High School - 10th Grade
Steinbeck uses Curley’s wife to present the theme of loneliness in Of Mice and Men. Her real name is never revealed in the story, showing that she has never been considered as a real person with an identity of her own. In fact, Steinbeck depicts women as troublemakers who bring ruin on men and drive them mad- Curley’s bad temper has only worsen since their marriage. Her purpose in the book is rather simple- she is a ‘tramp’, a ‘tart’ and ‘a bitch’ that threatens to destroy male happiness. Moreover, in the novel, we can frequently see that Curley and his wife is looking for each other, but we do not see them together, except when she is dead. Since Curley’s wife is the only female in the ranch, it is only out of jealous suspicion that Curley goes looking for her, at the same time, showing off to those ranchmen. However, Curley’s wife looks for him simply out of boredom and possibly as an excuse to spend time with other men, which makes her a pathetic figure.
Later in the novel, Curley’s wife becomes more complex. When she confronts Lennie, candy and Crooks in the stable, she admits to feeling a kind of shameless dissatisfaction with her life. She shows her vulnerability when she admits to Lennie about her dream of becoming a movie star, which make her utterly human and much more interesting than a stereotypical hag/vixen in a fancy red dress. In her moment of greatest vulnerability, Curley’s wife seeks out even greater weakness in others, preying upon Lennie’s mental handicap; candy’s debilitating age and the colour of Crook’s skin in order to make herself feels better. In addition, Steinbeck has used a lot of adjectives to describe the first appearance of her, giving her a tarty, flirtatious image, and perhaps is her flirtiness which has brought her the caustic tragedy.
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