Discuss fate and free will in regards to Curley's wife's loneliness and isolation.John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In her loneliness, Curley's wife is lured to the idea of marrying Curley and leaving her life in Salinas, but in reality she does little other than perpetuate the same kind of fate to which she was headed in her hometown. For instance, when she was fifteen, she met an actor who came with a show through Salinas and offered to let her travel with him, apparently so she could be an actress; however, his intentions were probably to exploit her.  Then, she met another man who took her to the Riverside Dance Place, saying he would put her in the movies.  Although he promised to send her a letter, Curley's wife did not receive it; however, she believes that her mother took the letter when it arrived in the mail. She tells Lennie,

Well, I wasn't gonna stay no place where I couldn't get nowhere or make something of myself, an' where they stole your letters.  So I married Curley.  Met him out to the Riverside Dance Palace that same night.

Now, Curley's wife is perhaps even more isolated that she was in Salinas, for there are no other women with whom she can be friends, nor are there any men looking for her as a single woman at the dance hall, and there is little for her to do on the ranch.  Trapped, she comes around the bunkhouse in the hopes of finding some companionship, but since there are only the men who work for her husband's father, she is met with aggression by her tempting appearance and actions, and distrust as the wife of the boss's son.  Sadly, the ranch becomes a veritable dead-end for her, and Curley's wife is fated to be isolated and lonely, and worse-dead.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the end, Curley's wife ends up suffering the fate of many who yearn to live out their dreams without much in way of acknowledgement of the reality that surrounds them.  Her free will hopes of being a film star, someone who is the object of others' affections, fancy, and attention is something that she is never able to achieve.  It is to this extent that she carries herself in the manner she does on the ranch, expecting the other men to gawk and stare at her in amazement and in a manner of objectification.  It seems that she to a certain extent, to have this represent the manner in which she dies.  She entrances Lennie before her death.  Using her beauty and her "vamp" wiles on him, he is overcome with "how pretty" she is and her "sausage like curls" of her hair.  Curley's wife's dreams of being the object of others' perceptions and to live a life where she is viewed by others, either on screen or in reality, is what ends up killing her and Lennie does not know what to do with such beauty and ends up crushing the life out of her and it.  It ends up becoming her fate that she is meant to die in this manner.  Her free will ends up spelling out her own doom, primarily because of her inability to fully accept the decisive role reality plays in her dreams.