How does the mood change after Curley's wife's death in Of Mice and Men? Why do you think Steinbeck presented Curley's wife in this way, right at the end of Of Mice and Men? Halfway to the...

How does the mood change after Curley's wife's death in Of Mice and Men? Why do you think Steinbeck presented Curley's wife in this way, right at the end of Of Mice and Men?

Halfway to the packing box where the puppies were she caught the dead scent of Curley’s wife, and the hair arose along her spine. She whimpered and cringed to the packing box, and jumped in among the puppies. Curley’s wife lay with a half-covering of yellow hay. And the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young. Now her rouged cheeks and her reddened lips made her seem alive and sleeping very lightly. The curls, tiny little sausages, were spread on the hay behind her head, and her lips were parted. As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At the beginning of this passage, the mood is one of danger, tension, and fear as the mother of the puppies smells the dead body of Curley's wife, but this gives way to sympathy. The following reflection that George's, Lennie's, and Candy's lives have changed forever then brings with it a return of tension and fear.

Even though her death greatly disturbs the dog, the tension changes as

...the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face.....

and there is now a sympathetic mood toward Curley's wife, who has experienced a desperate existence because of her marginalization as the only woman on the ranch.

Moreover, as the wife of the boss's son, she has also been a woman who has been perceived as a threat to the men's security. So now, even though her death has brought her peace, she causes a subtle kind of tension as she lies dead only moments after her confession of unhappiness and broken dreams. There is also a mood of foreboding and fear and despair as George and Candy look upon her as the interloper to their camaraderie and the saboteur of their fraternity and their dream of owning a small farm.

Later, as George follows the other men who have entered the barn to view the scene, he

moved slowly...and his feet dragged heavily.

And when they were gone, Candy squatted down in the hay and watched the face of Curley's wife. "Poor bastard," he said softly. 

In despair, also, Candy covers his eyes with his arm.

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