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Does Curley's wife deserve the reader's sympathy in Of Mice and Men?John Steinbeck's Of...

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heyhon | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 30, 2010 at 2:35 PM via web

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Does Curley's wife deserve the reader's sympathy in Of Mice and Men?

John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 30, 2010 at 2:41 PM (Answer #2)

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I suppose that would depend on the reader, but I felt both sympathy and frustration with her.  She is a very lonely person, married to Curley, who sure isn't the best husband in history.  She is the only woman on the entire ranch, emphasized by Steinbeck in that he doesn't even give her a name, just "Curley's Wife", and she pretty much has no way to leave the ranch even for recreation or time with friends, much less permanently as she would like.  So she is stuck with a jealous, angry husband, and a farm full of men who ignore her.  Not a fun time.

On the other hand, to compensate for being alone most of the time, she flirts with almost any man within range, and this causes all sorts of trouble for Lennie and Slim and George, all characters we like in the book and root for.  So while we sympathize with the wife, we also wish she would just go away and leave our heroes alone.

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 30, 2010 at 2:53 PM (Answer #3)

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Curley's wife deserves sympathy for her injust death and that's about it, in my opinion. She brings on her own trouble throughout the majority of the text. I guess sympathy could come into play as we see that she does what she does because she has no opportunity for friends now that she married Curley. But, that was a consequence borne of her own choice.

Her death was not fair, it served a literary purpose so it could drive home the point about Lennie's underassessed condition, which we further look at as a representation for how we don't cut people much slack for being different or weaker than us. She did nothing to Lennie to earn the death, and after a person is dead, sympathy isn't even worth it because nothing can be done.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 30, 2010 at 5:45 PM (Answer #4)

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One interpretation of her in Steinbeck's novel of the alienated and displaced man is that she is an Eve, a temptress, who disrupts the important fraternity of men, and is, therefore, unworthy of any sympathy.  In Chapter 2, when George notices her standing in the doorway of the bunkhouse she has "rouged lips" with red fingernails and red shoes with "red ostrich feathers."  She leans against the doorway "so that her body was thrown forward" and smiles "archly and twitched her body."  Her pretext of looking for Curley is false; Slim tells her that he has seen her husband going toward their house.  After she leaves, Lennie remarks, "She's purty," and George scolds,

"Listen to me,....Don't you even take a look at that bitch.  I don't care what she says and what she does.  I seen 'em poison before, but I never see not piece of jail bait worse than her.  You leave her be."

That Curley's wife does not love her husband and is merely concerned with her own pleasure and welfare is revealed in her conversation with Lennie in Chapter 5 in which she reveals that she married Curley to get away from the little town in which she lived:

Well, I wasn't gonna stay no place where I couldn't get nowhere or make something of myself, an' where they stole your letters....So I married Curley.  Met him out to the Riverside Dance Palace that same night....Well, I ain't told this to nobody before...I don' like Curley...

So, Curley's wife deserves little sympathy, although her death is tragic.  For, in Steinbeck's naturalistic world, the indifference of the universe is evident, just as it is in Robert Burns's poem from which the novella's title comes.  The best laid plans of Curley's wife and those of George and Lennie all go askew

And leave us nothing but grief and pain

For promised joy. 

 

 

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted February 7, 2011 at 11:56 PM (Answer #5)

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I feel most sympathy for Curley's wife over anyone else in the novel. She has no identity, (ie no name) no respect, (as her husband of two weeks goes off with the other men to the whorehouse) no friends and no future.

She craves attention, any attention, and tries to get it the only way she knows how; the way that used to work in the Riverside Dance Hall. Only life is no dance for her. It is bleak, lonely and past its prime. I find it deeply tragic that a young vital woman reminisces that she 'could'a been in movies' when her life should be ahead of her with friends, family, children and love. Her husband seeks to avenge her death only to soothe his own injury. She is loved by no-one and mourned by no-one.

 

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poppyyy2010 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 4, 2011 at 10:20 PM (Answer #7)

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I feel most sympathy for Curley's wife over anyone else in the novel. She has no identity, (ie no name) no respect, (as her husband of two weeks goes off with the other men to the whorehouse) no friends and no future.

She craves attention, any attention, and tries to get it the only way she knows how; the way that used to work in the Riverside Dance Hall. Only life is no dance for her. It is bleak, lonely and past its prime. I find it deeply tragic that a young vital woman reminisces that she 'could'a been in movies' when her life should be ahead of her with friends, family, children and love. Her husband seeks to avenge her death only to soothe his own injury. She is loved by no-one and mourned by no-one.

 

She is mourned by Slim, who has felt sympathy for her throughout.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:51 AM (Answer #8)

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Curley's wife deserve's sympathy for two reasons, I would say.

First, the story she tells about how she could have been a movie star or the star of a show really demonstrates her yearning for a better life and either a willingness to be duped or a desparate need to believe in a positive future for herself. The fact that she is so gullible might be enough to earn her sympathy, but beyond that we can consider what drives her to be so gullible. If she has any intelligence, she knows that she is being lied to, yet she chooses to believe the lies because they represent what she feels she needs out of life - a future.

Second, she didn't know what she was getting into exactly when she married Curley and she becomes trapped. The outcome of her marriage is an exact counterpoint to the dream she had of becoming independent and famous as a film star.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 22, 2012 at 5:46 AM (Answer #9)

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I think that Curley's wife does deserve some sympathy. She obviously had no idea what she was getting into when she married Curley. (Perhaps she never thought about the move.) She lives on the ranch with no women around and because Curley is so jealous, she is very lonely because he does not want any of the men talking to her.

I don't think she is terribly bright—or perhaps she is simply not realistic. She has dreams of being a star and here she is living on a farm in the middle of the Great Depression where everyone in the country is suffering, including the film industry. She should be more realistic and thankful that she has a home. Certainly other women have faced a similar situation of living on a farm with only farmhands around, etc. Perhaps my only expectation of Curley's wife is that she might have found other more constructive ways to fill her time other than hanging around the men; but instead of embracing her life as it is, she dreams of what she wants it to be, and living on the farm has no place in that dream.

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wordist | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:20 PM (Answer #10)

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It's hard to be sympathetic for someone who's as cruel as she was toward Lennie, Candy and especially Crooks, whom she threatened with lynching. She even acted as though she had no fear of Curley: "I'd like to give him a punch myself." She went so far as to express disdain toward Lennie, a mental cripple, referring to him as "a machine," saying "I like machines."

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 29, 2013 at 1:18 AM (Answer #13)

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Curley's wife is not a real person but a character created by John Steinbeck. From the beginning it was his intention to have her killed by Lennie. Lennie has to do something terrible and unforgivable in order for George to decide to shoot him. This is what the story is about: a man kills his best friend out of compassion. Naturally we feel sorry for Curley's wife--but Steinbeck doesn't want us to feel too sorry for her because that would make us feel less sorry for Lennie as well as for George. Steinbeck inserted that memorable scene in which the girl frightens and humiliates Crooks in order to make her seem somewhat less sympathetic. Otherwise she is just an unfortunate, unhappy, very young girl who is an innocent victim of Curley, Lennie, and an underprivileged background. Steinbeck was trying to make the girl seem like a real person, trying to make her sympathetic but not too sympathetic, cruel but not too cruel, immoral but not too immoral. He did not want her to steal the spotlight from Lennie. If we feel too sorry for Curley's wife when she is killed, then we won't feel sufficiently sorry for Lennie when he gets killed; we would feel that he got just what he deserved. That would spoil Steinbeck's great dramatic ending, which was what he was aiming for from the time he wrote the first sentence of his book. Of Mice and Men is George and Lennie's story.

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plzmn | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:28 PM (Answer #11)

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yes as she is a girl on her own.

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historiaamator | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted November 29, 2012 at 3:00 PM (Answer #12)

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I believe so. She is trapped and married to a less-than-stellar husband(who goes into town to sleep with light-skirts! Before their one month anniversay.)  and she has no friends. She has an unjust death.She has a broken dream of being a film star.

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