In Of Mice and Men, what is revealed about Curley's wife in terms of her speech and behavior in Chapter 2?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most telling elements that is revealed about Curley's wife in chapter 2 is her relationship to men. Curley's wife understands the effect she has on men. To a certain extent, it is indicated in the text that she encourages it. Steinbeck does not hesitate in describing Curley's wife as being cognizant of the effect she has on men:

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.

In the description of Curley's wife, it is clear that she carries herself with a particular effect on men. She wears a noticeable color in red and has made herself up with cosmetics.  This appearance is accentuated when George responds to her and she "put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward."   She understands how she is going to be perceived by the men and this is why her behavior is calculated to evoke a specific response.

In the way she speaks in Chapter 2, Curley's wife understands her role as the only woman on the ranch. When she says to George and Lennie, "Nobody can't blame a person for lookin'," it is a statement that seems to carry double meaning. She is looking for Curley, but she says it knowing that Lennie is watching, or looking, at her. This is another way in which Curley's wife understands the impact she has on men.

In both speech and behavior, Curley's wife understands the effect she has on men. She is deliberate and recognizes that her own perception rests in the perception that others have of her. Steinbeck includes this detail in chapter 2 to foreshadow what will come later on in the narrative regarding the dreams that she had for herself.  Her own identity, one whose dreams were rooted in 
"pitchers."  It is in this expectation and hope of being noticed that helps to provide explanation behind Curley's wife's behavior and speech in chapter 2.

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iamkaori | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 2) Salutatorian

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"Awright," she said contemptuously. "Awright, cover 'im up if ya wanta. Whatta I care? You bindle bums think you're so damn good. 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…" She was breathless with indignation. "—Sat'iday night. Ever'body out doin' som'pin'. Ever'body! An' what am I doin'? Standin' here talkin' to a bunch of bindle stiffs—a nigger an' a dum-dum and a lousy ol' sheep—an' likin' it because they ain't nobody else." 

From this quote, you can tell that Curley's wife is definitely not pleased with her marriage with Curley, and the fact that she is not able to part with him. 

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

Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego—nothing to arouse either like or dislike. He said, "Yes, ma'am," and his voice was toneless."

She is also very prejudicial, or at least begging for power. She has a socially inferior role in their society, and thus wants more power. She is able to achieve this by exploiting her power over Crooks, an African American man.

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