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Representative of the temptress, the Eve who ruins the halcyon environment of the Eden-like pond and surrounding greenery, Curley's wife is pathetically lonely after having had to abandon her dreams of being a movie-star--"I tell ya I could of went with shows."
Out of this loneliness, much like the loneliness of the bindle stiffs themselves, Curley's wife comes around the bunkhouse. However, she holds a power that the men do not: she poses as the temptress with
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 looking for Curley,' she said. Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality.
...She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward.
When George tells her that Curley has not been there, she flirts with him,
"If he ain't, I guess I better look some place else," she said playfully....She smiled archly and twitched her body.
After this, George expresses his assessment of her and tells Lennie,
"I seen 'em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be."
Curley's wife uses her power as the wife of the son of the boss to be cruel and to intimidate,
"I seen too many you guys. If you had two bits in the worl', why you'd be in gettin' two shots of corn with it and suckin' the bottom of the glass. I know you guys."
When she asks Lennie about his bruises and Lennie just says that Curley had his hand caught in a machine, she laughs and says,
"O.K. Machine. I'll talk to you later. I like machines."
"I'm glad you bust up Curley a little bit. He got it comin; to him. Sometimes I'd like to bust him myself."
She later uses her sensuality to threaten Crooks,
"Listen, N--....You know what I could do to you if you open your trap?...I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny."
and to control Lennie,
She looked up at Lennie, and she made a small grand gesture with her arm and hand to show that she could act. The fingers trailed after her leading wrist, and her little finger stuck out grandly from the rest.
Lennie sighed deeply....
...she ran her fingers over the top of her head. "Some people got kinda coarse hair," she said complacently...."Feel right aroun' there an' see how soft it is."
An attractive woman whom Candy says "has the eye" and George calls "jail-bait," Curley's wife is seductive, cruel, and intimidating. Her behavior, born of her terrible aloneness, acts as the Eve in Steinbeck's world of men. For, it is she who spoils the dream of George and Lennie, a dream first expressed in the peace of the Eden-like clearing with the pool.
Curley's wife is the only female in the novel. She comes around the work areas and always says she is looking for Curley. PG 31 "I'm lookin for Curley," she said. Her voice had a nassal, brittle quality (direct characterization). However, Steinbeck characterizes her as a "tramp". George states, "Jesus, what a tramp. So, that's what Curley picks for a wife." (direct)
How does she look?
"Lennie's eyes moved down her body, and though she did not seem to be looking at Lennie she bridled a little." ...Lennie watched her, fascinated. (indirect; Lennie stares because she is beautiful)
...Slim's voice came through the door. "Hi, Good Lookin'." (direct)
..."She's purty," said Lennie (direct)
Candy says, "She's got the eye," when referring to Curley's wife. This is an idiom, directly stating that Curley's wife looks at other men, instead of being faithful to her husband.
Finally, she she comes into the barn and "flirts" with Lennie (at the end), explaining that her hair is soft and that he can touch it, is Steinbeck's final example of indirect characterization. Lennie's strength causes her kneck to break. This instance is foreshadowed through the characterization of Curley's wife AND Lennie's habit of petting soft things.
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