How are good and bad qualities presented in Curley's wife and other characters in Of Mice and Men? 

How are good and bad qualities presented in Curley's wife and other characters in Of Mice and Men?


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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Curley's wife is shown in a bad light at first because of the way Candy talks about her. Candy tells George that Curley has been married only two weeks and his wife is really pretty. He also says, "she got the eye," which means she checks out the other men on the farm and that's certainly not good. George takes this as a serious warning to stay away from her and makes Lennie promise to stay away and not talk to her. Then, when George and Lennie meet her for the first time, she's painted as a tramp, as follows:

"A girl was standing there looking in. She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages" (31).

Apparently, red lipstick and fingernails represents hussy in the 1930s because Candy also calls her a tart. Since she's also the boss's son's wife, it's best to stay clear of her so a worker doesn't catch any drama that she might be creating. What the men may know, but can't care about, is the fact that she's lonely. Curley's wife, for the most part, says she doesn't want to cause any trouble and she just wants someone to talk to. In fact, she is really nice to Lennie when she speaks to him. She's even nice enough to let Lennie touch her hair because she discovers that he likes to touch soft things.

As for Lennie, he's all about being good; it's just his lack of reasoning skills and strength that make him do bad things, such as squashing mice and puppies. Lennie isn't evil or looking to be mean, as George always says, but he can't control the his responses to difficult situations. When Lennie panics, he doesn't let go of what he's holding onto, which thereby causes more harm. For example, when George tells him to fight back against Curley's punches, Lennie grabs one of his hands and won't let go. As a result, he crushes Curley's hand. Lennie is more unpredictable and uncontrollable than bad, but bad consequences seem to be the end result.

Finally, there's George. He cares about Lennie and takes care of him, but he wasn't always very nice or respectful to him. George tells Slim the following:

"I used to have a hell of a lot of fun with 'im. Used to play jokes on 'im 'cause he was too dumb to take care of 'imself. But he was too dumb even to know he had a joke played on him. I had fun. Made me seem God damn smart alongside of him" (40).

However, George truly cares about Lennie and, in the end, George chooses to kill him rather than let him perish at the hands of the other men. George shooting Lennie can be both good and bad: Good because it is a mercy kill that spares Lennie from suffering and bad because he was actually able to go through with it.