Of Mice and Men is a novel set on a ranch in the Salinas Valley in California, during the Great Depression of the 1930s by John Steinbeck. It was the first work to bring Steinbeck’s national recognition as a writer. The book addresses the real hopes and dreams of working-class America. Steinbeck's short novel raises the lives of the poor and dispossessed to a higher, symbolic level. The title suggests that plans of Mice and Men often go awry, a reference to Robert Burn’s poem "To a Mouse." Since the novel has been published, it has been called “Vulgar” and “Offensive”; perhaps because of the way it mentally handicapped people, people of different races (black people) and the way in which women were portrayed. *Of Mice and Men is purposely set in Salinas-Steinbeck observes his environment and writes his novels based on his senses. This probably affected the way he wrote. This makes him very familiar with the characters he gives birth to and helps us develop a deep understanding of them too. Steinbeck creates many characters and develops them deeply. One of those characters is Curley’s wife. By becoming familiar with her, we come to an understanding of the tragedy of life. We see many perspectives of her, some negative and some positive. We feel ourselves orbiting this character. But we see ourselves evolving as the character also does. She could be interpreted as a ‘miss-fitting’ character in the novel, as no one relaters to her. So how does Steinbeck present and develop Curley’s wife in Of Mice and Men?
Throughout the book, Curley’s Wife is often portrayed in a negative view, the way most men would have thought of women in those times. She is first introduced to the reader through Candy. She is called a ‘tart’, which instinctively creates a biased opinion of her. When we meet her ‘full rouged lips,’ ‘wide-spaced eyes heavily made up,’ ‘red fingernails’ and her ‘hair hung in little rolled clusters like sausages,’ her description seems to fit Candy’s, so the ‘tart theory’ is almost confirmed. He makes Curley’s wife sound gamy and brash as he describes her. *Her appearance in the story suggests that she is incongruous on a working ranch and that she is living an opposite life of that she would want to live. She is clearly too overdressed for ranch life. Being a pretty woman is proof to her incongruous actions. She boasts with importance and dresses like a ‘tramp’. Her appearance is actually a cry to be noticed and admired by men on the ranch. This could be a result of the failing, empty marriage she is in. Candy says, “well-she’s got the eye”. This automatically shows me that the environment has to be aware of Curley’s wife as she is troublesome and nervy. Curley’s wife has a certain way of talking to other men, a flirtatious way.
Steinbeck first introduces Curley’s wife as wearing red clothing. Red could symbolise many things; seduction, trouble, danger, ‘a bad thing’. Red foreshadows a coming event so despite having only met Curley’s wife, we intuition that something bad is going to happen and she will be the main cause. This made me, as the reader, think of all the possible outcomes, leaving me curious and wanting to read on. Red can be associated with opposites such as, ‘blood,’ and ’Valentine’s Day’. The colour red has many shades and textures. This can reflect how Curley’s wife’s character changes throughout the book-from dark to light and thick to thin. This perception is further emphasized by Curley's Wife's first appearance in the novel. Steinbeck uses light symbolically to show that she can be imposing when he writes, "The rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off." A rectangle is a four sided shape, which suggests that she has four different sides to herself. These four sides could show the different stages in Of Mice and Men where Curley’s wife is presented with different features that alter our perspectives about her. These stages include first impressions, immediately after her death, her talk with...
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