How is Curley's wife in the book Of Mice and Men represented and developed through out the novella?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In John Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men the first description that we get of Curley's wife does not befit the most virtuous of women

A girl was standing there looking in. She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers.[...] Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality.

From this description, and from the opinion of the men, one cannot make a very good opinion of a woman who is thought of as a "tart" and who supposedly "gives the eye" to men. She obviously shown as a temptress or a she-devil with the full intention of meddling with the farm hands. She does very little to change that first impression, but slowly during the novel we can see that she and Lennie develop a slight connection which, in the end, proves to be fatal for both. Even George wants Lennie about it.

Don't you even take a look at that b**ch. I don't care what she says and what she does. I seen 'em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be.

He is right, after all, she flirts with Slim right in front of all the other men shamelessly and cares very little for the fact that she is their boss's wife. In fact, she uses that very fact as her source of power.

However, when she has her first (and last) in-depth conversation in the entire novel, we find a side of her that is not expected. It is because, as she speaks to Lennie, she opens up about the fact that she has had dreams in the past. She has always wanted to be a showgirl, or a movie star. She says that, at one point, she is even close enough to make it. However, she marries Curley instead.

"Nother time I met a guy, an' he was in pitchers.[...]Says I was a natural. Soon's he got back to Hollywood he was gonna write to me about it. " She looked closely at Lennie to see whether she was impressing him. "I never got that letter, " she said. "I always thought my of lady stole it. Well, I wasn't gonna stay no place where I couldn't get nowhere or make something of myself, an' where they stole your letters. I ast her if she stole it, too, an' she says no. So I married Curley.

This is a part of Curley's wife that almost help us stop disliking her. However, it is too late to like her or dislike her. Lennie accidentally kills her when he is trying to caress her hair. However, that confession leads us to see how she develops from temptress to victim of circumstances. Perhaps it is that victimization what leads her to be notorious: A thirst for something else that makes her stand aside. Unfortunately she does it the wrong way, and with the wrong crowd.