How is the corrupting power of female sexuality presented in chapters 3 and 4 of Of Mice and Men?

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Of Mice and Men is a 1937 novella written by Nobel laureate John Steinbeck. It depicts the lives of George and Lennie, two migrant farm-workers on a quest for stable jobs, good income and a better life during the Great Depression in the United States.

In it, we learn of the aspirations, hopes and dreams of the characters and their need to be acknowledged as someone who made it in life. Loneliness and isolation are also a common theme in the novel and play a big role in many of the character’s lives, as is the importance of friendship. Social themes typical of the time period the novel was written and published in, such as sexism, racism, prejudice and the position of women in the Great Depression, are also present. Among these social concepts, there is also the secondary theme of femininity and female sexuality, mainly presented through Curley’s wife. This is mostly prominent in chapter 3 and especially chapter 4.

It is evident that women do not hold a high status in Of Mice and Men. They are only viewed as sexual objects and their worth is only presented through their ability to please the men. Steinbeck further solidifies this by not naming his female characters. Some even argue that the novel might be better if there were no women in it. But, by showcasing the position of women in the Great Depression and the sexism and discrimination they faced, Steinbeck actually portrays them as victims and even gives depth to some of his female characters, such as Curley’s wife.

She is in no way an innocent flower, but she is a person that has hopes and dreams of her own, and often finds the cure for her loneliness in flirting with other men. Because of her behavior, Lennie thinks that she is a dangerous woman that can bring only trouble. He thinks she can corrupt the men with her attractiveness and coquettish nature and cost them their jobs. He tells her that she has no business flirting with other men, as she has a husband. In response, she calls Lennie, Crooks and Candy the “weak ones”, as they couldn’t go to the brothel and proceeds to mock them.

"They left all the weak ones here," she said finally. "Think I don't know where they all went? Even Curley. I know where they all went. Lennie watched her, fascinated; but Candy and Crooks were scowling down away from her eyes.”

She says how she wants to have fun and talk to other people too, since her husband is not really interested in having fun and meaningful conversations with her. We realize that her husband is a jealous, possessive man, who abuses his wife because he doesn't like it when she uses her fitting figure and witty tongue to seduce other men. She alludes to the fact that men are very much predictable when it comes to women and can easily be manipulated by a woman's beauty and sexuality:

She regarded them amusedly. "Funny thing," she said. "If I catch any one man, and he's alone, I get along fine with him. But just let two of the guys get together an' you won't talk. Jus' nothing but mad." She dropped her fingers and put her hands on her hips. "You're all scared of each other, that's what. Ever' one of you's scared the rest is goin' to get something on you.”

Having figured out that Lennie and her husband had a fight, she asks Lennie how he got his bruises and he answers that he got his hand caught in the machine, which was the same answer he gave her when she asked what happened to her husband’s hand. She laughs at his response and says that sometimes she wants to physically fight her husband as well, as he only shows interest in his wife when he wants to sleep with her.

She turned to Lennie. "I'm glad you bust up Curley a little bit. He got it comin' to him. Sometimes I'd like to bust him myself.”

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