Discussion Topic

Curley's character and his role, portrayal, interactions, and significance in "Of Mice and Men."

Summary:

Curley is portrayed as an aggressive, confrontational character in Of Mice and Men. As the boss's son, he wields power over the other ranch workers and often instigates conflicts, particularly with larger men like Lennie. His interactions drive key plot points, highlighting themes of power and insecurity. Curley's significance lies in embodying the toxic masculinity and social hierarchies of the time.

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How does Curley's character contribute to the conflict and tension in Of Mice and Men?

There are three ways in which Curley adds to the tension of the story. 

First, no one likes Curley. In fact, his wife who has been married to Curley for two whole weeks does not even like him. The men of the ranch also dislike him, and the only reason why they put up with him is because he is the son of the boss. So, whenever he is around, there is tension. Here is an example:

I don’t care if you’re the best welter in the country. You come for me, an’ I’ll kick your God damn head off.”

Second, Curley, being a small man, feels the need to prove himself. So, he likes to talk big and challenge bigger guys. This means that he want to bother Lennie and challenge him. At one point, he beats on Lennie, until Lennie fights back and hurts Curley. 

Third, because Curley's wife cannot stand him, she looks at the other men. This makes Curley jealous and even more suspicious of the men. As she spends time with Lennie, Lennie accidentally kills her. This creates the greatest tension, because George knows that the men will kill Lennie. 

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How is Curley's character portrayed in the barn in Of Mice and Men?

In Of Mice and MenCurley proves his hatred for Lennie in the barn scene. He is presented as a man with vengeance, not necessarily for his wife, but he is carrying a grudge that he has been holding against Lennie for crushing his hand.

When Candy calls the men into the barn to show them that Curley's wife is dead, Curley immediately suspects Lennie as his wife's murderer. He immediately forms a lynch mob to track Lennie down.

Curley at once decides that Lennie is responsible. Showing more concern for getting Lennie than for his dead wife, Curley and Carlson go for their guns. 

Curley never took the time to say farewell to his wife before leaving the barn. He is more concerned with finding Lennie. Curley does not show any sentiment to his wife who is lying lifeless in the hay. He is still harboring anger since Lennie humiliated him by crushing his hand:

...Curley, intent on revenge, more for his shattered hand than for his dead wife, wants Lennie to suffer. “I’m gonna shoot the guts outa that big bastard myself, even if I only got one hand. I’m gonna get ‘im.” 

Curley is a man filled with anger and revenge. He is not about justice at all. He just wants to make Lennie suffer for the humiliation he has had to endure. 

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Why is Curley the way he is and what role does he play in Of Mice and Men?

Curley in Of Mice and Men is the boss's son and is always trying to prove himself and his masculinity to everyone else. Even from the first time he sees George and Lennie, he challenges them and is ready to fight. As he looks them over for the first time "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" (Steinbeck, 13).

When George asks why Curley is so argumentative, Candy explains that "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" (Steinbeck, 14). Throughout the text, Curley seems nervous that someone else is going to challenge him, and he is always concerned that someone is a threat to his masculinity and especially that someone else might attract the attention of his wife. Curley has been married for two weeks at the start of the story, but his wife has "got the eye" (Steinbeck, 15). In other words, Curley's wife is always flirting with other men, and Candy thinks this is perhaps one reason that "Curley’s pants is full of ants" (Steinbeck, 15).

Overall, Curley is the main opposition to George and Lennie throughout the book. In terms of the vision of the American Dream, Curley is an ordinary person who is intensely aware of the competition aspect of the American Dream and who is always scared that what he has accomplished for himself might be taken away by someone else.

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How is the character Curley described in Of Mice and Men?

The most telling description of Curley is given to George by Candy in Chapter Two of the short novel in the following two direct quotes.

"That's the boss's son," he said quietly. "Curley's pretty handy. He done quite a bit in the ring. He's a lightweight, and he's handy."

"Well . . . tell you what. Curley's like a lot 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. You seen little guys like that, ain't you? Always scrappy?"

Throughout the rest of the story Curley's behavior is in keeping with Candy's wise assessment of his character. Curley has an inferiority complex because of his small size. In attempting to compensate, he has trained to be a boxer and has developed an aggressive personality. No doubt he goes in for body building along with the kinds of exercises that boxers typically engage in, such as jogging, bag-punching, and rope-skipping.

His wife appears to be a very young girl, possibly only sixteen. Such a marriage would seem to be in keeping with Curley's inferiority complex; he might feel inadequate to relate to an older woman. He is extremely jealous and possessive because he senses his bride does not love or respect him, which happens to be true. She only married him to escape from her home where, like many another teenage girl, she wasn't getting along with her mother.

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Describe the character Curley in Of Mice and Men.

In Of Mice and Men, Curley is short, angry and cruel. These characteristics describe everything this character contributes to the novel.

Curley is short and has a bit of what is known as the Napolean complex. So he goes around angry trying to start fights. The second time the reader meets Curley, he attacks Lennie thinking that Lennie was laughing at him. He punches Lennie in the face, which causes the large man to bleed. Lennie did not fight back until George told him to, but when he does fight back, he crushes every bone in Lennie's hand. This is what Candy says about him after this incident:

Curley's like a lot 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.

Curley's inadequacy that may stem from his height is also evident in how he treats his wife, who is known simply as Curley's wife. He supposedly keeps his hand in a Vaselined glove so it'd be soft when he touches her, but there's absolutely no evidence he ever touches her. He shows no connection with her other than constantly looking for her. In fact, the only time the reader hears about Curley being sexual in the novel is when he goes to Old Susie's, the town whorehouse.

Finally, it's important to note that there is really no evidence of mourning when Lennie kills Curley's wife. Instead, Curley just wants to go out and kill Lennie.

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How does Steinbeck describe Curley when the reader is introduced to him?

There is no one lengthy description of Curley in the book. So, you need to piece together what Curley is like by various descriptions. For one thing, Curley is known to be a good fighter. He did some boxing in the past. 

The old man looked cautiously at the door to make sure no one was listening. “That’s the boss’s son,” he said quietly. “Curley’s pretty handy. He done quite a bit in the ring. He’s a lightweight, and he’s handy.”

Curley is also short. In fact, he has a complex because of this, and he feels the need to prove himself. So, he is easily angered and fights others. 

Well . . . tell you what. Curley's like a lot 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. You seen little guys like that, ain't you? Always scrappy?

One of the climaxes of the book will be when Curley messes with the wrong guy. He fights Lennie and pays dearly. 

“Sure,” said George. “I seen plenty tough little guys. But this Curley better not make no mistakes about Lennie. Lennie ain’t handy, but this Curley punk is gonna get hurt if he messes around with Lennie.”

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In the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, identify and describe Curley.

Curly is he son of the boss on the ranch where George and Lennie work.  While he works hard to emit this tough guy persona (there's even rumors around the ranch that at one time he was a champion prize fighter).  However, in reality, Curly's just a coward and a bully.  While the other men on the ranch put in hard days of labor, he walks around in high heeled boots to show off his status on the ranch.  We see his bullying ways when he first meets Lennie.  Wanting to be the big man on the ranch, Curly tries to pick a fight with gentle Lennie.  Lennie, bigger and stronger, breaks Curly's hand by wrapping his own hand around Curly's.  Like a child, Curly wants to run and tell his dad, but the men convince him not to by playing on his prideful nature- if he doesn't tell, they'll let him keep his dignity and say it was caught in a machine.

When Curly's wife is found dead, Curly is quick to lead the mob to find and kill Lennie.  While he fears his wife's been flirting with the men on the ranch, he knows he hasn't been able to stop it.  He also doesn't show much remorse at his wife's death, but he does jump at the oppurtunity to get his revenge on Lenny.

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In Of Mice and Men, who is Curley?

If George and Lennie are protagonists in Of Mice and Men, Curley would have to be seen as an antagonist in Steinbeck's work.

Curley is the son of the boss of the ranch.  He is a former boxer who was quite successful in the ring.  He has a sense of entitlement.  Candy notes that he's a "small guy" and because he is so small, he likes to pick fights with men who are bigger than him.  When Candy describes him in chapter 2, he makes the argument to George that Curley is in a no-lose situation. If the bigger guy beats him up, he will receive public scorn because he fought someone smaller than him.  If Curley prevails, then it goes to show his talent.  

Curley's size helps foster his defensive attitude. This is shown in his initial interaction with Lennie in chapter 2, and how he challenges Lennie to a fight in chapter 3.  This leads Lennie to strike back and break Curley's hand, fueling a particular vengeance that is evident when Curley leads the lynch party to kill Lennie at the end of the book.  When Curley finds George with the dead Lennie, Curley wants to know how it happened and seems to speak with an almost joyously savoring tone at the sight of the dead body.

There are some indications that Curley is not very understanding toward his wife. Curley's wife says that Curley's "not a nice fella" and she immediately runs off when she hears that he is looking for her. Curley is distinctive because he wears a black glove that is reputed to contain Vaseline so that his hand can be “soft” for his wife.  In contrast to the depth of Slim or George at the end of the novella, Curley is fairly superficial in terms of how he views life. He cares about himself and satisfies his needs. This can be seen at the end of the novel when he and Carlson look at Slim and George and wonder what is wrong with them.

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What is Curley's role in Of Mice and Men?

Curley is a classic antagonist to the protagonists George and Lennie in Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men. The antagonist in a piece of fiction is a character who stands against the main character or characters. From the very first time George and Lennie meet Curley in the bunkhouse in chapter two, they consider him a threat because of his tough-guy attitude. In their first conversation, Curley insists that Lennie talk, hoping from the very start that he can provoke a fight with the big man. Candy explains it best when he claims that Curley likes to pick on big guys such as Lennie:

Well...tell you what. Curley's like a lot a 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. You seen little guys like that, ain't you? Always scrappy?

After meeting Curley and then Curley's wife, Lennie's childlike instincts tell him that the ranch is not the right place for the two men. He pleads with George "Le's go, George. Le's get outta here. It's mean here." Lennie foreshadows the problems which will arise because of Curley's "pugnacious" attitude and the seductive qualities of Curley's wife. George acknowledges Lennie's fears but is determined to earn money to purchase his dream ranch. But he too worries about eventually fighting Curley, saying, "Ya know Lennie, I'm scared I'm gonna tangle with that bastard myself. I hate his guts."

In chapter three, Curley is rumored to be looking to fight Slim because he believes the skinner might be in the barn with his wife. Apparently this scene is typical on the ranch, due to Curley's constant jealousy toward his young wife. While this is going on, George once again describes the longed for ranch, this time exciting the aspirations of old Candy, who pledges to donate money to the project. While George, Lennie, and Candy muse over the future, Curley and the other men burst into the bunkhouse and Curley instantly lights into Lennie, punching him several times before Lennie fights back and subdues Curley by catching the smaller man's fist in midair:

Curley's fist was swinging when Lennie reached for it. The next minute Curley was flopping like a fish on a line, and his closed fist was lost in Lennie's big hand.

George ultimately gets Lennie to let go of Curley's hand, but not before the hand is badly crushed by Lennie's overpowering strength. Afterward, Curley is subdued, agreeing not to tell anyone what happened to his hand so that George and Lennie can continue working on the ranch. Unfortunately, Lennie's beating of Curley arouses the admiration of Curley's wife, who quizzes Lennie on how he got "them bruises" on his face. This unintended attention comes to a climax in chapter five when Curley's wife insists that Lennie sit and talk with her. Soon enough, Lennie is stroking her hair, leading to his grabbing and shaking her. Steinbeck uses familiar language to describe Lennie's throttling of the girl:

He shook her then, and he was angry with her. "Don't you go yellin," he said, and he shook her; and her body flopped like a fish. And then she was still, for Lennie had broken her neck.

After this incident, Curley's behavior is predictable. He immediately wants to kill Lennie, who has escaped to the "brush" by the Salinas River (which was the setting of the first chapter). Curley seems oblivious to reason and sets off armed with a shotgun. The reality that Curley will shoot Lennie, or, at the very least, the big man will be locked up in jail, prompts George to kill Lennie himself. Rather than seeing his friend suffer, George shoots Lennie in the back of the head and the man is dead instantly. At the end of the novel, Curley shows a glimmer of humanity when he examines Lennie's body: "'Right in the back of the head,' he said softly."

While readers may blame Curley and his wife for the tragedy of Lennie's death, it seems likely from evidence early in the novel that George would have ended up in the same position no matter where the men had traveled.

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What is Curley's role in Of Mice and Men?

In the first description of Curley we see that he has to prove his authority, hinting at his inferiority complex, as he wears “high-heeled boots” to distinguish himself from the workers. This hints that he hasn’t earned his status; he has got there through nepotism. This is in contrast to the description of Slim, who has “natural authority” and it shows the illogical nature of the situation, that Curley has more power. Steinbeck uses this situation to criticise the lack of social mobility at that time, the opposite of the American Dream.

 Since Curley doesn’t have natural authority, he tries to prove himself through violence. As well as being outwardly ‘pugnacious’, his violent nature even pervades his appearance, as he has “tightly curled hair”. Through comparing Curley to a spring, Steinbeck emphasizes his irrational and illogical confrontational nature, since he has not been provoked. This negative imagery creates reader dislike at this endemic, unnecessary anger pervading ranch life and the brutal nature of the times. In the plot of the novella, his ‘pugnacious’ characteristics appear to be the first, almost prophetic, signs of trouble for George and Lennie.

Curley is used by Steinbeck to symbolise the pessimistic outlook, at the time of the Great Depression. When Curley enters the Bunk House, he immediately ruins the atmosphere when he ‘glanced coldly’. This unnecessary manner and the negative connotations of the adverb ‘coldly’, shows that the other characters don’t welcome his behaviour. The behaviour of Curley doesn’t seem to an isolated case either since Candy said, “I’ve seen many of ‘em”. The use of the pronoun “em” dehumanises Curley and his attitude. Steinbeck does this to show that the negativity of people like Curley is corrupting the American Dream.

The dangerous impact of his behaviour is seen most clearly through his wife. Through her sex and her marriage to Curley, she has become isolated from everyone. The fact that she “don’t like Curley” isolates her further, so she has to find friendship from the other men.  This instinctive quest for affection leads both her and Lennie into trouble when she tries to gain the physical contact that she never got from Curley. In the quote “see how soft it is” we see how in her desperation, she misjudges Lennie. In the prophetic nature of this quote, referring to how Lennie behaves around soft things, we see how dangerous Curley’s behaviour is.

The dangerous effects of his violent personality are shown in his treatment of Lennie at the end. When he hears of the death of his wife, he immediately blames Lennie, “I know who done it”. Since violence pervades his mind and their society, there is no trial, or justice for Lennie. Steinbeck shows his critical nature of this situation through use of hyperbolic language, “I’ll kill the big son-of-a-bitch myself” and this simultaneous reaction creates a farcical situation. The rashness of his actions creates a sense of pathos for Lennie and the unfairness of his broken dreams. It may be suggested that the rashness of society at the time is preventing people from achieving the Jeffersonian Agrarian Myth.

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What is Curley's role in Of Mice and Men?

Curley is an antagonist in Of Mice and Men. If George and Lennie are the story's main protagonists, Curley would definitely be their nemesis. We see this as his first encounter with Lennie demonstrated Curley's dislike for Lennie just because Lennie is a large man. Furthermore, Curley did not take kindly to George doing the talking for Lennie and that grew Curley's suspicion. Also, Curley significantly worries about his wife being around men. If Curley's wife flirted with either one of the new men, another problem would arise. All of this potential conflict plays out throughout the story as Curley and Lennie get into their tangle when Curley's hand "gets caught in a machine", and later when Lennie ultimately takes the life of Curley's wife on accident. This fuels the conflict between the two and Curley wants to kill Lennie.

If we were to label Curley with a literary archetype, we could call him the villian. Curley could also be labeled with little man's syndrome. While stereotypical, it fits the character of Curley.

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How important is Curley to the success of the narrative in Of Mice and Men?

In the narrative of Of Mice and Men, Curley is a pivotal character as the antagonist, especially since his wife is a genitive of him, and, therefore, a part of the conflicts generated by him.

One of the themes of the novella of Steinbeck is the importance of male camaraderie and fraternity. While the men are in the bunkhouse playing cards, for instance, or when they are throwing horseshoes outside the barn, there is an atmosphere that is calm and cheerful. But, when Curley's wife--who has no name but is simply identified as a genitive of Curley--stands in the doorway with her rouged lips, red nails, and red shoes with "little bouquets of red ostrich feathers," this wife of the son of the boss effects discomfort, nervousness, and anxiety among the men, who must control their natural male urges. In short, Curley's wife is an Eve figure, a temptress, who disrupts the peace of her husband and the other men. Realizing this, George tells Lennie,

"...keep away from her, 'cause she's a rat-trap if I ever seen one. You let Curley take the rap."

Certainly, that his wife, the only woman on the ranch, keeps Curley stirred up makes him extremely aggressive toward the other men as he worries about them as rivals.

Thus, he becomes the spoiler of the fraternity of the men, a fraternity that strengthens the spirit and overcomes the terrible alienation of the bindle stiffs. Further in the narrative, after Lennie inadvertently kills Curley's wife, Curley becomes the ultimate antagonist, vowing to kill Lennie. The knowledge that Curley will enact violence upon Lennie, then, propels George to commit his mercy shooting of Lennie.

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How does Curley interact with other characters in "Of Mice and Men"?

Curley is portrayed as an aggressive, pugnacious individual who is extremely confrontational and attempts to fight Lennie in the story. When Curley initially meets George and Lennie, he comes across as forceful, disrespectful, and authoritative. He aggressively questions George and Lennie about their past and attempts to intimidate them. After he leaves the bunkhouse, George warns Lennie to stay away from Curley. Curley also continuously searches for his wife on the ranch and fears that she is cheating on him with the laborers. Curley is extremely insecure and does not trust her. Curley's wife even mentions that she regrets marrying him and criticizes his authoritative, controlling nature during a private conversation with Lennie. Curley even accuses Slim of being with his wife and attempts to intimidate the seasoned skinner but fails. Shortly after accusing Slim, Curley begins threatening Lennie, who fears him and simply wants to distance himself. Curley proceeds to punch Lennie several times in the face before Lennie decides to defend himself and ends up breaking Curley's hand. After Curley discovers his wife's dead body, he leads a lynch mob in search of Lennie. Fortunately, George finds Lennie and kills him mercifully before Curley's lynch mob can capture him. Overall, Curley has negative interactions with the other characters, and his aggressive personality leads to several confrontations.

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How does Curley interact with other characters in "Of Mice and Men"?

Curley is an interesting character in the play. He intrudes. No one likes him, not even his wife. In light of this basic fact, here are a few observations. 

First, Curley comes off strong. He demands things from people and he is loud. He has the outer trappings of power and he wants to flaunt it. The reason why he has power is because he is the son of the owner of the ranch. However, this is not to say that the people respect him; they don't. They seem him as a nuisance and a joke.

Second, Curley is also confrontational. He always has something to prove. He yells at people and whenever there is a big guy, he wants to pick a fight, in order to make a point, to show his strength. Of course, he messes with the wrong man when he attacks Lennie. 

Finally, Curley is alone. In this sense, we can say that he really does not interact with anyone. This might be the most profound point. 

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What is the importance of Curley's character in Of Mice and Men?

We could say that the main antagonist of the novel is the Great Depression; but as far as characters go, Curley is the main antagonist. Curley is a small man; perhaps because of his small stature, he compensates by fighting and trying to intimidate others. He represents a class above the other workers. Because he is the son of the boss, he can not be fired and he can have anyone fired. Therefore, he can provoke anyone he wants, fight anyone, and impose his will on anyone. The only person who stands up to him is Slim who seems to be revered by everyone. Curley does not have to face the same economic struggles that George, Lennie, and the other workers do. Curley has taken advantage of a young naive girl (his wife) because he can. He objectifies her and treats her as his possession. If Curley wins a fight, he can brag about it. If Curley loses to a bigger man, he can claim that the bigger man shouldn't have picked on him. The Swamper says: 

S’pose Curley jumps a big guy an’ licks him. Ever’body says what a game guy Curley is. And s’pose he does the same thing and gets licked. Then ever’body says the big guy oughtta pick somebody his own size, and maybe they gang up on the big guy. Never did seem right to me. Seems like Curley ain’t givin’ nobody a chance. 

Curley is in a position where he can not lose. He can not be fired and he can fire anyone. He comes out on top whether he loses or wins a fight. He is in a privileged position: one that he does not deserve. On the other hand, George and Lennie are in difficult positions, they struggle: whereas, they deserve better. This dichotomy illustrates an example of Naturalism in literature. George and Lennie lead difficult lives; as products of their social, natural, and economic environments. Curley is a human and symbolic representation of the social forces that oppress people like George and Lennie. 

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What is the significance of Curley's wife?

Steinbeck needed someone like Curley's wife for his plot. He had the ending in mind before he invented some of the earlier characters and events. He wanted to show a man killing his best friend to save him from being tortured and lynched. The friend had to do something very bad in order to have a lynch mob after him We can sense from the beginning that Lennie is going to get into trouble, and it will probably involve killing something or someone. He was in serious trouble in Weed before they came to the Salinas area. He had been attacking a girl and it was perhaps widely assumed to be an attempted rape, although his interest in her was apparently innocent.

There is plenty of foreshadowing of trouble. Lennie kills things without wanting to do so. He doesn't know his own strength, and he is attracted to small things that are pleasant to pet, including mice, rabbits, and puppies. Naturally he would have to kill a person in order to get into the kind of trouble Steinbeck had in mind for him. Steinbeck invented a wife for Curley who was as young as a wife could be. She was probably only about sixteen. She was too young to realize the friction she was causing with her flirtatious behavior, and too young to understand that Lennie was not a man she ought to get too close to. Since she was young and rather frail, it may have contributed to her neck being broken so easily by being shaken. An older farm woman would not have served the same purpose as a young flirtatious bride.

Curley's wife was just another small, fragile thing that Lennie wanted to pet. Steinbeck invented her to suit his plot. He had her married to Curley because that seemed logical and also because Curley was already going to hate Lennie before his wife was killed. Curley is portrayed as a vicious man. He leads the mob that is coming after Lennie when George decides to shoot his trusting friend himself.

Steinbeck takes pains to give Curley's wife a personality and a background. She reveals a lot about herself to Lennie in the barn just before he accidentally kills her. She is an uneducated small-town girl with a lot of illusions picked up from the movies and romance magazines. The reader may feel some sympathy for her, but Steinbeck didn't want the reader to feel too much compassion because he wanted emotions of that kind pretty much reserved for George and Lennie. If we feel too much pity for the girl, then we couldn't feel much for Lennie when he gets shot. That may have been one of the reasons Steinbeck had for never giving her a name but always referring to her as "Curley's wife." In coninually reminding the reader that she is Curley's wife, it will explain why Curley incites all the men to track Lennie down and lynch him.

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Discuss the relevance in how Curley's wife is treated by the other characters in the novel.

Curley's wife is treated with a sense of distance by the other characters in the novel.  They tend to look at her as "bad news," or as a force that is not to be touched.  The terms through which the other characters describe her reflect this sense of distance.  "The eye" that she gives or "the vamp" or the other ways in which Curley's wife is described represent both a sense of fear and a simultaneous sense of disrespect.  It's a unique dynamic in that the men on the ranch do not view Curley's wife in a manner that represents respect or transparency.  They view her as "bad news" primarily because of what they believe the image of a woman she conforms to in their own minds.  They see Curley's wife as someone who is promiscuous and someone who will manipulate others in order to get what she wants.  When George warns Lennie to stay away from her and not pay attention to her, it's a warning to steer clear from the danger she presents.  In the scene in which she speaks with Crooks, Lennie, and Candy, there is a healthy fear that is displayed of her, but it is one rooted in stereotype and misjudgment.  The significance of such a dynamic might be to suggest that there are various reasons and motivations behind why people view others in the manner they do.  Steinbeck is able to construct the manner in which the men view Curley's wife as a part of this, in that she is viewed in different ways with the same result in the inability to understand her and the unwillingness to treat her as someone who is just as trapped as they are.

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What importance does Curley's wife have in this novel?

Curley's wife, a mere genitive of Curley and the only woman in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, represents both the temptations and desires of men and the impediments to the achievement of their dreams as well as the desperation of the Depression in which the alienated must live with the futility of dreams. 

In a sense, therefore, Curley's wife becomes symbolic of the emotional and spiritual side of the men, thrawted by the economic situation of the country, the men's separation from family and friends, and the painful awareness of the existential situation. This frustrated and alienated existence causes Curley's wife to act cruelly at times, ridiculing the men and viciously taunting Crooks.

Condemned to the limited view of George and others as "jail bait," Curley's wife, who craves attention, uses her female wiles to attract Lennie, who, according to Steinbeck, represents "the powerful yearning of men." She talks of her dream of being an actress in "pitchers" just as Lennie speaks of his dream of owning rabbits on a farm with George.  But, when Lennie inadvertently kills Curley's wife, he also kills his and George's dreams.  Her death, then, is the representation of the painful desperation of unfulfilled yearnings.

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