How is Curley's Wife presented and developed during 'Of Mice and Men' In Parts 2, 4 and 5?

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teacherlady930 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

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Curley's Wife is a fascinating character that is often not given the credit she deserves.  She is a troubled, unhappy young woman who likely tried to escape an unsastisfying or troublesome childhood by naively marrying Curley.  First off, pay attention to her name.  She has none!  Thi is not an accident, but a very symbolic gesture on the part of Steinbeck.  She is not a woman, she is her husband's property. 

Our first meeting of Curley's Wife is ominous; George instantly views her as a sign of trouble.  In chapter 2, shortly after checkin in with the boss, George and Lennie stumble upon the young woman, dressed in red, made up and wearing mules with red feathers.  the color of her attire and the style of her hair and makeup suggest some sexuality, as well as a youthful desire to be found attractive.  She flirts openly with George, immiediately forgetting her mission to find Curley.  After she leaves, George catches Lennie staring at her, and immediately chastizes him.   This is clearly foreshadowing to the eventual end of the work.

In Chapter 4, a new side of this woman is revealed.  She is both lonely and hostile.  In a confrontation with Crooks, Lennie, Candy and George, she openly admits that Curley has broken her records and lashed out at her in anger.   She also turns from victim to abuser when she threatens to have Crooks lynched if he mocks her, disrespects her, or refuses to answe he questions.  In this scene, our sympathy for her may disappear, but it helps to bear in mind that her cruelty comes from a places of anger and lonliness.

In chapter 5, when confronting Lennie in the barn, Curley's Wife tells her tale of being involved with a man who let her down, waiting for his letters, thinking she has the ability to be a movie star, etc;.  However, though my sympathy for her does have a resurgence, it is worth noting that she is confiding in Lennie not in an effort to befriend him, but because she is so desperate not to be ignored.  This point is driven home by the fact that she interrupts Lennie and talks over him several times.

Her death is tragic, but inevitable.  Lennie begins the story much as he starts it.  Like the helpless puppy, and the tiny mouse, she is overwhelmed by Lennie's strength and unable to fight against him.  However, it could also be argued that her selfishness, her desperate need to talk to him, and her refusal to listen and understand him also led to her death.

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