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There are not many women present in the novel. There is Lennie's aunt Clara and Curley's wife.
Lennie's aunt is presented as a caretaker. Obviously, she is not his mother, but she has taken on the maternal role. She is a flat character, however, because we never meet her since she is no longer living.
Curley's wife is called various names (tart, jail-bait, bitch, etc). She is is the only character in the book who isn't given a name. She is presented as though she belongs to Curley and has no identity of her own. However, we know that she is lonely based on what she says in Crooks' room and what she reveals to Lennie in the barn before he kills her. None of the men on the ranch have any respect for her, and George seems to think that she (and women in general) get men into trouble. They are the seductress or temptress.
Steinbeck presents only two versions of women - the mother and the whore. Both of these are typical archetypes and reduce women to one-dimensional representations.
There are not many women present in novel. There are three female roles in the book overall.
There is a single female character in Of Mice and Men that plays any real part. She is not given a name, but referred to only as "Curley's wife". This lack of a name is significant. Curley's wife is, socially speaking, a marginal figure. She is presented as though she belongs to Curley and has no identity of her own. She is a minority and has very little power in the world. Introduced as a "tart" and a trouble-maker, Curley's wife is presented in increasingly sympathetic ways as the novel progresses. In the end, instead of being a trouble-maker, Curley's wife is a victim. Not only is she is victim of a murder, but she is also a victim of circumstance, having married to get away from home only to find herself trapped on the ranch where she has no friends, nothing to do, and is allowed only one relationship.
However, we know that she is lonely based on what she says in Crooks' room and what she reveals to Lennie in the barn before he kills her. None of the men on the ranch have any respect for her, and George seems to think that she; and women in general; gets men into trouble.
There are two other mentions of females in the novel: Lennie's Aunt Clara and the two local brothel keepers.
Lennie's aunt is presented as a little, fat, old woman. Obviously, she is not his mother, but she has taken on the maternal role and it is implied that she is a blood relative. She is a flat character; however, because we never meet her since she is no longer living, but when she is talked about it is in a respectful tone. We can guess that from the way Lennie talks to her in her mind in the last pages that she has high standards; Lennie says ma’am. This says that Lennie respects her.
Curley’s wife and Aunt Clara are like opposites. One has a name and the other doesn’t. This is an example of how Steinbeck uses pairs. All of the Characters seem to come in pairs; George and Lennie, Candy and his dog and so forth. Even the brothel keepers come in pairs and have their opposites. One brothel keepers is cheaper than the other and is more fun to be around. The other wants the money and if you don’t give it, you’re out.
Steinbeck uses colours and character dialog to show attitudes towards women. He uses short and decorative sentences to show harshness to women and rhetorical questions to show that the women can’t defend themselves.
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