What is Curley's wife's dream in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before she married Curley, his wife dreamed of becoming an actress.

In Chapter 5, Curley's lonely wife finds Lennie in one of the stalls, stroking his puppy that has died, probably because he has handled it too much. She consoles him, and starts to talk with Lennie, telling him that she lived with her family in Salinas. When a traveling show came through, she met one of the actors; this man told the girl that she was a natural actress and offered to let her come with the show. However, because she was only fifteen years old, her mother would not permit the girl to leave home. "If I'd went, I wouldn't be living like this, you bet," she tells Lennie.

She quickly continues her story before Lennie can interrupt. There was another opportunity:

"...a guy...was in pitchers. Went out to the Riverside Dances with him. He says he was gonna put me in the movies....Soon's he got back to Hollywood, he was gonna write to me about it." 

But, she adds that she never received the letter; she believes that her mother stole it, but her mother denied having seen any letter. So, she says, she was not going to stay at home with her mother preventing her from finding opportunities to become an actress. Wistfully, she adds,

"Coulda been in the movies, an' had nice clothes....An' I coulda sat in them big hotels, an' had pitchers took of me.....

Believing that her only escape was to leave home, she ran away with Curley the same night that she met him at the Riverside Dances. Now, however, she is still unhappy as she confides in Lennie, "I don' like Curley. He ain't a nice fella."

Clearly, Curley's wife possesses little but her physical beauty. Nevertheless, she dreams of escape from her humdrum existence just as so many others on the ranch.