What did Lennie say about Curley's wife?

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Laurine Herzog eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When Lennie first sees Curley's Wife, he comments that she is pretty, or "purty." George then warns Lennie to keep away from her. She is, after all, the wife of the boss's very jealous son.

Later in the novel, Lennie is in the barn with a puppy that he has accidentally killed, and Curley's Wife walks in. Lennie tries not to be drawn into a conversation with Curley's Wife, and tells her it's because "George says you'll get us in a mess." He then, at her invitation, starts stroking her hair, commenting "that's nice," before he accidentally breaks her neck after she starts screaming when he strokes too hard.

Before he breaks her neck, he puts his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams, and says angrily to her that "You gonna get me in trouble." This is an echo of the story George earlier related to Slim about Lennie stroking a woman's red dress too hard back in Weed and the woman claiming rape.

In summary, these brief comments are the only comments Lennie makes about Curley's Wife. He tells George that she is pretty, and he tells her that he can't talk to her because she'll get him "in a mess," which he tells her again just before he breaks her neck.

If you're interested in learning more about Curley's wife, I've provided a link to a copy of a letter that Steinbeck wrote to an actress who was playing Curley's wife in a stage adaptation of the story. In the letter, Steinbeck explains the character from his perspective.

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Hollis Sanders eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Upon meeting Curly's wife, Lennie is immediately attracted to her, calling her "purty." George is immediately alarmed by this, and with uncharacteristic vehemence, he instructs Lennie to stay away from her. A bit hurt and confused, Lennie points out that George was looking at her too. George is not being deliberately hurtful to his friend, however, he simply sees the danger that the two interacting could pose.

Curly's wife does not have a name in the story. Steinbeck has said that this is because she isn't a person, she simply exists to be a danger to Lennie. Indeed, the gentle giant's final downfall is caused because of the vain wife. She lets Lennie stroke her hair, but she panics when she feels his strength. This causes Lennie to panic in turn, and he breaks her neck.

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When he first meets her, he says that she is "purty," and then soon thereafter says, "Gosh, she was purty."

Further Reading:

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