How does Steinbeck explore different attitudes to women in Of Mice and Men?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck explores the different attitude of one woman--Curley's wife. Curley's wife is so lonely until she reaches out to the ranch hands for communication. She desires companionship. She does not feel loved by Curley. Curley treats her as his possession. She plays the part of a tart. She is constantly flirting with the men on the ranch. She is desperate for attention. She has no female companions. She reaches out to the only people around her--ranch hands.

Curley's wife once had a dream of becoming an actress. She can only dream about such a life since she is stuck out on a isolated ranch. She flirts to get attention. This infuriates her jealous husband:

Curley's wife (as the boss's son's flirtatious wife, she is not identified by any other name) wanders around the ranch searching for some human contact. She is stereotyped by the men as a "tart." Indeed, she plays the vamp, which enrages her jealous husband.

George warns Lennie to stay away from her. George has his own negative image of Curley's wife:

George tells Lennie to avoid her, calling her "poison" and "jailbait."

No doubt, Steinbeck does not show Curley's wife in a favorable light. She is considered to be a flirtatious vamp. She has no friends. Out of desperation, she reaches out to Lennie. She asks him to feel her soft hair. When Lennie doesn't want to let go, she tries to escape. Lennie accidentally breaks her neck by trying to keep her quiet. She dies. Most likely, no one will really miss her.

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Of Mice and Men

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