First 733 words of the document:
a) How does Steinbeck present Curley's wife in the novel `Of Mice and Men'? Use details from
the text to support your answer.
Steinbeck presents Curley's wife's life on the ranch as being a miserable one, and a life she didn't
expect to lead with her aspirations of being a movie star. She evidently isn't ready for life on the
ranch, as Steinbeck describes her as a "girl", suggesting that she's young, immature, and possibly
quite quick-tempered and impetuous as she "flared up". This suggests that she makes very quick,
rash decisions, which is supported by the fact that she married Curley the night she met him. Her bad
temper also has strong links to the colour red, which is often thought of as being quite a brash, angry
colour, and is a recurring theme throughout the novel when it comes to Curley's wife. She is
described as wearing red mules and lipstick, and having red nails which she admires frequently. This
could link to Steinbeck's use of a hand motif throughout the story. Curley's wife asks "what
happened to Curley's han'?" after complaining about being stuck with him for a husband, suggesting
that she doesn't have a happy married life, even though they're only 2 weeks into their marriage.
She's extremely sarcastic when referring to her husband "swell guy, ain't he" because of how
she's treated. Everybody thinks less of her as she's a young woman (or possibly even in her late
teens) in the 1930s, which was very much a male dominated society.
Steinbeck uses Candy's reluctance to tell her the truth to show the reader that the men think of her
and how she reacts. She asks "whatta ya think I am, a kid?" which the reader can automatically link to
the way she's treated. Curley may be worried that his wife is going to run off with one of the other
men on the ranch, even though he doesn't realise that they're all afraid of her. To men like George,
Whit or Candy, she's a "tart" or "jailbait", giving more evidence that they think of her as a child, albeit
a dangerous one. This is especially true to Crooks, as even in the 1930s a woman's word was much
more powerful than a black man's.
Curley's wife was, and still is determined to become a movie star. She believes that she could be the
next big thing in Hollywood, and everybody "encourages" her. Despite the fact that she has a very
nasal and brittle voice she insists "I could of went with shows. An' a guy tol' me he was going to put
me in pitchers...".
However, Curley's wife isn't full of the `worldly knowledge' she sees herself as having. She doesn't
understand why she should have to stay at home on a Saturday night, talking to "bindle bums" when
everybody else can go into town including Curley, who 2 weeks into his marriage would probably
have been at the brothel. It's an unhappy life she has at the ranch, where she's like a fish out of
water. When Curley's wife says "an likin' it because they ain't nobody else" the reader understands
how lonely she is. At home she would have had her mother and friends to talk to, whereas on the
ranch she has nobody.
b) How does Steinbeck use other characters in the novel to portray the society Curley's wife
Steinbeck uses the male characters in `Of Mice and Men' to describe the society she lives in. The
more intelligent characters, such as George, Slim and Candy treat her as though she's dangerous and
could get them into trouble (fired, or even in jail), though they don't realise that she just wants
somebody to talk to. The only time she really expresses her frustration at being treated like an
Other pages in this set
Here's a taster:
Lennie in the barn. He's the only person who will stay still long
enough to listen to her, but unfortunately he's too stupid to understand what she means.
There is also an example in chapter 4 when she is standing in Crooks' room with Crooks, Candy, and
Lennie. Curley's wife explains that the only reason she's talking to them is "because they ain't
nobody else".…read more