In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, where can I find characterizations and quotations that display or reflect Curley's wife?In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, where can I find...

In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, where can I find characterizations and quotations that display or reflect Curley's wife?

In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, where can I find characterizations and quotations that display or reflect Curley's wife?

Asked on by cool-h

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billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Curley's wife first appears in the doorway of the bunkhouse, she is described as being "heavily made up." The entire description, as well as her behavior ("She smiled archly and twitched her body") strongly indicate that she is trying out her sexual appeal on men and would be willing to have intimate relations with virtually any of them. George immediately warns Lennie: "I seen 'em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be." Much later she encounters Lennie in the barn and tells him a little about herself, including that she almost ran off with an "actor" when she was only fifteen. Other men also refer to her as "jail bait." The term means a promiscuous underage girl who could get a man sent to prison for statutory rape if he became sexually involved with her. Steinbeck does not indicate how old Curley's wife actually is at the time period covered in his novel, but it would seem that she is still a minor, probably only about sixteen. Why would Curley marry such a young girl? It seems compatible with his obvious inferiority complex which is largely the effect of his small stature. Steinbeck wanted a female victim who was promiscuous, irresponsible, inexperienced, and totally naive. She is both immoral and innocent. She doesn't realize--as does the reader--that being alone with the powerful and childish Lennie and allowing him to stroke her hair is a very bad idea. She has to be extremely young to fulfill the role Steinbeck has in mind for her. The fact that she is so young also explains why she is so frustrated, inquisitive, and restless. She still wants to explore the world and experience life. She is not ready to be married and become a farm wife and mother.

kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I would sugest looking at her conversation with Lennie just before her death. It is tragic that she confides in Lennie, who can offer her no solace-

'Well, I ain't told this to nobody before. Maybe I oughtn' to. I don' like Curley. He ain't a nice fella.'
mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In addition to the points made above, you may wish to specifically examine the introduction in Of Mice and Men's Chapter 2 of Curley's wife, who ominously darkens the doorway of the bunkhouse: "...for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off."  Both George and Lennie look up from their bunks to see a girl wearing the red ostrich feather and red shoes of a harlot.  Her nails and lips are painted red, as well. This imagery of red surely hints at her connection to "the girl in the red dress at Weed" about whom George later tells Slim in this same chapter.

Moreover, the imagery and nameless presence of Curley's wife also suggests her role as an archetype of the temptress.  As an Eve, Curley's wife effects several conflicts among the men, actions which deter them from joining in the fraternity of men, a brotherhood which is their only refuge from their terrible alienation.  When Lennie looks down the nameless woman's body, she smiles "archly" and twitches her body.  These actions George notes; so after she departs, he warns Lennie, using some words suggestive of Genesis,

"Listen to me...I don't care what she says and does.  I seen 'em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her.  You leave her be....'cause she's a rat-trap if I ever seen one, You let Curley take the rap."

Frightened by George's warning and description of the woman, the innocent Lennie cries,

"I don' like this place, George.  This ain't no good place.  I wanna get outa here."

These words of Lennie, are indeed prophetic of the tragic connection of Lennie with this Eve, who eventually causes the destruction of the dream that George, Lennie, and Candy have of owning a farm.

booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Curley's wife is described in eNotes.com's list of characters. Curley and his wife have recently married and she has come to live with him at the farm. He is not a nice man, and she is already unhappy with him. Whenever he is gone, Curley's wife is hanging around the bunk house— or any place on the ranch where the men gather.

This woman will flirt with anyone, even Lennie. The men know that she is trouble, and they know enough to avoid her at all costs. She often will show up with a nonsensical reason for being there. The men do not encourage her. She is nasty with Crooks when he tries to stand up to her, threatening to have the black man lynched. Although George has repeatedly told Lennie to stay away from her, Lennie is unable to resist speaking to her when she starts working on him, and this will ultimately lead to her death.

She resents her loneliness and her marriage. She knows the men won't talk to her, and she feel isolated and alienated from other people. There are no other women at the ranch, and she has no companionship. She is sure that if she had not married Curley, she could be a famous movie star, living a very different life. George is very much aware of what type of woman she is and tells Lennie "to avoid her, calling her 'poison' and 'jailbait'."

Quotes in the book are found in section four, especially, that provide insight into her loneliness and how the men feel about her. First she says that if she's speaking one-on-one with any man, there is no problem, but more than one man in a place with her, and no one will talk to her:

If I catch any one man, and he's alone, I get along just fine with him. But just let two of the guys get together an' you won't talk.

Then Curley's wife complains how lonely she is, stuck in the house with no one to talk to...

Well, I ain't giving you no trouble. Think I don't like to talk to somebody ever' once in a while? Think I like to stick in that house alla time?

Finally, she complains that she is married but that Curley's no prize. All he talks about doing is beating up other guys—he doesn't get along with anyone:

Sure I gotta husban'. You all seen him. Swell guy, ain't he? Spends all his time saying' what he's gonna do to guys he don't like, and he don't like nobody.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The limitation of being able to answer only one question at a time is going to make the ability to specifically identify quotes as impossible in this forum.  Additionally, I think that being able to identify specific quotes for each idea is difficult because different people will see different realities from the text.  I do think that specific sections will help you immensely in narrowing what you would want to use as specific quotes about characterizations and ideas present.  For example, in trying to find George's opinion about Curley's wife, I would examine the second section of the book, where George is able to characterize her from the start without much in way of changing his opinion about her.  This is the section where her "sausage curls" are described and her standing in the doorway reveals much about her looks.  I would also contrast this with the stillness of her body and its beauty that Steinbeck gives her in the fifth chapter of the book when she lies dead on the barn floor.  The fifth section also details her own dreams of being in film and how she wishes for a life that is not what she lives.  The fourth section of the book, when Curley's wife speaks with Crooks, Candy, and Lennie helps to bring out much about her in terms of her desire to not be lonely, but also her cruelty in the way in which she uses her position of power and sexuality to threaten and control those who seek to stand in the way of what she wants.  These sections are complete with both spoken quotes and Steinbeck's own narrative voice that can help with a construction of the character of Curley's wife.

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