversation. Candy starts by saying “Wait’ll you see Curleys wife.”, this makes us anticipated of her and gives us an expectation of what is going to be said about her. During the conversation the only positive thing said was that she was “purty”. She is portrayed as being flirty and not satisfied with her husband when Candy claims “Married two weeks and got the eye? Maybe that’s why Curleys pants is full of ants.” This makes the reader think because if they were newlywed they should be on their honeymoon period however one is overly flirtatious and the metaphor “pants is full of ants” shows the others paranoid over her, this gives us the sense something’s not right with their relationship. Steinbeck exaggerates the use of the phrase “the eye” to mirror the fact she repeatedly flirts with the men in search of attention. Steinbeck describes her negatively when he refers to her as a “tart” when Candy says “well i think Curleys married... a tart”, the ellipsis shows Candy’s unsure whether he should refer to her in such an insulting manner but he chooses to anyway. The conversation prejudices Curleys wife before we even meet her and the fact George thinks she will be trouble prepares the reader for future events. Steinbeck uses his description of Curleys wife carefully to give us a certain first impression on her before finding out more about her. The description starts with “the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off”, the light being cut off could be foreshadowing her being the obstacle that would eventually ruin George and Lennies hopes and dreams. Steinbeck then calls her a “girl” rather than a woman implying her youth and vulnerability, he continues keeps her unnamed to uphold the prejudice women faced in the 1930’s and to show the oppressive misogyny posed against her and how she is only seen through her relation to Curley and is ultimately a possession of his, unworthy of a unique identity. Steinbeck also claims she was “looking in” showing her as an outsider who doesn’t really fit in and when she does look in, it’s to see something she hopes to have in the future, friendship. When Steinbeck starts to describe her appearance he starts with “she had full rouged lips and wide spaced eyes, heavily made up” this makes us realise she hides her face with makeup showing her self-consciousness and gives the impression she is trying to look older however it’s not working by her previously being referred to as a “girl”. Steinbeck repeats the word red when he says “her fingernails were red” and then “red ostrich feathers”, the noun red has many meanings for example, love but it also means danger and stop. This could again be showing signs of what the future could hold for her and how her desire for love becomes a great danger...
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