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What methods does Steinbeck use to present Curley's wife?

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pingpong39 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 28, 2012 at 12:48 AM via web

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What methods does Steinbeck use to present Curley's wife?

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted January 28, 2012 at 1:34 AM (Answer #1)

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One of most important characters in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is the character known only as Curley's wife. Throughout the course of the novel, Steinbeck builds up the reader's anticipation regarding her through a variety of methods.

One method is through description provided in conversation between other characters. Our initial encounter with Curley's wife comes in the novel's second chapter in a conversation between the old swamper Candy and George. Candy not only tells George about her physical appearance, but also what she looks at ("she got the eye"): other men besides her husband.

Another way that Steinbeck presents Curley's wife is to show the reactions of other people to Curley's wife. Curley himself dashes into the bunkhouse on one occasion looking for his wife and looking for another of the workers. This behavior shows that Curley is jealous of his wife and this other man.

The reader actually does not see or hear from Curley's wife through direct means until about two-thirds of the way through the novel, when she finally comes into the bunkhouse. At this point, Steinbeck presents her not only through narrative description, but also through her own words.

From a narrative standpoint, we can see that she exudes sexuality:

Her face was heavily made up. Her lips were slightly parted. She breathed strongly, as though she had been running.

 From her own words, laced with grammatical errors and slang speech, we can see that she is no more sophisticated than the farm workers themselves:

 

In sum, Steinbeck presents Curley's wife through conversations that other characters have about her; other characters' reactions to her; narrative descriptions of her; and her own words.

What you think you’re sellin’ me? Curley started som’pin’ he didn’ finish.  

         Caught in a machine—baloney! Why, he ain’t give nobody the good ol’ one

         two since he got his han’ bust. Who bust him?”

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