Describe Curley and his wife in Of Mice and Men. What do their actions tell you about each of them?

In Of Mice and Men, Curley and his wife are depicted as selfish, insecure individuals, who are not willing to work on their relationship and struggle to gain the upper hand in their marriage. Curley's wife regrets marrying her husband and strives for attention by flirting with the workers on the ranch. She is extremely lonely and views Curley as mean-spirited. Curley objectifies his wife by threatening the other men, monitoring her movements, and dismissing her individual needs.

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Curley and his wife, though newlyweds, don't get along well, and that is because they share some of the same negative characteristics. Curley's wife, who is never named, is a self-absorbed teenage bride, while Curley himself is an insecure, self-absorbed, arrested teenager in an adult body.

While Curley's wife is...

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Curley and his wife, though newlyweds, don't get along well, and that is because they share some of the same negative characteristics. Curley's wife, who is never named, is a self-absorbed teenage bride, while Curley himself is an insecure, self-absorbed, arrested teenager in an adult body.

While Curley's wife is the more sympathetic of the two, they both share a remarkable lack of empathy. Both find it impossible to put themselves into other people's shoes. This means that both behave cruelly.

For example, Curley sees only that Lennie is bigger than he is and therefore regards him as a threat and enemy. He finds it impossible to see Lennie as himself: a gentle, mentally disabled giant who only wants to survive in the world. Likewise, when Crooks tries to keep her out of his room, Curley's wife can't see him as a frightened, lonely Black man trying to hang onto what little dignity he has. Instead, she perceives him in terms of her own insecurities: as a threat who she cruelly beats back and humiliates by threatening him with a lynching. Like Curley, she uses her power in society to control other people, not thinking for a moment about how this is alienating them.

Curley tries to alleviate his inner feelings of insecurity and worthlessness by flaunting his outward power on the ranch, but this only makes him seem more contemptible to the men he wants to impress. Likewise, Curley's wife flaunts makeup, nail polish, and sexy clothing to try to feel better about herself, but she invites contempt this way, and inwardly, she too feels worthless.

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In Steinbeck's classic novella Of Mice and Men, Curley is portrayed as a pugnacious, insecure man, who is worried that his wife will cheat on him and gets a rise out of picking on defenseless individuals like Lennie. Curley illustrates his anxiety and insecure personality by constantly searching for his wife throughout the ranch, wearing a vaseline glove to keep his hand soft for her, and accusing workers like Slim of making advances towards her. It is evident that Curley does not trust his wife, and the workers are well aware of this fact. Candy informs George that Curley married a "tart," and Whit describes Curley's insecure attitude by saying, "Curley’s pants is just crawlin’ with ants" (Steinbeck, 26).

Curley's wife is depicted as a flirtatious, lonely woman, who is unhappily married and desires to leave the ranch. She regrets marrying Curley because he "ain't a nice fella," and she feels trapped in a hopeless situation. Her seductive appearance and coy attitude reflect her desire to gain attention from other men. Rather than strive to improve their relationship, Curley attempts to control his wife by constantly monitoring her and threatening the workers. Curley's wife searches for attention and recognition by wearing makeup and flirting with the other men on the ranch. Both of their actions depict them as conflicted, insecure individuals with significant marital problems. Neither Curley nor his wife is willing to work on their personal relationship, and they both selfishly try to gain the upper hand in their marriage.

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Curley is an insecure, combative person who likes to pick a fight. When he first meets Lennie and George, Curley says, "Let the big guy talk" (when George continues to speak for Lennie). Curley seems to be itching for a fight, and he dislikes Lennie because Lennie is a big guy. Curley, a small man, feels inferior because of his small stature. He wears a glove and coats his hand with vaseline to keep it soft for his wife. Curley clearly worries that his wife might not find him attractive. 

One of the ranch hands says of Curley's wife, "she got the eye." Even though she was just married to Curley, she is flirtatious with other men on the ranch. She is also constantly stopping by the bunkhouse, ostensibly looking for Curley but really looking for attention. She enjoys attention, and she later shows up at the bunkhouse wearing red mules topped with ostrich feathers. She is heavily made up and paints her nails red, and she clearly likes to receive attention from men and is lonely as the only woman on the ranch. 

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Curley and his wife have a very turbulent relationship in Of Mice and Men.

Curley is possessive regarding his wife.  He shows this in chapter 2, when he is repeatedly asking if anyone knows where his wife is.  He suspects many of the ranch hands when it comes to his wife, including Slim.  When talking to George, Whit suggests there might be a sense of turbulence between both husband and wife.  He speaks about how Curley is quite anxious about his wife, saying that Curley has "yella- jackets in his drawers."  At the same time, we can presume that Curley does not treat his wife well when he is with her.  When she is talking to Lennie, she tells him that Curley's "not a nice fella."  The way she says it reflects personal knowledge about what he is capable of doing.  It is evident there is not much in way of happiness between them.

Steinbeck does not depict the couple in anything resembling a healthy relationship.  Whit perceptively says that both of them are akin to two ships passing in the night:  "He spends half his time lookin’ for her, and the rest of the time she’s lookin’ for him.”  Both of them are not shown as being emotionally settled with one another.  This reflects how Curley and his wife do not find much in way of happiness in their relationship.

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