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I think that Curley's wife can be seen to represent a couple of elements. One would have to be the painful weight of dreams. Curley's wife represents what happens when dreams fail and the burden this weight places on the individual. Her entire being is rooted in the idea that she could have been something more than she actually is. In this, Curley's wife is representative of the not only the death of dreams and the personal, stinging failure this causes, but also what happens when individuals must live with their own futility. Her desire and hopes to be in "pitchers" collide with being the only woman on this ranch, a collection of others whose failures represent the sum total of their own consciousness. In this, she represents what it means to both fail and how pain- ridden consciousness is when one lives with this. I think that this becomes one of her primary functions in the novella. Her entire moment with Lennie is a moment to be admired and to be loved, like she would have been on screen had she been an actress in "pitchers." It only makes sense that this would be the instant that ends up killing her, a reminder that the pain of failed dreams can be a form of death in its own way.
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