In your opinion, does Curley's Wife from Of Mice and Men suffer from oppression because she is a woman?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Curley's Wife suffers from oppression and isolation because she is a woman.  Steinbeck uses her as a stock character to represent another type of outcast in his novella of outcasts. While Lennie and George are outcasts because of Lennie's mental handicap and their unusual relationship, while Candy is isolated because of his age and injury, and while Crooks lives a solitary life because of his race, Curley's Wife endures the same type of isolation because of her gender.

Because she is a woman, Curley's Wife cannot communicate with others--something that most of the men on the ranch (with the exception of Crooks) have freedom to do. Because she is woman, she cannot physically move about the ranch as others do without lewd comments being made and suspicion being created. Because she is a woman, she gave up on her dreams for a better life and married to try to ensure some type of security in the insecure times of the Great Depression. Finally, because she is a woman, Curley's Wife must endure treatment from Curley seemingly without a defender.  Even the physically strong Lennie is defended by George and Slim, but Curley's Wife alludes to physical and verbal abuse and receives no outward sympathy or even retribution--again, because of her gender and role as the "anonymous" Curley's Wife.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Curley's wife does suffer from oppression to some degree in John Steinbeck's novel 'Of Mice and Men' the responsibilty for that does not solely rest with others. Although we are not told much about her family background it was possible that she was oppressed in the sense that her dreams to build a career (in arts, with acting) were not encouraged and nurtured because she was a girl. Dreams like that were an expensive no-go for many families in the time of the Great Depression. However, having said that, some girls did make it through in those times to fulfil their career dreams, whether on stage and screeen - or in the professions. For reasons we can only guess (physical isolation due to remoteness of landscape, emotional isolation due to 'not connecting' with family/husband,lack of access to education/carees guidance) Curley's wife chose an easy and safe but stultifyingly boring path - to marry a financially secure man. The result is that she doesn't even have a name to us - just Curley's wife - she has no role other than that and we are not even told her name. If her circumstances would have allowed her to take a chance and she didn't take it , well -it could be she was oppressed by her own lack of courage and ambition.

whatever1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Curley's wife does indeed suffer from oppression and discrimination because of her gender.  Being the only female character in the novel, she represents "the other", much like Crooks, the stable buck.  She is excluded from the company of others because the hired hands fear reprisal from her jealous and domineering husband.  In order to make it easier to dismiss her, the men call her "Curley's Wife", thus dehumanizing her, reducing her to a mere possession.  Also, because she is young and attractive, the men label her a "tart" and "jailbait", which is a stereotype that the men place on her and also justifies their rejection of her.