Curley's wife reveals many features of the Great Depression, as well as what it meant to be female during that era, and what it was like to be another shade of loneliness.
First, the Great Depression was an era lasting throughout the 1930s in which Americans in general suffered the effects of the Stock Market Crash of 1929. People had begun paying for life on credit, it eventually caught up with them. To make matters worse, the middle of America experienced the Dust Bowl, a great drought which halted agriculture. Americans were economically strapped in many ways. When times get tough, scam-artists surface.
Curley's wife demonstrates through her life much of the stifling that occurred to many Americans. As a fifteen-year-old girl, someone told her that she could be in "pitchers" (movies). Preying on her naivety, the "producer" continued to write her and her mother confiscated the letters. She thought her mother was trying to keep her down, when in truth, her mother probably recognized the scam. This man may have intended to use Curley's wife, but not necessarily for what she thought he wanted her to do.
This in turn made Curley's wife irrational. The next time she went dancing, in an effort to rebel against her mother, Curley's wife just married the next guy she met. Being married to Curley caused her an even greater depression as she couldn't make friends on the ranch, and she was ordered to keep to herself.
Therefore, Curley's wife was most affected by the Great Depression as she experienced the consequences of her actions as well as others as a result of the Great Depression.