Discuss the relevance in how Curley's wife is treated by the other characters in the novel.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Curley's wife is treated with a sense of distance by the other characters in the novel.  They tend to look at her as "bad news," or as a force that is not to be touched.  The terms through which the other characters describe her reflect this sense of distance.  "The eye" that she gives or "the vamp" or the other ways in which Curley's wife is described represent both a sense of fear and a simultaneous sense of disrespect.  It's a unique dynamic in that the men on the ranch do not view Curley's wife in a manner that represents respect or transparency.  They view her as "bad news" primarily because of what they believe the image of a woman she conforms to in their own minds.  They see Curley's wife as someone who is promiscuous and someone who will manipulate others in order to get what she wants.  When George warns Lennie to stay away from her and not pay attention to her, it's a warning to steer clear from the danger she presents.  In the scene in which she speaks with Crooks, Lennie, and Candy, there is a healthy fear that is displayed of her, but it is one rooted in stereotype and misjudgment.  The significance of such a dynamic might be to suggest that there are various reasons and motivations behind why people view others in the manner they do.  Steinbeck is able to construct the manner in which the men view Curley's wife as a part of this, in that she is viewed in different ways with the same result in the inability to understand her and the unwillingness to treat her as someone who is just as trapped as they are.

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