In Of Mice and Men, Curly's wife is described by the following: "lips are slightly parted" and she wears "red ostritch feathers." What does this mean?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The role of Curley's wife, in Of Mice and Men, is limited. That being said, she is important when looking at the role of women in the text. Only a couple women are introduced in the novel: Curley's wife and the two women who run flop-houses (houses of prostitution). Therefore, the majority of the time women are mentioned in the novel, the woman's sexuality is most prominent.

Feeding into this is the description of Curley's wife. She is described as having parted lips and wearing feathers. This image of Curley's wife certainly brings about the an image of pure sexuality. Given that Curley's wife is the only woman around, in constant contact with the ranchers, she depicts the temptation of man and the large amount of testosterone which exists on the farm.

In essence, the description of Curley's wife offers readers a glimpse into some of the main conflicts which will exist over the course of the novel. Curley is always looking for his wife, thinking that she may be cheating. Curley's wife comes into the bunkhouse saying she is looking for Curley (in reality, she is only looking for companionship). All of these things are important based upon one thing, Curley's wife's sexuality and it is described openly through the descriptions of her lips and clothing.

blue6a | Student

the description of curlys wife often wearing red "red ostrich feathers" "red shoes" has connotations with death or sexualtialty wich forshadows the trouble she causes form lennies death and the little power women had in the 1930s, as refferd to her husband. It also has conotations with her personality as being "playful" and a "tart" as the other men she her.

When she puts crooks back into his place of reminding him of the power she has over him it makes her seem heartless and evil towards those who are considered weaker over her, however in the last chapters steinbeck portrays her as a real person with real dreams making the reader feel slightly sorry for her aswell as being the only girl on the ranch she is out of place and in a unhappy marridge were curly has to fulfill is sexual desires by going to a hore house,however this does not excuse her for her vicious behavour to those weaker than her such as lennie,crooks and candy.


rebeccaashworth16 | Student

There is a significant link between her wearing ostrich feathers and the pigeon that flies in at the end when she dies. 

An ostrich is a flightless bird which represents how Curley's wife is trapped in her marriage and lacks the freedom she desires to achieve her dream of fame. 

When Curley's wife is killed, a pigeon flies in to the barn and back out again. I believe this to be a representation of her soul being free. 

Curley's wife is more alive and free in death than she is in life.

lornasmith | Student

Women are often portrayed in literature as the temptress, lolita or vamp. Surely what is signalled by the parting of the lips and the wearing of red feathers is eroticism. 

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Of Mice and Men

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