Whose death was more tragic in Of Mice and Men, Lennie's or Curley's wife's? Please provide relevant quotes or events.

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While anyone's early death is tragic, the reader may have particular sympathy for Lennie, especially since he and George and Candy were on the verge of realizing the dream of owning their own farm.

Curley's wife is referred to throughout the novel as a tart, a tramp and a...

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While anyone's early death is tragic, the reader may have particular sympathy for Lennie, especially since he and George and Candy were on the verge of realizing the dream of owning their own farm.

Curley's wife is referred to throughout the novel as a tart, a tramp and a floozy. She seemed to be forever trying to tempt the men on the ranch. Because of her flirtations her husband is jealous and often flies into a rage over not being able to find his wife. Even on a ranch with working men, Curley's wife dresses as the seductress. In chapter two, when George and Lennie first meet her she is described:

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.

Lennie is child-like and obsessively drawn to soft and brightly colored things. We find out in chapter three that he and George had to run away from a previous job when Lennie grabbed a girl's red dress. The episode foreshadows the scene in the barn when Lennie begins stroking Curley's wife's hair. Although she has invited Lennie to touch her she suddenly recoils and screams. Lennie becomes confused and, because he doesn't know his own strength, accidentally breaks her neck. While it is tragic, the reader may also assume that Curley's wife played with fire by interacting with Lennie. In her defense, however, she is terribly lonely and Lennie is the only man on the farm who will pay attention to her.

Lennie, on the other hand, doesn't deserve to die. Even though he is simple minded and often does "bad things" Lennie is described as being basically a good person. In chapter three Slim says,

“He’s a nice fella,” said Slim. “Guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella. Seems to me sometimes it jus’ works the other way around. Take a real smart guy and he ain’t hardly ever a nice fella.” 

Lennie's death is symbolic of Steinbeck's theme that nothing will ever work out for George and Lennie, hence the title of the book. Just as it looks like the dream will materialize with the money which Candy will contribute, everything falls apart. In chapter five, after finding Curley's wife, George says,

“—I think I knowed from the very first. I think I know’d we’d never do her. He usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would.”

Thus, Lennie's death is also tragic for George and Candy who will never go off to the perceived paradise of the farm. Candy is destined to spend the rest of his life swamping out the bunkhouse and George will travel from place to place, drinking whiskey and sitting all night in a poolroom. 

 

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