Why is Curley's wife not responsible for Lennie's death in Of Mice and Men?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Curley’s wife is not responsible for Lennie’s death because she was just lonely and trying to talk to him.

Curley’s wife is manipulative. She tries to talk to Lennie because she thinks that she can talk to him like other men.  However, she is glad that he is a little different. Lennie is slow, and does not think like an adult man. Curley’s wife leads a very lonely existence and when she approaches Lennie, she just wants someone to talk to.

There are no other women on the ranch. Steinbeck does not even give Curley’s wife a name, symbolizing how she is objectified. She is just a woman, not a person.

When George first learns about Curley’s wife, he decides she is dangerous based on Curley’s personality and the way she is described.

“Well, stick around an’ keep your eyes open. You’ll see plenty. She ain’t concealin’ nothing. I never seen nobody like her. She got the eye goin’ all the time on everybody. I bet she even gives the stable buck the eye. I don’t know what the hell she wants.” (Ch. 3)

Because of this reputation, all of the men avoid Curley’s wife. She does not have any friends on the ranch among women or men. All she has is Curley, and he is jealous and crude.

We can tell that Curley’s wife is lonely by the fact that she sought out Lennie in the first place. Most women would not try to talk to someone like Lennie. Curley’s wife is desperate, though. She wants someone who will not judge her.

Lennie is afraid to talk to her at first, because he thinks he will get in trouble. He already broke Curley’s hand when he tried to start a fight. When Lennie tells her he is not supposed to talk to her, she gets mad.

Her face grew angry. “Wha’s the matter with me?” she cried. “Ain’t I got a right to talk to nobody? Whatta they think I am, anyways? You’re a nice guy. I don’t know why I can’t talk to you. I ain’t doin’ no harm to you.” (Ch. 4)

Curley’s wife might have sought Lennie out, but there is no way she knew he was going to kill her. Just because he had killed a puppy does not mean that he would kill a woman. 

Curley’s wife does inadvertently cause Lennie’s death because he killed her when she went to visit him, but it was not her fault. George decided that Lennie was too dangerous to be left alive, and he was just doing what he thought was best for Lennie and anyone he might encounter.