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Of Mice and Men, a novella written by John Steinbeck, is a work which promotes the concept of men's fraternity as a solution to the alienation, insecurity, and lack of voice that the disenfranchised workers had during the Great Depression. With this theme of fraternity dominating the work, there is little place for women. Curley's wife, whose name is merely a genitive of her husband's is the temptress, and, as such, she detracts from the brotherhood of men in which they will find solidarity, strength and security.
When Curley's wife first enters the narrative, she appears as the seductress:
She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers....She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward. "You're the new fella that just come, ain't ya?"
Lonely also, she craves attention, attention that she does not receive from her husband. She would like to talk with the bindle stiffs, but they are wary of her because she is married to Curley, the son of the boss. So, when she enters the barn at a time when most of the men are gone to town, Curley's wife again desires some company. But, when old Candy tells her to just "go along an' roll your hoop. We ain't got nothing to say to you at all....Curley maybe ain't gonna like his wife in the barn with us 'bindle stiffs.'" As she looks at the men's faces, "they were all closed against her"; she is an interloper. However, Curley's wife retaliates, threatening Crooks. With Lennie, too, she is a threat; he tries to quiet her and accidentally breaks her neck.
Other women mentioned are the girl in Weed, whom Lennie liked and grabbed her dress, causing her to scream in fear; this action resulted in George and Lennie's departure from the town. The only girls mentioned are the girls in town, who are prostitutes. So, in each case, there are women involved and Lennie and others are threatened.
The book takes place during the time of the Great Depression, when women did not have the rights they have now. Curley's wife is not given a name, because women were thought to be the property of their husband. She does not have any job opportunities open for her except actress, housewife, or prostitute. All the men consider her a figure just to look at.
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