Do you have any sympathy for Curley's wife?  

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tmcquade eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do have a lot of sympathy for Curley's wife.  Though it's true she can be mean, as she shows when she threatens Crooks in chapter 4, in so many other ways she lives a miserable life that elicits pity and compassion.

Marriage to Curley - he's an abusive man, both verbally and physically.  He's overly possessive and jealous, not allowing his wife to have any freedom or any friends.  When he goes into town, he doesn't invite her.  He expects her to "mind" him like a child and to be submissive to his every desire.

Loneliness - she lives on a farm with a bunch of men, most of whom are afraid to talk to her, and the only way she knows how to get attention is to dress like a "tart" and flirt with them.  This only scares the men away more.  She has no women friends nearby, no one to talk to, and feels desperate for companionship.  She reinforces a key theme of the book: we all need friends to talk to and who care for us.

Victim of prejudice - the men call her a "tart" and "jailbait" and write her off as trouble.  She is someone to be avoided.  No one thinks of her as having any real feelings.

Dreams - like many of the men on the farm, Curley's wife's dreams have gone unfulfilled.  She hoped to go to Hollywood and be an actress; someone she met before told her she was a "natural" and gave her hope that he would be in contact.  When she doesn't hear from him, she blames her mother for hiding the letters, and in a desperate act to get away from home, she runs off and marries Curley.  Still, in the back of her mind, she tries to hold on to the hope that maybe someday her dream can come true and she can get away from Curley.

Too trusting - she doesn't realize Lennie's strength or the danger of her situation.  She is so happy to have someone to talk to, someone to whom she can connect if even in the smallest way, that she lets him touch her hair knowing that they both like soft things.  This, of course, ends up being her undoing.  When he is too rough and won't let go, she screams, and he panics - the result being, he breaks her neck.

One can't help but feel sorry for Curley's wife, experiencing such a terror-filled, unnecessary death.  And no one even stays to mourn her body - they all just chase after Lennie.  She is just as lonely in death as in life.


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