How is Curley's wife a predatory character?

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emilyknight7 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Curley's wife can be read as a predatory character in her use of her sexual allure to get what she wants. She clearly feels trapped and confined by her small life after her marriage to Curley, and so she uses her looks and sensuality to flirt with the ranch hands in order to make Curley jealous. This also allows her to exert some control over other people, as Curley tends to beat up anyone who looks too long at his wife. She is also not afraid to verbally prey on the weaker members of the ranch, saying cringe-worthy things to them, like when she tells Crooks, "I could get you strung up on a tree so easily it ain't even funny." Clearly, she makes herself feel better by putting others down.

Still, a critique of this analysis is that, for a predatory character, Curley's wife has no real power in the novel. Like most of the other characters, she is a beaten-down person, clinging to old dreams. In Curley's wife's case, the old dream is to be a Hollywood star, something that she may have accomplished with her good looks but which is now way out of her reach. She has no power over her circumstances and no control over her life; she doesn't even have her own name, as she is simply referred to as Curley's possession. So, even though she is a temptress, she is also preyed on by the cruel social circumstances that keep the other characters down.