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Curley’s wife is presented as a complex character. She is obviously very young, possibly only sixteen. She is sexy and flirtatious. She seems to be shockingly immoral for such a young girl, and she cares nothing about the fact that she is married. When she talks to Lennie in the barn she reveals her impractical ambition to be an actress and to live a life of luxury. She is evidently a high-school dropout and is not a whole lot brighter than Lennie. She shows that she can be kind-hearted when she consoles him for accidentally killing the puppy he loves.
"Don't you worry none. He was jus' a mutt. You can get another one easy. The whole country is fulla mutts."
In plotting his story, Steinbeck needed to have Lennie kill somebody by accident, so that he would have to run away and hide and George would shoot him out of compassion. Steinbeck wanted the reader to feel pity for both Lennie and George. This meant that the reader could not feel too much pity for Curley’s dead wife, although it must have seemed necessary to elicit a certain amount of pity for a foolish young girl whose life had been snuffed out so senselessly. This is undoubtedly why the author presents a vicious side of the girl’s character when she invades Crooks’ room and threatens him in coarse language, including the following:
"Well, you keep your place then, nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.”
When George leaves Candy alone with the girl’s dead body in the barn, Candy’s “sorrow and anger grew into words.”
“You God damn tramp,” he said viciously. “You done it, di’n’t you? I s’pose you’re glad. Ever’body knowed you’d mess things up. You wasn’t no good. You ain’t no good now, you lousy tart.”
Steinbeck’s intention was clearly to keep the reader from feeling too sorry for the dead girl without feeling entirely unsympathetic. It is a delicate balance. He wanted the reader to feel pity for Lennie, and this would not be possible if the reader felt the same kind of pity and outrage as Curley and the mob that were hunting him down. George also has mixed feelings: he pities the dead girl and pities Lennie even as he pulls the trigger.
What are the possible meanings to Curley’s wife saying, “The whole country is fulla mutts.”
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