Of Mice and Men Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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

Curley's wife's dream is to become a movie actress. A man once told her he'd put her in movies, but Curley's wife never heard back from him. She holds on to that dream and talks about what could have been. At a more basic level, her dream is about being able to escape the ranch and her dissatisfying marriage to Curley.

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In short, Curley's wife dreams of a better life than the one she's currently living. She isn't a kind person, seeking out those whom she views as weaker than herself and further demeaning them to make herself seem more important.

In chapter 4, she insults Lennie, Candy, and Crooks, telling them that they are all cowards. She goes on to insult her husband, telling them that she isn't going to stay confined in their small house and that she knows his hand is busted because he was beaten in a fight—though he claims to be incredibly tough. And then she goes on to speak about the dreams she once had:

I tell ya I could of went with shows. Not jus' one, neither. An' a guy tol' me he could put me in pitchers.

And she still dresses the part, walking around the ranch with full make-up, curled hair, and shoes adored with ostrich feathers. When she focuses her attention on Lennie, Crooks rises to protect him. In response, Curley's wife issues a stern warning:

Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny.

Curley's wife lives in a fantasy world, believing that she will be rescued from the mundane ranch surroundings by something more exciting and dazzling. And since the ranch offers little in the way of upward mobility for her, she will spend her time making others feel insignificant so that she can feel better about herself. Her dreams of a more exciting life go unfulfilled at the plot's end.

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Curley's wife is depicted as one of the loneliest characters on the ranch, and she is unhappily married to the insecure, domineering Curley. Curley's wife despises her husband, who is controlling and oppressive. As the only woman on the farm, Curley's wife does not have anyone to confide in, and the men purposely avoid her because they do not want to lose their jobs.

Curley's wife reveals her dream of becoming a movie star at several different moments in the story. In chapter 4, Curley's wife walks into Crooks's small room attached to the barn and interrupts the men having a conversation. When they attempt to dismiss her, Curley's wife responds by saying:

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 (Steinbeck 38)

Curley's wife's comment suggests that she dreams of becoming a movie star. Apparently, she was told by someone in show business that she was talented enough to act in movies.

In chapter 5, Curley's wife walks into the barn and starts a conversation with Lennie, who is worried about George punishing him for accidentally killing the dog. Curley's wife once again reveals her dream by telling Lennie:

’Nother time I met a guy, an’ he was in pitchers. Went out to the Riverside Dance Palace with him. He says he was gonna put me in the movies. Says I was a natural. Soon’s he got back to Hollywood he was gonna write to me about it...I never got that letter...I always thought my ol’ lady stole it (Steinbeck 44)

Curley's wife resents her mother for possibly stealing her letters from Hollywood and holds onto the dream that she will one day be contacted to act in a movie.

In addition to becoming an actress, Curley's wife also dreams of leaving her pugnacious, domineering husband. She admits to Lennie that Curley is not a nice man and regrets marrying him. Similar to the other men on the farm, Curley's wife feels trapped and is unable to attain her dreams.

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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. 

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