Compare and contrast the ways in which Curley and his wife attempt to persuade people in order to get what they want?Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Curley and his wife exploit their physicality in obtaining what they desire in Steinbeck's novella, Of Mice and Men.  Curley's reputation as a boxer precedes him into the bunkhouse; he enters pugnaciously, "lashing his body" around. When she stands in the doorway to the bunkhouse, Curley's wife poses, leaning against the door frame "so that her body was thrown forward" with her hands behind her back. 

At the same time, they also allow other qualities about them to intimidate others.  Curley, for instance, has his position as the son of the boss which gives him a clear advantage over the men who do not wish to antagonize him for fear of losing their jobs.  Curley's wife, likewise, uses her position as the only woman on the ranch to entice the men by frequenting the ranchhouse doorway and flirting.  In addition, she uses her white feminine position to threaten Crooks when he tries to stop her from coming into the barn, telling him,

"You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?....Well, you keep your place then....I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny."

Unfortunately for both of them, some of their wiles backfire on them as they try to take advantage of Lennie. For, Curley's hand is mangled when he accosts Lennie, and Curley's wife meets her untimely death as she flirts with the large, simple man.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Curley is a pugnacious, small man, whose power lies in the fact that he is the boss's son. Throughout the novella, Curley attempts to intimidate Lennie and threaten George, knowing that they cannot lose their temper out fear that they will be fired. Curley is also a relatively successful lightweight boxer, who attempts to frighten those around him through physical threats. Curley uses psychological and physical intimidation to persuade others into carrying out his orders. Curley also uses his status as the boss's son to leverage his power.

Curley's wife uses her physical attributes and status to persuade others. Curley's wife knows that she is attractive and flaunts her sexuality in order get what she desires. She even uses her gender and race to threaten Crooks by telling him

"You know what I could do...Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny" (Steinbeck, 39).

Curley's wife also uses her relation to the boss to leverage her power. The men are forced to respect her simply because she is married to Curley. While she cannot physically intimidate the men like her husband, Curley's wife does not hesitate to threaten them psychologically.

Read the study guide:
Of Mice and Men

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question