Describe Curley's Wife

In the book Of Mice and Men, describe Curley's wife. What's the problem about her?

Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Curley’s wife is very young. One of the men refers to her as “the kid.” She is called “jailbait” several times. “Jailbait” can only mean a promiscuous underage girl who can get men sentenced to prison on a felony count of statutory rape. She is overly made up and overly dressed for the ranch setting, suggesting that she looks like a young girl who is trying to look older and sexier. When she is telling Lennie about herself in the barn, she reveals that she almost ran away from home with a man when she was only fifteen and then married Curley to get away from her mother. She is probably only sixteen. Why would Curley marry such a young girl? Well, he obviously has an inferiority complex because of his small size, and he could conceivably feel inadequate with a mature woman. (He may even be inadequate with his adolescent bride!)

Steinbeck created Curley’s wife. He must have made her extremely young for a purpose. Her immaturity would explain why she is so flirtatious and so restless. Her mother couldn’t control her, and now Curley can’t control her either. All the men regard her as potential trouble. Specifically, they think one of the farmhands will get sexually involved with her and then either Curley will kill him or he will get sent to prison for statutory rape—or even rape, if she should decide to tell the story that way.

Lennie is characterized as being obsessed with petting small, soft animals and always killing them by petting them too hard. He is more likely to be attracted to a young girl than an older woman, and Curley’s wife is sufficiently naïve and indiscreet to flirt with a retarded giant in an isolated setting, although she knows he kills little animals and has maimed her husband. The fact that she is still quite young and undoubtedly has the build of a frail adolescent girl explains why Lennie could break her neck so easily. An older woman would not get so close, would put up more of a fight, and would not be so fragile.

There are many references to an incident in Weed in which Lennie was accused of attempted rape. The female involved is always referred to as a “girl,” never as a young woman. She could have been even young than Curley’s wife. When George sees Curley’s wife’s dead body, he suddenly understands that Lennie is developing a sensual interest in young girls, and that he is just as capable of killing them as he is of killing the little animals he handles.

“I should of knew,” George said hopelessly. “I guess maybe way back in my head I did.”

George realizes that Lennie is a menace to society and that he himself is guilty of the death of Curley’s wife because he is responsible for Lennie. He helped Lennie escape from the lynch mob in Weed, but he is not going to help him escape again. That is why he steals Carlson’s pistol. He intends to kill his friend from the time he leaves the ranch to meet him at their prearranged rendezvous by the river.

debikal | Student

Curly's wife is a young, pretty woman, who is mistrusted by her husband, Curley. The other characters refer to her only as "Curley's wife," which makes her the only significant character in the novel without a name.

Curly's wife admits to being lonely and that her dreams of becoming a movie star crashed. She flirts with the ranch hands to get attention.