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Loneliness is a dominant theme in "Of Mice and Men." Loneliness drives Curley's wife to seek companionship from the men, causing Curley to forbid the men to "even look at her." Curley's wife tells us late in the story she married him out of impulse and spite; she thought her mother took the letter from a man who had promised her a place in the movies. She tells Lennie she dislikes her belligerant husband.
Candy dislikes Curley's wife. He describes her to George as a "tart"; he says she possesses the "eye" after a mere two weeks after her marriage to Curley. George dislikes Curley's wife as well. When Lennie says he thinks she is pretty, George tells Lennie not to talk to her at all. He calls her a "bitch" and "jailbait"; he says that she is trouble just waiting to happen. Lennie is entranced by Curley's wife. She wears red shoes with ostrich feathers, and is a lovely young woman. He is diffident around her because George told him not to have anything to do with her. When he finally does have a conversation with her, disaster strikes. Slim is the only one of the men to treat Curley's wife with any kindness (Curley certainly does not). He is unafraid of Curley as the skiled "prince of the ranch", and addresses her as "Good-lookin'" when she asks the whereabouts of her husband. Crooks dislikes Curley's wife because she intrudes in his room when Candy and Lennie are in there and threatens him with lynching (she implies she will tell the men he attempted to rape her) if he dares to tell the boss not to allow her in the barn anymore.
Curley's wife is alone and isolated on the ranch. She is one of several characters associated with the idea of social isolation and social powerlessness in the novel.
When speaking with Lennie in the barn in the book's penultimate chapter, Curley's wife explains her feelings and clings to the moment of stolen compaionship with Lennie.
When she finally gets Lennie still, “her words tumbled out in a passion of communication, as though she hurried before her listener could be taken away.”
She says that she does not like Curley and that the only company she gets is during meals. She is unhappily lonesome and appreciates Lennie's company, however briefly, as a rare bit of human contact.
Deciding aloud that he is “nuts” but “like a big baby,” she takes Lennie’s hand and lets him stroke her soft hair.
Curley's wife is seen as a "tart" because she insinuates herself into situations where she does not belong, according to social standards of the time. She also apparently has little intellectual guile and so has difficulty breaking away from the stereotypical means of getting attention as a young woman among a group of men. For this reason, perhaps, she seems to flirt when she really simply wants someone to talk to. This flirtation is a direct result of her loneliness and desire for companionship, but it is seen only as flirting and therefore as a dangerous temptation for the men.
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