Curley's wife is depicted as an attractive, lonely young woman, who is unhappily married and desires to leave the ranch. The workers go out of their way to avoid her and refrain from speaking to her out of fear that they might get fired. Curley's wife has a terrible reputation among the workers, and she is referred to as a "tart," "jailbait," and a "whore." They believe that Curley's wife has a wandering eye, and George
explicit instructions not to speak to her. George recognizes that Curley's wife will cause them nothing but trouble, and Lennie attempts to follow his directions but cannot avoid interacting with her.
In chapter 5, Curley's wife enters the barn and has a conversation with Lennie, who is upset that he accidentally killed his puppy. Curley's wife unburdens herself to Lennie, and the reader gains valuable insight into her background. According to Curley's wife, she hates her husband, who is aggressive and domineering. Curley's wife says that she met a guy in the "pitchers," and he told her that he could put her in the movies. Unfortunately, she never received a letter from him and still believes that her mother stole it. Curley's wife then says,
Well, I wasn't gonna stay no place where I couldn't get nowhere or make something of myself, an' where they stole your letters. I ast her if she stole it, too, an' she says no. So I married Curley. Met him out to the Riverside Dance Palace that same night (Steinbeck, 88).
Given Curley's wife's story, one could discern that she decided to marry Curley because she was out of options and simply wanted to leave her home. Curley's wife probably felt that marrying Curley was her best option at the time to experience some degree of autonomy and freedom from her mother. Unfortunately, Curley's wife made the mistake of marrying a pugnacious, aggressive man.