In "Of Mice and Men," hands take on a symbolic quality, and often reflect the characteristics of the those to whom they are attached. For example, Curley is described as keeping one of his hands in a vaseline-filled glove at all times, to keep it soft for his wife. His other hand is free for cruelty and beatings, as Lennie will soon find out. Thus, Curley's true nature is revealed both by his gloved hand, which is unnaturally, publicly, and deceptively softened, and his un-gloved hand, which is openly sadistic. He is the kind of man who believes that cheap, quick fixes, such as moisturizing one of his hands, will cause his wife to love him more, and trick her into thinking that he is actually a good man. He is superficial and silly, yet cunning and malevolent.
In contrast, Lennie's hands are quite paw-like, and he is described as being shapeless. Lennie's hands, and the rest of his body, reflect his child-like, innocent, and almost animalistic nature. They lack George's characteristic cleverness, or Curley's sadism. Unlike Curley, Lennie has neither the desire nor the ability to hide his true intentions. Ultimately, the brute strength of Lennie's hands, combined with his innocence, leads to his demise. He kills Curley's wife by accident, and, as a result, both his and George's dreams are irrevocably crushed.
Last, Curley's wife is described as having red nails. Her hands, and the rest of her, are soft, delicate, and alluring. In particular, her nails reflect her sense of beauty, pride, and flirtatiousness. She is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Lenny, who is huge, hulking, and oblivious. She is also a dangerous figure on the ranch, as Curley will attack any man who tries to connect with her. However, her nails also reveal a second, and perhaps more critical, aspect of her personality: she has dreams. Indeed, Curley's wife wants to be an actress, but because of her current situation (that is, her marriage to Curley, and her isolation), she cannot achieve it. Thus, her red nails and sausage-like curls represent her hope, and her unwillingness to let go of an impossible dream. Like Lennie and George, she yearns for a brighter future.