Steinbeck's Presentation of Curley’s Wife in Of Mice and Men

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Steinbeck presents Curley’s wife as an unhappy woman who is married to the boss’s son; essentially she is just a “trophy wife”, there to make other men jealous. “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck is set during the Depression of the nineteen thirties. Curley’s wife is an important minor character, who is alternately presented as a victim and as danger to the men on the ranch. The title is based on a poem by Robert Burns which is about a mouse whose nest is destroyed in a similar way to the plot where people’s dreams are destroyed. The tragic novel is set in the southern state of California and explores the lives of ranch workers and the hardships they face. The dialogue in the story is Californian working class dialect representing the background of the men. Curley’s wife highlights the two main themes in the novel dreams, and loneliness. As the only woman on the ranch she is objectified by the men who exhibit the casual sexism of the time. Attitudes towards women were very much tied up with their roles as wives and mothers, or as prostitutes. She did not fit the role of mother and wife because of her appearance and dress, so the men stereotyped her as the latter. There were certain expectations to which she didn’t conform. Her flirtatiousness is designed to get the men’s attention because she has no one to talk to but they only see it as a danger which could get them fired. She only does it because she is lonely; she is shown to be a victim of male prejudice and experiences an even more acute loneliness than that of the men. Steinbeck constructs an image in the reader’s minds about Curley’s wife before we meet her. He forewarns the reader when Candy warns George about Curley’s wife who is a subject of the men’s gossip. He descri... ... middle of paper ... .... Throughout the novel it seems that the other characters seem to misunderstand her. She was not intended to be a “floozy” but to be pitied and liked. He discusses her tough background in detail. Steinbeck invokes sympathy from the reader and well as wants us to understand that it was not only men who were affected by the great depression. It seems that she married Curley to get away from her life and to realise her dream. It did not happen. Instead she destroys Lennie and Georges dream. Steinbeck may have used her merely to represent women of the time. However she appears to highlight the lives of the men since she is both a danger to them and their victim. The novel ends how it started, the dream being told to Lennie. George and Lennie end up in the same place they began to confirm the cyclical nature of the book and to reinforce the insurmountable American dream.
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