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Why doesn't the author give Curley's wife a name?From the book Of Mice and Men By John...

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sloch | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 11, 2007 at 1:55 AM via web

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Why doesn't the author give Curley's wife a name?

From the book Of Mice and Men By John Steinbeck.

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ita4nlo | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 5, 2007 at 2:24 AM (Answer #5)

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curleys wife doesnt hasve a name as curley dosent think she should have one as she is married to him so she should have his name so everyone knows that she is his wife

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 12, 2012 at 11:55 PM (Answer #12)

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Steinbeck was planning to adapt his novella into a stage play at the time he was working on the book manuscript. He collaborated on the stage version with playwright George Kaufman, and it was produced with great success in New York in 1937, the same year the book came out. This explains why the novella has some of the same characteristics as a play. Although it is a story about agriculture and the lives of farm workers, the settings are few and are all indoors, except for the opening scene by the river and the closing scene in the same location. The main set is the bunkhouse. Another important set is the barn where Lennie kills Curley's wife. Anything that happens outside on the ranch happens offstages and is represented with sound effects, such as horses stomping and horseshoes ringing. It is obvious that Steinbeck was visualizing his play while he was writing his novella.

It can be observed that the characters are frequently introducing themselves to others or introducing other characters to each other. They also call each other by name more frequently than would normally happen in such a milieu. This name-calling is common in stage plays, especially in the opening scenes, and it usually seems awkward and artificial. In Of Mice and Men is for the benefit of the reader and for the future theater audience; and it is especially important because the characters in Steinbeck's story are all men, all farm workers, and all dressed in work clothes--with one exception.

The only exception is the one female character who is only referred to as "Curley's wife." This character isn't given a name because she doesn't need one in order to be identified or distinguished from the other characters. No doubt Steinbeck was annoyed by the tedious business of making up names and having all the men pointedly and repeatedly calling each other by these names. He even has Slim and Candy commenting on Lennie's last name of Small, which is supposedly funny because Lennie is so big.

Steinbeck tries to differentiate the male characters. Lennie is big and George is small. Lennie is dumb and George is smart. Curley is small and hostile. Slim is tall. Crooks stands out because he is the only black man on the ranch. Candy has lost one hand and is handicapped in his actions. Candy is a friendly and kindly man, while Carlson is cold and mean. But they still have to have names, and the names have to be repeated so that the reader--and especially the future theater audience--will remember them when they are offstage but are being referred to onstage. This differentiation of characters must have been one of Steinbeck's biggest concerns, and he was probably quite happy not to have to think up yet another name for Curley's wife.

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leonqlam | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:58 AM (Answer #13)

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The author doesn't give Curley's wife a name because he wants to show that women don't belong in George and Lennie's world.  In addition, he wants to show that Curley owns his wife, hence her alias "Curley's Wife"

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted October 11, 2007 at 1:58 AM (Answer #1)

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Steinbeck does not give her a name because he wants to reflect her complete lack of individual indentity.  In Curley's eyes, and therefore in all the eyes of the hands, save Lennie, the woman is just another piece of the boss's property. 

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 11, 2007 at 7:51 AM (Answer #3)

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In many books, static characters like Curly's wife often are never blessed with their own names.  They help move the plot forward, but they don't change themselves.  They serve a purpose in the story, but in themselves they are unimportant.  Curly's wife, like the puppy, only serve to show Lennie's character in that he likes soft things and needs to touch them, but when they recoil or reject him, he underestimates his own strength as he restrains them. 

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tvillaverde | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted October 25, 2007 at 10:28 AM (Answer #4)

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Although Curley's wife may be considered static, she does not change throughout the novella: Curley's wife is essential to the plot. therefore,she is not simply "unnamed" because she is insignificant.

 Curley's wife is unnamed for several reasons.  She is first and for most not worthy of a name.  a name implies that a relationship can exist.  Curley's wife is not capable of a relationship; she is not worthy.  with a name also comes identification and familiarity. If we were to feel any sort of empathy for Curley's wife, we may not understand or appreciate Lennie's role in her death.  We may actually care that she is dead. 

There is also the historical role of women in society.  As a writer of social issues, Steinbeck wants the reader to recognize the inferior role of women in the world.  The lack of name demotes Curley's wife to insignificant status.  She is not as important as the men in the story. 

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devilbatdive | Student, Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted November 2, 2009 at 12:54 PM (Answer #8)

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It's been years since you asked this question, but oh well. The reason that she doesn't have a name is because she is presented as a possession of Curley's. There was one point where she says 'They left the weak behind.' She was talking about Crooks, Lennie, and Candy, who were all 'weak' in their respective ways. But there was irony because she wasn't even considered a real person but a possession.

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imranp96 | Student, Grade 10 | eNoter

Posted December 25, 2010 at 3:05 AM (Answer #9)

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The other characters refer to her only as "Curley's wife," which makes her the only significant character in the novel without a name. This lack of personal definition underscores this character's purpose in the story: Steinbeck explained that she is "not a person, she's a symbol. She has no function,

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dramadiva | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 2, 2011 at 4:52 PM (Answer #10)

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Curley’s wife is never given a name throughout the book. This is because she is presented as a possession of Curley's. Also it shows that she is not worthy of a name.  A name implies that a relationship can exist.  Curley's wife is not capable of a relationship; she is not worthy. There is also the historical role of women in society.  As a writer of social issues, Steinbeck wants the reader to recognize the inferior role of women in the world.  The lack of name demotes Curley's wife to insignificant status.  She is not as important as the men in the story.

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wordist | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted July 1, 2012 at 5:32 AM (Answer #11)

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In Jay Parini's biography of Steinbeck: "Steinbeck explained that she is 'not a person, she's a symbol. She has no function, except to be a foil – and a danger to Lennie.'"

Apparently Steinbeck wasn't prepared to fully develop Curley's wife as a villain. Both she and Curley are relatively flat, two dimensional characters, although by the end of the book we know Curley's wife much better than we do Curley, the ostensible villain.

Steinbeck is accused of being sexist for failing to name Curley's wife. He has nothing to gain by being sexist; so why would he commit such an obvious blunder? Denying her a name merely puts her in a class all her own, that of a foil, a character who provides plot essential facts or elicts plot essential behvior from other characters.

Neverless, denying her a name is also a way of emphasizing how she's universally disliked throughout the farm. She has not a kind word for anyone but the puppy and is vicious toward Crooks, Candy and Lennie (the "weak ones" in her words.)

Further more, her own husband refers to her as "my wife," denying her that level of familiarity in front of the men and by so doing maintains a wall of formality between himself and them. Maybe the men don't dare refer to her by her name out of fear of offending the hotheaded Curley. They play it safe.

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