How is Curley's wife disadvantaged in "Of Mice and Men"?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many of Steinbeck’s characters in the novel Of Mice and Men are disadvantaged in some way or another. Lennie is mentally retarded, Crooks has a curved spine, and Candy has lost a hand. Curley’s wife, on the other hand is disadvantaged in a different sense.

Gullibility is her most obvious disadvantage. She was duped into marrying Curley and moving to the ranch, apparently unaware of what an unfulfilling life that would be for her. As she speaks to Lennie late in the novel, relating her dissatisfaction with her marriage, she tells him a story from her past about how she had been misled by another man, who claimed to be able to make her a movie star. Although the book doesn’t explicitly state that Curley’s wife had a physical relationship with this man, the implication is that she was fooled into doing just that.

Curley’s wife also suffers from a hatefully racist attitude toward the black stablehand Crooks. When Crooks dares to stand up to her, she calls him the N-word and threatens to have him lynched.

So, while Curley’s wife is fine physically (even beautiful and desirable), she is disadvantaged because she is a weak-willed character with a mean streak towards those over whom she has power.


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