Provide quoted passages from the novel Of Mice and Men which indicate that Curley's wife is not as weak as Crooks.

Expert Answers
andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We note a marked difference between Crooks and Curley's wife from the outset. When we first learn about Crooks, it is that he is an almost nondescript person whose only significance is related to the menial work he does on the ranch. Even a pitiful character such as Candy, the swamper, displays somewhat of a superior attitude to him in the manner he addresses him and speaks about him. He calls out to Crooks to assist with the setting out of washbasins for the returning workers:

"Stable buck—ooh, sta-able buck!" And then, "Where the hell is that God damn nigger?" 

In contrast, when Curley's wife is introduced in the same chapter, she is presented as a vivacious figure, someone who wants attention and gets it:

A girl was standing there looking in. 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. 

She had come to the bunkhouse looking for her husband but it is clear that that was not her main purpose. She came specifically to attract attention and flirt with the men. George and Lennie had already been informed about her and after seeing her, George warned Lennie about keeping away from her because he saw her as dangerous. The point is that she comes across as quite a strong character who is not afraid to speak her mind or to take risks. She knows that Curley does not like her hanging around the other men, but she does it anyway, not much perturbed by the threats of what, we learn, is quite a violent man. 

Crooks, on the other hand, comes across as quite obedient, almost servile. He does not say much and seems to keep to himself. When he appears again in chapter 3, this obeisance is evident.

The door opened quietly and the stable buck put in his head; a lean negro head, lined with pain, the eyes patient. "Mr. Slim." Slim took his eyes from old Candy. "Huh? Oh! Hello, Crooks. What's'a matter?" "You told me to warm up tar for that mule's foot. I got it warm." "Oh! Sure, Crooks. I'll come right out an' put it on." "I can do it if you want, Mr. Slim." "No. I'll come do it myself." He stood up. Crooks said, "Mr. Slim." "Yeah." "That big new guy's messin' around your pups out in the barn." 

We learn more about Crooks in chapter four and it is here that we discover obvious disparities between the two characters. Crooks had a slight disability related to his back, which is probably where his name was derived from. We learn from the text:

...Crooks was a proud, aloof man. He kept his distance and demanded that other people keep theirs. His body was bent over to the left by his crooked spine, and his eyes lay deep in his head, and because of their depth seemed to glitter with intensity. His lean face was lined with deep black wrinkles, and he had thin, pain-tightened lips which were lighter than his face.

When Lennie enters his room, uninvited, he is quite upset about this invasion of his privacy and he scolds Lennie: 

"You go on get outa my room. I ain't wanted in the bunkhouse, and you ain't wanted in my room." "Why ain't you wanted?" Lennie asked. "'Cause I'm black. They play cards in there, but I can't play because I'm black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me." 

It is evident that Crooks feels the need to defend his honour; however, there is also an air of acceptance about his protest. He has been insulted and offended many times and his only defence, it seems, is to lash back with similar offensive statements. It seems as if he has come to accept his lowly status and is self-deprecating, for at one point he says, laughing:

"If I say something, why it's just a nigger sayin' it."

At one point in their conversation, Crooks tortures Lennie by suggesting that George, who has gone to a bar in town with the other men, might never return. Lennie gets all worked up and becomes threatening, causing Crooks to quickly backtrack:

Suddenly Lennie's eyes centered and grew quiet, and mad. He stood up and walked dangerously toward Crooks. "Who hurt George?" he demanded. Crooks saw the danger as it approached him. He edged back on his bunk to get out of the way. "I was just supposin'," he said. "George ain't hurt. He's all right. He'll be back all right."

Later, Candy joins their company and he tells Crooks about their plans for the future, having a farm and all that. Crooks responds in a cynical manner:

"You guys is just kiddin' yourself. You'll talk about it a hell of a lot, but you won't get no land. You'll be a swamper here till they take you out in a box. Hell, I seen too many guys. Lennie here'll quit an' be on the road in two, three weeks. Seems like ever' guy got land in his head." 

It is clear that he has given up on dreaming and has become cynical. He has obviously come to accept his lot and would go through the mundane motions of his life until he dies. Curley's wife arrives and upsets the men. She assumes a very challenging posture and refuses to leave when asked, telling the three men:

"If I catch any one man, and he's alone, I get along fine with him. But just let two of the guys get together an' you won't talk. Jus' nothing but mad." She dropped her fingers and put her hands on her hips. "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." 

She is obviously frustrated with her circumstances, but, unlike Crooks, attempts to do something about it. She states:

"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?"

Furthermore, when she is told that she has a husband to whom she can go to, she becomes quite angry, saying:

"Sure I gotta husban'. You all seen him. Swell guy, ain't he? Spends all his time sayin' what he's gonna do to guys he don't like, and he don't like nobody. Think I'm gonna stay in that two-by-four house and listen how Curley's gonna lead with his left twice, and then bring in the ol' right cross? 'One-two,' he says. 'Jus' the ol' one-two an' he'll go down.'"

Her fiery response suggests that she is upset not only about her situation but most probably at herself as well, for allowing to be caught in it in the first place. She knows who she is and what she wants, unlike Crooks, who has become acquiescent and accepting.

"You bindle bums think you're so damn good. Whatta ya think I am, a kid? I tell ya I could of went with shows. Not jus' one, neither. An' a guy tol' me he could put me in pitchers...." She was breathless with indignation. "—Sat'iday night. Ever'body out doin' som'pin'. Ever'body! An' what am I doin'? Standin' here talkin' to a bunch of bindle stiffs—a nigger an' a dum-dum and a lousy ol' sheep—an' likin' it because they ain't nobody else."

It is the confrontation between her and Crooks which most pertinently illustrates their difference. She responds from a position of strength, probably because she feels superior to him since he is black and she can determine his fate. He feels that he has had enough of her insults and challenges her:

Crooks stood up from his bunk and faced her. "I had enough," he said coldly. "You got no rights comin' in a colored man's room. You got no rights messing around in here at all. Now you jus' get out, an' get out quick. If you don't, I'm gonna ast the boss not to ever let you come in the barn no more."

She, however, turns on him and uses vile language and threats:

She turned on him in scorn. "Listen, Nigger," she said. "You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?"

Her violent response has an immediate effect on Crooks and he immediately retreats and addresses her in a servile manner.

Crooks stared hopelessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk and drew into himself. She closed on him. "You know what I could do?" Crooks seemed to grow smaller, and he pressed himself against the wall. "Yes, ma'am." "Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny." Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego—nothing to arouse either like or dislike. He said, "Yes, ma'am," and his voice was toneless. For a moment she stood over him as though waiting for him to move so that she could whip at him again; but Crooks sat perfectly still, his eyes averted, everything that might be hurt drawn in.

She is not even afraid of Candy's threat that they would tell on her, for she believes that no one would believe them. It is only when she has left that Crooks becomes himself again. When Candy comments about her rudeness and prejudice, Crooks accedes that he didn't stand a chance against her and accepts that he was at a disadvantage. One cannot but help feeling pity for him.

Candy said, "That bitch didn't ought to of said that to you." "It wasn't nothing," Crooks said dully. "You guys comin' in an' settin' made me forget. What she says is true."

As much as she is a strong, vivacious character, Curley's wife also, like Crooks, has no choice. She is forced into an unsatisfying and unsatisfactory existence, just as he is. The difference is that she does not accept her destiny as easily and readily as he does. She, in her own way, rebels against it, whilst he accepts it and does very little in protest. Unfortunately, it is this desire to achieve something different that leads to her untimely demise, whilst Crooks survives, albeit by living a profoundly tedious life.