Several major details in addition to specific quotations illustrate Steinbeck's theme that women during his time were often powerless and isolated simply because of their gender.
1. Unlike Crooks who is isolated because of race, Candy who is isolated because of his age and injury, and Lennie who is isolated because of his mental disability, Curley's Wife is an outcast on the ranch simply because she is a female. She has no one to talk to and nobody who shares similar interests. She also has no practical skills for ranch life.
2. Curley's Wife also remains nameless throughout the entire novellete. Steinbeck gives even Whit, a minor character with few lines, a name. This demonstrates that she is unimportant to the ranch hands and that they do not have a desire to get to know her well enough to know her name.
3. Quote 1:
When looking for Curley in Chapter 3, Curley's Wife says, "They left all the weak ones here. . . . Think I don't know where they all went? Even Curley. I know where they all went" (77).
She knows that her husband is in town at a brothel and there is nothing she can do about it. She also fits into the category of "the weak ones" and recognizes that fact.
4. Quote 2:
She asks Crooks and Candy, "Think I'm gonna stay in that two-by-four house and listen how Curley's gonna lead with his left twict, and then bring in the ol' right cross?" (78)
Even though she wants them to think and wants to convice herself that she would leave Curley if the opportunity afforded itself, she knows that that will not happen. She is too afraid to leave, and the only characters she say this to are the other weak ones.
5. In Chapter 5, as Curley's Wife talks to Lennie, she discusses her past dream to be a movie star and states that she could have made something of herself (88). However, she at one time felt so powerless over her situation in life that she married Curley, a man she had just met, indicating that even now she does not have the courage to leave and try to "make something of herself.