Why doesn't Curley's wife have a name in Of Mice and Men?

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Curley's wife is never called by her own name as a way of depicting her lack of independence. By only referring to her as Curley's wife, her identity is confined to the limited, dependent role she must play in her marriage. This lack of autonomy further explains the reasoning for Curley's wife's discontentment, since she has almost no ability feel fulfilled as an individual.

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Curley's wife does not have a name because she does not have her own identity. She is just Curley's wife. She has no real sense of purpose. She does not fit in with the ranch hands. She lives a lonely existence. She has no friends:

Curley's wife (as the boss's son's flirtatious wife, she is not identified by any other name) wanders around the ranch searching for some human contact.

All that Curley's wife has is a dream. She is really considered a nobody. She has always dreamed to be a somebody. Sadly, all she can do is dream. Because of the isolation she lives in, she has no chance of ever making something of herself:

...she is pathetically lonely and had once had dreams of being a movie star. Both she and Crooks crave company and 'someone to talk to.'

Sadly enough, she is so desperate for attention until she reaches out of Lennie. She is flirtatious because she desires to have a name and be someone with a worthwhile purpose. In the end, Lennie accidentally breaks her neck. He too was reaching out for attention. She dies without a name. She is nameless because no one cares to know who she really is. The ranch hands have their own lives and she does not fit in.

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Curley's wife, whose name is simply a genitive of him, is a stock character who is perceived as an Eve, or temptress intruding on the fraternity of men in Of Mice and Men.

After her first appearance in the narrative, George, who has noticed the way that she stands and arches her back, warns Lennie to avoid her, referring to her as "jail-bait," who will only get the men in trouble if given the opportunity. Certainly, she acts as a negative force for Curley, who constantly must look for her and worry about what she is doing.

Curley's wife is also a threat to the fraternity of men that Steinbeck proffers as the solution to the alienation that the disenfranchised suffer. For instance, when old Candy finds Lennie talking with Crooks, for the first time Candy enters the area that is Crooks's and talks to him--even revealing George and Lennie's plans for owning a farm. Crooks marvels that it seems as though the men will actually buy some land--"I never seen a guy really do it"--and he asks if he, too, can participate in this plan. Just as the men seem to unify, Curley's wife appears and spoils their fraternity as Candy tries to prevent her from entering. Ironically, she knows where Curley is as he has joined the other men who went to town. Candy asks her, "Then if you know, why you want to ast us where Curley is at?"

Well, I ain't giving you no trouble....Think I like to stick in that house alla time?"

Candy tries to get her to leave, but she refuses. "She looked from one face to another, and they were all closed against her." When an emboldened Crooks tells her that she has no right coming into his room, Curley's wife destroys the men's camaraderie as she derogates Crooks so brutally that he withdraws. Moreover, Curley's wife's cruel words that marginalize him so badly cause Crooks to tell Candy to forget what he said about joining in on the dream of a farm, "Well, jus' forget it...."

The next day Curley's wife finds Lennie in the barn and teases him. Even though Lennie tells her that George has instructed him not to talk with her-- "George says you'll get us in a mess"--she tries to engage with him in conversation, and she asks him to feel her hair. Lennie cannot resist her wiles and when he holds her too tightly, she struggles. As he tries to quiet her, Lennie's great strength accidentally breaks her neck, an act that destroys all hopes for the men for fulfilling their dream of an "Eden" where they can live out their lives happily.

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I agree with historiaamator's post #9. Steinbeck needed a victim for his plot, which is essentially about how one man feels compelled to kill his best friend, thus ending their dream of owning their own farm. We can't help feeling somewhat sorry for the girl who is brutally murdered--but if we feel too sorry for her, then we won't feel sorry for Lennie or George at the end. Steinbeck seems to be walking a tightrope with his depiction of the girl (who is probably only 16 or 17). He deliberately makes her appear vicious when she verbally assaults Crooks in his room and suggests that she could have him lynched if she wanted to. But he makes her appear kind, naive, harmless and vulnerable when she is talking to Lennie in the barn. Steinbeck had another reason for not giving her a name: She is the only female in his cast of characters. The men need names for the reader to be able to tell them apart. The men's names are as simple as Steinbeck could make them--Crooks, Candy, Curley, Slim, George, Lennie. There is nothing so great about the men having such names.

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I'd like to echo the sentiments of post #2 and agree that Curley's wife participates, as a character, in the theme of loneliness in Of Mice and Men. She is lonely, unhappily isolated, and seemingly powerless to change her situation.

I do not feel that she is an accidentally representative of a politically and socially 'weak femininity' in this story as some of the posts above suggest. There is evidence to support the idea that Curley's wife is intentionally representative of a population forced to thrive on dreams for spiritual sustenance.

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This is a work that is supposed to show how American society has abandoned and abused many types of people.  Workers are abandoned (George, Lennie, etc), black people are abandoned (Crooks).  And women are abandoned and abused.  This is why Curley's wife doesn't get a name -- it is meant to symbolize the extent to which the society of the time devalued women and their lives.

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Why is Curley's wife never named in Of Mice and Men?

Curley's Wife is the only character in this story whose real name is never revealed. There are potentially many different reasons for this, but the most compelling argument as to why Steinbeck chose not to reveal her name lies in his presentation of women and the way that they were treated and thought of by men at the time when the novel was set.

It is interesting that Curley's Wife is a character who is shaped for the audience before the audience really gets to know her. She is called a variety of insulting terms by the men in the bunkhouse, who basically accuse her of being a prostitute and "having the eye." Yet, it is only when Lennie gets to know her that she opens up, and the real character behind this title is shown to the audience. Far from being a superficial flirt who is a loose woman, Curley's Wife shows that she, just like the other characters in the novel, once had a dream that is now destroyed and that she is intensely lonely:

I get lonely... You can talk to people, but I can't talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. How'd you like not to talk to anybody?

Steinbeck slowly develops the character of Curley's Wife, first presenting her as nothing more than a whore, but then revealing her to be a woman trapped in a hopeless position, to challenge the reader's assumptions of her as a character. Just like the men in the bunkhouse, the audience is tempted to dismiss her character without giving her a chance. She is called Curley's Wife as a reflection of the way that she has no identity outside of her relationship to Curley, and that her powerful character and restless dreams are forced to be subsumed by his character. Calling her Curley's Wife alone is a powerful way to communicate the pity and sympathy that Steinbeck wants the audience to feel towards her.

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Why is Curley's wife never named in Of Mice and Men?

In the novel 'Of Mice and Men' John Steinbeck sets out the loneliness, despair and hopelessness of the ranch hands that have no future prospects of bettering themselves in America's Great Depression. Yet he wants to show that these are not the only reasons for depression and sadness. Curley's wife is not poor, she wants for nothing in terms of basic needs and yet her future is still bleak because she is unloved and unfulfilled and has never had a chance to fulfil her potential. She is, in effect a nobody. How better for Steinbeck to create this impression than to deliberately leave her un-named? She is almost just a prop in a stage-play (so different from what she first wanted for herself -  not only to have a part, but the most impostant part, the lead role.)

Instead of that, we only get to know the bare minimum about her - she is newly married to Curly, superficially attractive and likes nice clothes and curling her hair. She feels she could have done a lot better for herself but didn't have enough ambition or means to make that happen and obviously suffers a sense of regret :

'What kinda harm am I doin' to you? Seems like they ain't none of them cares how I gotta live. I tell you I ain't used to livin' like this. I coulda made somethin' of myself'  

Instead of that she is just a nobody, illustrated by the fact she has no name either.

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Why doesn't the author give Curley's wife a name?

Steinbeck was planning to adapt his novella into a stage play at the time he was working on the book manuscript. He collaborated on the stage version with playwright George Kaufman, and it was produced with great success in New York in 1937, the same year the book came out. This explains why the novella has some of the same characteristics as a play. Although it is a story about agriculture and the lives of farm workers, the settings are few and are all indoors, except for the opening scene by the river and the closing scene in the same location. The main set is the bunkhouse. Another important set is the barn where Lennie kills Curley's wife. Anything that happens outside on the ranch happens offstages and is represented with sound effects, such as horses stomping and horseshoes ringing. It is obvious that Steinbeck was visualizing his play while he was writing his novella.

It can be observed that the characters are frequently introducing themselves to others or introducing other characters to each other. They also call each other by name more frequently than would normally happen in such a milieu. This name-calling is common in stage plays, especially in the opening scenes, and it usually seems awkward and artificial. In Of Mice and Men is for the benefit of the reader and for the future theater audience; and it is especially important because the characters in Steinbeck's story are all men, all farm workers, and all dressed in work clothes--with one exception.

The only exception is the one female character who is only referred to as "Curley's wife." This character isn't given a name because she doesn't need one in order to be identified or distinguished from the other characters. No doubt Steinbeck was annoyed by the tedious business of making up names and having all the men pointedly and repeatedly calling each other by these names. He even has Slim and Candy commenting on Lennie's last name of Small, which is supposedly funny because Lennie is so big.

Steinbeck tries to differentiate the male characters. Lennie is big and George is small. Lennie is dumb and George is smart. Curley is small and hostile. Slim is tall. Crooks stands out because he is the only black man on the ranch. Candy has lost one hand and is handicapped in his actions. Candy is a friendly and kindly man, while Carlson is cold and mean. But they still have to have names, and the names have to be repeated so that the reader--and especially the future theater audience--will remember them when they are offstage but are being referred to onstage. This differentiation of characters must have been one of Steinbeck's biggest concerns, and he was probably quite happy not to have to think up yet another name for Curley's wife.

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Why doesn't the author give Curley's wife a name?

Although Curley's wife may be considered static, she does not change throughout the novella: Curley's wife is essential to the plot. therefore,she is not simply "unnamed" because she is insignificant.

 Curley's wife is unnamed for several reasons.  She is first and for most not worthy of a name.  a name implies that a relationship can exist.  Curley's wife is not capable of a relationship; she is not worthy.  with a name also comes identification and familiarity. If we were to feel any sort of empathy for Curley's wife, we may not understand or appreciate Lennie's role in her death.  We may actually care that she is dead. 

There is also the historical role of women in society.  As a writer of social issues, Steinbeck wants the reader to recognize the inferior role of women in the world.  The lack of name demotes Curley's wife to insignificant status.  She is not as important as the men in the story. 

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Why doesn't the author give Curley's wife a name?

In many books, static characters like Curly's wife often are never blessed with their own names.  They help move the plot forward, but they don't change themselves.  They serve a purpose in the story, but in themselves they are unimportant.  Curly's wife, like the puppy, only serve to show Lennie's character in that he likes soft things and needs to touch them, but when they recoil or reject him, he underestimates his own strength as he restrains them. 

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Why doesn't the author give Curley's wife a name?

Steinbeck does not give her a name because he wants to reflect her complete lack of individual indentity.  In Curley's eyes, and therefore in all the eyes of the hands, save Lennie, the woman is just another piece of the boss's property. 

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