Explore the ways in which Curley's wife is presented and developed through Steinbeck's use of language.Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One salient detail regarding Curley's wife and Steinbeck's use of language to develop her character is the fact that she has been given no name.  Thus, she seems less a person than a type.  With heavily made up face and "full rouged lips" and fingernails that are red to match her red shoes that have "little bouquets of red ostrich feathers," Curley's wife assumes the role of temptress as she

put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward.

And, when Lennie looks down her body, she "smiled archly and twitched her body."  This action motivates George to warn Lennie that she is "jail bait" and "a rat-trap" who is "poison."

Further in Steinbeck's novella, Curley's wife seems restless, eager.  When she arrives at the stable, she "breathed strongly, as though she had been running."  She also proves herself a shrew:

"They left all the weak ones here," she said finally....You're all scared of each other, that's what.  Ever' one of you's scared the rest is goin' to get something on you."

When Candy "covers up" for Curley when she asks what has happened to his hand, she becomes contemptuous of the men:"You bindle bums think you're so damn good." Then, when Crooks tries to make her leave, she turns upon him,

"Listen,....You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?....I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny."

And, yet, she is filled with self-pity, for she reveals to Lennie,

"I tell you I ain't use to livin' like this.  I coulda made somethin' of myself...."

A temptress and a shrew, Curley's wife, although a threat to the men, is yet like them, lonely and mean from her forced alienation.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my mind, I think that you want to use the section of the book where Curley's wife enters Slim's room. I think that this is the one scene where Steinbeck creates her character through her own words, as opposed to others' descriptions of her.  We see much of her revealed in this scene.  The combination of her desire for company along with her own cruelty is on display as she puts Crooks and Candy in their place.  Her reaction to Lennie is a bit more mollified, but the intensity that is scene in how she treats Crooks, in particular, is fairly intense.  The lynching reference as well as the idea that no one's voice is more important than hers is fairly evident:  "It is enough to crush Crooks and he submits completely." At the same time, I think that Curley's wife is actually brought out in vivid detail in the very next chapter when Lennie kills her by accident.  Steinbeck's description of her dead body and the beauty evident in her face when life has left her is a moment where all of the intensity and energy associated with her has been transcended to a realm vastly different than the present.  It is a moment where the deferred dreams, anger, intensity, and lonliness is put aside for the vision of beauty that lays lifeless on the barn floor.  I think that focusing on these two sections of the book might help you construct a vision of Steinbeck's description of Curley's wife.

courtneyyoung97 | Student

The answer is pretty simple and that is because she is lonely like the rest of the men on the ranch. She doesnt have anyone to talk to and when she sees that these three men, who are very lonely are talking all she wants to do is join in, but she cant because she has a reputation of being a tart among the men. None of the ranch hands will talk to her because if Curley saw them, they would get hurt by Curley. Also, this represents a huge part of the lonliness theme of the novel as although she desecribes them as the 'weak ones' because they are left behind, she is also a weak one, she got left behind to.


hope this helps:)