To what extent does Steinbeck's introductory description of Curley's wife reinforce or contradict what the old swamper has said ?this is in section 2 of Of Mice and Men

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Scene Two of Of Mice and Men when Curley's wife appears in the doorway of the bunkhouse, Steinbeck's description of her seems to aptly reinforce the comments of the old swamper, who has described her as "Purty...but----" and "she got the eye" that she has given to Slim, the mule skinner and Carlson.  For, as she stands in the doorway, she strikes a pose:

She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward.  "Your're the new fellas that just come, ain't ya?"

As Lennie looks at her, she "bridled a little," then glances at her fingernails, pretending to be nonchalant, but her next words are said "playfully" as she "smiled archly and twitched her body":

"....I guess I better look some place else."

Clearly, Curley's wife, is flirtatious, with her "full, rouged lips" and heavily made up face and red fingernails and "nasal, brittle" voice is no lady.  She notices the reaction of Lennie when he looks at her legs and arches her body in an animalistic response to the male interest in her.  Her remark that she should look elsewhere is a lure thrown out to see if the new men will say, "Oh, you can stay a while."  But, George is aware of her meaning and replies brusquely to her so she will understand that there is no encouragement.

Steinbeck's depiction of Curley's wife is that of an Eve, who poses threats to the peace and fraternity of the men.  It is Curley's wife who disrupts any harmony between the boss's son and the workers, and among the men who constantly struggle to overcome their alienation from one another.  As she lies lifeless on the hay in the barn after the others have gone, Old Candy looks helplessly back at her and "his sorrow and anger grew into words":

"You done it, di'n't you?  I s'pose you're glad.  ever'body knowed you'd mess things up.  You wasn't no good.  You ain't no good now, you lousy tart."