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To what extent can the character of Curley's wife in Of Mice and Men be regarded as a...

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plzmn | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:26 PM via web

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To what extent can the character of Curley's wife in Of Mice and Men be regarded as a tragic figure?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 6, 2012 at 5:22 PM (Answer #1)

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There is little that is truly tragic about Curley's wife other than the fact that she dies. For, she has freely chosen to marry Curley and leave her town where there has been the opportunity for socialization and, instead, place herself in the situation in which she does that leaves her alienated and lonely. 

Certainly, on the ranch, Curley's wife is not the victim until Lennie inadvertently strangles her.  Instead, she plays the role of the temptress, the Eve, who interferes with the fraternity of men. When, for instance, she stands in the bunkhouse doorway, with her vampish "rouged lips," red mules and fingernails, and her hair hanging in "lttle rolled clusters," she smiles and arches and twitches her body seductively, desiring attention from the men. Her appearance causes tension among the men as the jealous Curley inquires of her, and as others know that she is "jail bait" and a potential cause of much hostility. Eventually, she becomes the nemesis of Lennie and George and responsible for the death of the dream of the farm in which George, Candy, and even Curley have begun to believe.  Over her lifeless body, Candy scolds,

"You...tramp,....You done it, didn't you? I s'pose your're glad.  Ever'body knowed you'd mess things up.  You wasn't no good.  You ain't no good now, you lousy tart."

The temptress who becomes villain, Curley's wife possesses little that is tragic other than a wasted life.

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