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Whit describes Curley's wife as "a tart." This means that she is a woman who does not have a good reputation. As we continue to learn more about Curley's wife, we learn that she may not really be "a tart" but simply a lonely, abused woman who married Curley without thinking. Her overtures to men are probably not sexual in nature, but made simply to get some attention. Curley seems to ignore her and her reputation as "a tart" makes the men in the bunkhouse also ignore her.
As a young woman who has supposedly aspired to be an actress, but failed, Curley's wife seduced him in the hopes of bettering her life by leaving her small town while hardly knowing Curley whom she has met at a dance in hopes of finding a better life somewhere else. Knowing that Curley is the son of the boss of a large ranch leads her to believe that her life will be broader than it has been in her small hometown. However, she is disappointed in both her marriage and in the environment in which she finds herself. Seeking thrills elsewhere, Curley's wife loiters around the bunkhouse, and enters on the false pretext of trying to find her husband. For walking about a ranch, Curley's wife is certainly dressed inappropriately:
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. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers.
A tart is a woman of low character; in the 1930's, a woman who dressed as Curley's wife, and who approached men in a location where no other women go, would clearly be viewed as a tart. In addition, she flirts with the men: "She smiled archly and twitched her body." She encourages Lennie to feel her brushed hair, tempting him as she is aware of his diminished mental capacity.
In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, there is no place women, who are simply Eves, causing men to become aggressive toward other men, cheating them of their possibilities of friendship and fraternity, a world structured around brotherly bonds.
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