Curley's wife first appears in the bunkhouse in Chapter Two.
Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off. A girl was standing there looking in. She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers. "I'm lookin' for Curley," she said. Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality.
George looked away from her and then back. "He was in here a minute ago, but he went."
"Oh!" She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward. "You're the new fellas that just come, ain't ya?"
Curley's wife is very young. She gives the false impression that she is flirtatious and probably promiscuous. The fact is that she has fantasies about becoming a movie star, as she reveals to Lennie in the barn shortly before he kills her. She is trying out her sex appeal on the only audience available to her--the men who work on the ranch. She has nothing to do with her time except to read movie magazines and experiment with her appearance and mannerisms. When she puts her hands behind her back and leans against the door frame so that her body is thrown forward, this is a pose she is evidently copying from a picture she saw in some fan magazine. She does this in order to make her breasts seem larger than they actually are. Her makeup and her shoes with ostrich feathers are out of place in this environment and betray the fact that she is very young and very ignorant. She started hanging around a dance hall in Salinas when she was only fifteen and has probably never been to high school. Curley has a big inferiority complex because of his small size. He probably married this young girl because he does not know whether he could relate to an older woman. Most of the men consider her a potential troublemaker. Lennie, however, is enchanted.
Lennie's eyes moved down over her body, and though she did not seem to be looking at Lennie she bridled a little.
The fact that she "bridled a little" seems to suggest that she is only a little girl playing at being a sexy movie star like Jean Harlow. She wants to be admired, but she doesn't really want anything more than that from any of these men. Her behavior causes her husband Curley to be jealous and suspicious of every man on the ranch. This foreshadows future trouble.
George looked around at Lennie. "Jesus, what a tramp," he said. "So that's what Curley picks for a wife."
"She purty," said Lennie defensively.
George is immediately apprehensive. Lennie is showing an interest in something besides mice and rabbits.
"Listen to me, you crazy bastard," he said fiercely. "Don't you even take a look at that bitch. I don't care what she says and what she does. I seen 'em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be."
Lennie will remember George's anger and George's orders when he is alone with Curley's wife in the barn. Lennie won't let go of the girl's soft hair and she won't stop struggling and screaming. Lennie realizes he is getting into just the sort of trouble that George warned him against, and he accidentally kills the frail girl in a desperate attempt to stop her from screaming. This tragic event is foreshadowed by the girl's first appearance in the doorway of the bunkhouse.