Analyze Stienbeck's portrayal of Curley's wife as the lone female on the all-male ranch in "Of Mice and Men".
Although Curley's wife is the lone female in the novel, she is still typical of most of the main characters. She is misunderstood, lonely girls whose dreams have been shattered. She doesn't even deserve a name or identity; she's simply known as Curley's wife.
Even though she has just married, she is forced to wander around the ranch looking for human companionship because her new husband ignores her. Like Crooks, Curley's wife is treated as an outcast. She is stereotyped as a "tart" from the beginning of the novel. Like Lennie and George, she has a dream. Her dream is to be a movie star but her dreams were shattered by a man who told her he could fulfill those dreams, took advantage of her, and then left her. Unfortunately, she also shatters Lennie and George's dream when she allows Lennie to feel her soft hair. She panics when Lennie musses her hair and Lennie kills her. Once George discovers what Lennie did, he knows his dream is over, too. So, despite being the only woman, she has many similarities with others on the ranch.
Treatment and Representation of Women
Curley's wife is only ever known as just that, Curley's wife. This shows how little respect women were given in the time period in which this novel took place. Curley's wife is a woman, and therefore not good enough to have an actual name. Curley's wife is avoided by everybody on the ranch because they fear she is trying to seduce them. They only think of her as a sex object, and never as a real person with feelings. We learn that she never actually liked Curley, and only married him when she learned she couldn't become an actress like is her dream. This contributes to her loneliness, but nobody will listen to her because she is a woman.
Throughout the novel, women only have two functions: caretakers of men, and sex objects. Lennie's Aunt Clara represents taking care of men, namely Lennie, and the multiple references to whorehouses in town show women as sex objects. Curley's wife is both; the men think of her only as a sex object, and her only job is to take care of Curley. Female sexuality is consistently described negatively, only as a trap to ensnare and ruin men. George and Lennie's dream consists of them alone, without women, and their attitude toward women is more that of a temptation than of a person.