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How does society prevent Curley's wife from living her American Dream in Of Mice and Men?

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plopn | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 27, 2011 at 3:37 AM via web

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How does society prevent Curley's wife from living her American Dream in Of Mice and Men?

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted July 27, 2011 at 4:00 AM (Answer #1)

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In Of Mice and Men, Curley's wife lives out on an isolated ranch. She has little connection with society. That is why she desires so much attention form the ranch hands. She once dreamed had big dreams:

But she is pathetically lonely and had once had dreams of being a movie star.

Although she dreamed of being a movie star, there is no certainty that she could have been one. She does not seem to have any friends. She is flirtations with the men on the ranch:

Curley's wife (as the boss's son's flirtatious wife, she is not identified by any other name) wanders around the ranch searching for some human contact. She is stereotyped by the men as a "tart."

She has no contacts with outside people. She lives in such an isolated area until she has no chance to make her dream come true. Therefore, she can only dream of becoming a famous movie star. Also, there is no indication in the story that she was even close to living the American Dream. So she suffers because she is isolated from society.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 27, 2011 at 4:50 AM (Answer #2)

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While her isolation on the ranch adds to her lack of opportunities, the more intrinsic problem with Curley's wife's attainment of her dreams is the fact that she is exploited by men and has no real identity.  For, she is but a genitive of her husband as indicated by her lack of a personal name, and her simply being called "Curley's wife." 

From her personal narrative that she provides Lennie, the reader also discerns that her life has always been lived in terms of men.  When she was young, she tells Lennie, a show came through her town and she met one of the actors,

"He says I could go with that show.  But my ol'lady wouldn' let me.  She saysbecause I was on'y fifteen.  But the guy says I coulda.  If I'd went, I wouldn't be livin' like this, you bet."

"'Nother time I met a guy, an' he was in pitchers.  Went out to the Riverside Dance Palace with him.  He says he was gonna put me in the movies...."

Clearly, then, Curley's wife's lack of true identity and dependency upon men have been the greatest impediments towards her achieving any kind of individual dream. In a male-driven society, she is lost whether she is in Salinas or on the ranch.

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