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Analysis of Curley's and Curley's wife's personalities, attitudes, speech, and behavior in Of Mice and Men

Summary:

Curley is aggressive, confrontational, and insecure, often using his status to assert dominance, while his wife is lonely, flirtatious, and dreams of a better life. Both characters exhibit behaviors reflecting their dissatisfaction—Curley through hostility and his wife through seeking attention. Their speech reveals Curley's need for control and his wife's desire for connection.

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What personality aspects of Curley's wife are presented in chapter 2 of Of Mice and Men?

In chapter two of Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men, the old swamper Candy describes the main characters on the ranch including Curley's wife. She comes up in the conversation between George and Candy after Curley comes into the bunkhouse looking for her. Candy describes her as pretty but also flirtatious and even possibly promiscuous. He says she's "got the eye," meaning she is often around the men on the ranch trying to talk to them. Candy uses the terms tart, tramp and floozy to refer to her.

A little later she comes into the bunkhouse looking for Curley. Ironically, the two always seem to be looking for each other but are never in the same scene together until chapter five when she is found dead. Her characterization is sexually charged. She is young but seductive in appearance:

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. 

She tries to flirt with and even to tease George and Lennie as she flaunts her body in the doorway. At this point the reader may simply consider her the "tramp" Candy says she is. Her personality is outgoing in a provocative sort of way but she is also a bit "apprehensive" about Curley. Later, however, we learn that she is essentially lonely and craves attention because Curley neglects her and probably even mistreats her. 

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What is the attitude toward Curley's wife in chapter 2 of Of Mice and Men?

Curley’s father is the boss. He knows that the men who work on the ranch are desperate to maintain their positions. Further, he knows that none of the workers can afford to lose their jobs. Therefore, he allows his insecurity (regarding his small size) to motivate him to violence. He bullies the bigger men on the ranch in an attempt to feel better about himself. He is also obsessed with his wife and assumes that she is unfaithful.

 The men on the ranch are conscious of Curley’s insecurities and they know that his wife is a flirt. Her behavior towards the other men on the ranch creates tension. She is overly-friendly and she makes efforts to tempt them. However, despite her beauty, they all realize that Curley will certainly punish them if they fraternize with her. Consequently, the workers resent her, believing that she will entrap them and cause them to lose their jobs. Even George, who is generally fair, warns Lennie to stay away from Curley (who hates big guys) and his wife, who offers dangerous association.

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In Of Mice and Men, what does Chapter 2 reveal about Curley's wife's speech and behavior?

One of the most telling elements that is revealed about Curley's wife in chapter 2 is her relationship to men. Curley's wife understands the effect she has on men. To a certain extent, it is indicated in the text that she encourages it. Steinbeck does not hesitate in describing Curley's wife as being cognizant of the effect she has on men:

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.

In the description of Curley's wife, it is clear that she carries herself with a particular effect on men. She wears a noticeable color in red and has made herself up with cosmetics.  This appearance is accentuated when George responds to her and she "put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward."   She understands how she is going to be perceived by the men and this is why her behavior is calculated to evoke a specific response.

In the way she speaks in Chapter 2, Curley's wife understands her role as the only woman on the ranch. When she says to George and Lennie, "Nobody can't blame a person for lookin'," it is a statement that seems to carry double meaning. She is looking for Curley, but she says it knowing that Lennie is watching, or looking, at her. This is another way in which Curley's wife understands the impact she has on men.

In both speech and behavior, Curley's wife understands the effect she has on men. She is deliberate and recognizes that her own perception rests in the perception that others have of her. Steinbeck includes this detail in chapter 2 to foreshadow what will come later on in the narrative regarding the dreams that she had for herself.  Her own identity, one whose dreams were rooted in 
"pitchers."  It is in this expectation and hope of being noticed that helps to provide explanation behind Curley's wife's behavior and speech in chapter 2.

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Describe Curley's personality in Chapter 2 of Of Mice and Men.

In chapter two, George and Lennie meet Curley for the first time. His personality is angry and arrogant, and he seems to be looking for a fight. He has a chip on his shoulder, which means something is always eating at him; probably a sense of inferiority from being short. He also, however, has outward confidence from being the boss's son: the deck is stacked in his favor, and he knows he can bully the ranch hands, who can't afford to fight back if they want to keep their jobs.

When Curley meets Lennie and George for the first time, he shows his arrogance or sense of superiority. He asks them questions, and when George answers for Lennie, who is upset by Curley, Curley responds arrogantly:

By Christ, he’s gotta talk when he’s spoke to. What the hell are you gettin’ into it for?

Curley shows his arrogance by insisting that Lennie's "gotta" answer when Curley speaks to him, as if Curley is a king. This is not a kind way to treat a new employee. Instead, Curley rubs his employees' inferiority into their faces by lording it over them.

Curley also responds angrily when he meets the two new ranch hands. After having hardly spoken to them:

His arms gradually bent at the elbows and his hands closed into fists. He stiffened and went into a slight crouch. His glance was at once calculating and pugnacious.

This shows that Curley is not only angry, but a person who looks for a fist fight. We learn a little bit later that he is a lightweight boxer, which is no doubt why he went into a crouch when he felt threatened by George and Lennie. Candy tells them:

He done quite a bit in the ring. He’s a lightweight, and he’s handy.

Candy also explains why he thinks Curley has a chip on his shoulder:

Curley’s like alot of little guys. He hates big guys. He’s alla time picking scraps with big guys. Kind of like he’s mad at ‘em because he ain’t a big guy.

George becomes worried that Curley is a mean bully who is going to cause trouble for Lennie. He warns Lennie repeatedly to stay away from him. George says of Curley: "I don’t like mean little guys.”

Candy also tells them that Curley just got married and that is making him worse than ever: it seems he wants to prove himself to his wife.

George says to Lennie a little later:

Look, Lennie! This here ain’t no setup. I’m scared. You gonna have trouble with that Curley guy. I seen that kind before. He was kinda feelin’ you out. He figures he’s got you scared and he’s gonna take a sock at you the first chance he gets.

We can tell from chapter two that Curley is a mean, arrogant bully with an inferiority complex who will probably make trouble for George and Lennie if he gets the chance.

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What does Curley's wife reveal about herself in chapter 5 of Of Mice and Men?

Curley's wife reveals that she always wanted to go to Hollywood and make it as a movie star. Once upon a time, a member of a traveling troupe passing through her hometown told Curley's wife that she might have a future in movies and that he would write to her from Hollywood. But Curley's wife never heard from him again; she thinks that her mother must have torn up any letters he sent her.

It was largely as a way of escaping such a stultifying home life that Curley's wife got married to a man she didn't love. As a result, she finds herself trapped in an environment from which there's no escape. Bored out of her mind and stuck in a loveless marriage that's going nowhere, Curley's wife feels the loss of her big chance at movie stardom most keenly.

Like just about everyone else in the story, then, Curley's wife has dreams, and very ambitious dreams they are too. But just like everyone else, her dreams will ultimately come to nothing. Though Curley's wife is a deeply unsympathetic character in many respects, the thwarting of her life's ambitions has a certain tragic quality to it. There's also a terrible sense of inevitability about it.

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What does Curley's wife reveal about herself in chapter 5 of Of Mice and Men?

In chapter five Candy, Curley's wife, tells Lenny that she could have made something better of herself other than just being the wife of Curley who she says "ain't a nice fella." She continues to say that when she was 15 years old she met an actor from a travelling show who invited her to join the show, but her mother wouldn't let her. A while later she went with another man to a dance who told her that he could put her in the movies. "Says I was a natural." He promised to send her a letter, but she never received it.

Though one could say her story shows her to be naive, you get the feeling that she is too canny to share the story with anyone else but Lenny. She knows he can't fully understand the nuances of what she is telling him. As she says, "I ain't told this to nobody before."

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What does Curley's wife reveal about herself in chapter 5 of Of Mice and Men?

The main thing that Curley's wife reveals about herself in chapter 5 is that she has dreams of becoming a movie star and is totally ignorant about acting or about the movie business. All she knows is that some man told her she was a "natural." She tells Lennie:

"Coulda been in the movies, an' had nice clothes--all them nice clothes like they wear. An' I coulda sat in them big hotels, an' had pitchers took of me. When they had them previews I coulda went to them, an' spoke in the radio, an' it wouldn'ta cost me a cent because I was in the pitcher. An' all them nice clothes like they wear. Because this guy says I was a natural."

This explains her behavior around the ranch workers. They think she is "jail bait" and a "tart," a promiscuous underage girl who could cause all kinds of trouble. She is really only trying out her charms and acting ability on the only audience that is available out here. It explains why she devotes so much attention to her makeup and her curls. Lennie doesn't understand what she is talking about. The only man on the ranch who understands her is Slim. He knows she is just a little girl with grandiose delusions, and he pretends to be impressed by her because he is a kind-hearted man and really feels sorry for her. He knows she hasn't a chance in the world of becoming a movie star, and he pities the poor kid for being married to a man like Curley.

Unfortunately, Curley's wife fails to realize that her provocative behavior will lead to her death. The other men know better than to get involved with her. They shun her.  But Lennie does not have any self-control, and he completely forgets about George's earlier warning to stay away from this girl.

"Listen to me, you crazy bastard," he said fiercely. "Don't you even take a look at that bitch. I don't care what she says and what she does. I seen 'em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be."

She approaches Lennie in the barn because he is the only man she can talk to. She also reveals to Lennie that she dislikes her husband and that she feels lonely most of the time. Lennie probably understands little, if anything, of what she is talking about. But he has found her attractive ever since he first saw her in the bunkhouse.

Lennie still stared at the doorway where she had been. "Gosh, she was purty." He smiled admiringly.

The alert reader should realize that this foreshadows serious future trouble.

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