What evidence shows that Curley's wife in Of Mice and Men is delusional, desires love, and is outgoing?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the novel "Of Mice And Men" by John Steinbeck the author shows a wife who certainly seems to need attention - whether she is looking for genuine love is another question. Her attention-seeking behavior includes hanging around the ranch, goading the ranch hands, killing time and playing little power games with those she considers to be her inferiors. It is possible that having never experienced real love, either from family or partner, she does not know how to go about attracting it in a real and genuine sense. So she confuses it with attention, and because she is lonely and bored, goes looking for an affection resembling love. Her personality is so thin that we do not even get to know her name.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Of Mice and Men, Curley's Wife is a victim of sexism and the illusions of the American Dream.  She has no name or place in this male-dominated workplace; therefore, she is a stock character: a flat, static, temptress by default.

Curley's Wife has desires, but only failed ones.  She seems outgoing, but only because the men refuse to talk to her.  She seems delusional, but only because she is so optimistic about her dreams.  In short, she is a foil for Lennie and George, who also are filled with unrealistic illusions of the American dream.  But, because they are men and therefore closer to realizing the dream, do we call them delusional when they too fail to achieve it?

Observe what she says:

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. 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. (85)

Here, I think she's speaking for the author.  I don't see her as delusional or full of false desires.  She's realistic.

In Chapter 3, Curley's Wife again calls out the men:

They left all the weak ones here. . . . Think I don't know where they all went? Even Curley.  I know where they all went. (77)

Here, she comments on the Social Darwinism in the male society.  She is informed of the double standards of men: her husband is at the cathouse.  She knows her role as a play-thing on the ranch, and she lashes out at the weak men who are just like her.

Later, she says:

Listen...All the buys got a horseshoe tenement goin' on....None of them guys is goin'to leave that tenement.  Why can't I talk to you?  I never get to talk to nobody.  I get awful lonely....What's the matter with me?  Ani't I got a right to talk to nobody?...You're a nice guy....I ain't doin' no harm to you.

Here, Curley's wife is again being honest and realistic.  She is lonely and questions why the men ignore her.  She lacks a female community.

For these reasons, I would say that Curley's wife is not delusional, or outgoing, or desirous of love.  Instead, she is a victim of sexism, male reputation, and double standards--and she knows it.  She only wants the men to acknowledge it, but they can't.  Steinbeck, then, wants his readers to acknowledge it.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Curley's wife could be said to be delusional when she believes that she 'could'a been in pitchers'. She is told by a man she meets in a dance hall that he is a movie director and that she is a 'natural'. She says that she waited for his letter to call her to Hollywood, but explains its non-appearance by suggesting it was stolen by her mother. It is easier for her to believe that she had a future than settle for the mediocre existence she now has as the best she could be.

Her desperation to communicate with any of the men on the ranch shows how much she desires love. She dresses in a provocative way and is dismissed by the men as ‘jail bait’. However, when she talks to Lennie she reveals how much she desires company and conversation, dismissing her husband as ‘mean’.

Curley’s wife is probably less outgoing than she was before she met Curley. She is rather trapped at the ranch, and remains behind with Candy, Crooks and Lennie when everyone else, including her husband, goes into town. This contrasts with her days in the dance hall where she met Curley.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial