Curley’s Wife In Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck uses his side character, Curley’swife, to gradually expose to another side of a woman that is lonely and has anAmerican Dream.
Curley’s wife is seen as”a tart” and “a tramp” trying to get attention from the other men due to herunhappy marriage life and lack of attention from her husband. All Curley’s wifewants is someone to talk to, to communicate with, but the way she tries to talkto others is by flaunting herself to the men just to get noticed giving herselfa reputation as a flirt and making the men stay away from her. AlthoughCurley’s wife might seem to be an honest person, but she has a whole anotherside of her that is cruel enough that it ruins herself in the downfall. Uponhaving a lack of self-esteem, she has a dream of becoming an actress fromHollywood and leaving Curley to pursue her dream, but what she does not realizeis that it will lead too destruction in the end. Curley’s wife has her ownAmerican Dream, but as she has no true sense of herself as a worthwhile person,her dream remains impossible. Curley’s wife seeks attention fromthe workers on the ranch because she is unhappy in her marriage.
When Lenniefirst meets Curley’s wife he is mesmerized by her looks, but Candy says,”Listen to me, you crazy bastard,” he said fiercely. “Don’t you even take alook at that bitch. I don’t care what she says and what she does.
I seen ’empoison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leaveher be”(Steinbeck 32). Curley’s wife is a rat tramp trying to get men toacknowledge her by flirting with them and calling them names for the specialattention she needs. Candy warns Lennie to stay away from Curley’s wife becauseshe is desperate of the constant need of attention, which Lennie is clueless ofher devious attention she wants and does not need to get trapped in it. Although,she flirts with the men, but she can easily have them fired with her level ofpower, “Curley’s wife’s marriage gives her a level of power over the ranchhand’s as an extension of Curley.
The men are afraid of being fired from theirjobs since Curley is easily provoked” (Lang). Curley’s wife is the only womanon the ranch and always tries to avoid Curley, but then needs someone to talkto. All the men on the ranch know that if they do something wrong, she willtell Curley right when she hears about it. The men have learned to be quietwhen they are around Curley’s wife because if they upset her in anyway, thentrouble will abound. Whit addresses Curley’s wife’s behavior in a conversationwith George in the bunkhouse: “I bet she even gives the stable buck the eye.
Idon’t know what the hell she wants. Ever’ time the guys is around she shows up.She’s lookin’ for Curley, or she thought she lef’ somethin’ layin’ around andshe’s lookin’ for it.
Seems like she can’t keep away from guys” (Steinbeck 51).She gives a poor stable buck the eye for no reason telling us how hopeless andun-thoughtful she really is. Even the workers are suspicious of Curley’s wifebecause of her provocative and desperate behavior. Curley’s wife flirts withthe workers for the attention that her husband does not give her, but if theworkers upset her then there will be consequence. Curley’s wife has bitterness of notpursuing her own American Dream contributing to her loneliness. Curley’s wifehas a dream to be famous, “Her dream is to be in pictures-to become a cinematicimage that occupies no space in the real world. She intends to leave Curley assoon as she can sneak away and hitch-hike to Hollywood”(Hadella).
Curley’s wifehas her own American Dream to be an actress living in Hollywood pursuing herdream without her husband involved. She is running away to live her dream thatshe never got to because her mother did not let her go to Hollywood. Curley’swife is not just lonely, but has regrets, “Curley’s wife is both lonely andregretful and says that she could have been in movies or magazines if she hadnot married Curley”(San Jose). Curley’s wife regrets marrying Curley who shenever loved and never got the attention she seeked from him. The only reasonwhy she married Curley was to escape her mother who did not let her go toHollywood to pursue her dream. If Curley’s wife never married Curley her lifewould not be the same, “I tell you I ain’t used to livin’ like this. I couldamade somethin’ of myself”(Steinbeck 88).
This is when Curley’s wife is sayingthat she could have become an actress or a singer if she did not marry Curleyand have to live on the ranch. She is now leaving because she wants to makesomething of herself and not just be the boss’s son’s wife. Her loneliness iscreated in her marriage since Curley abandons her making her seek contact withother workers to talk to. Her anxiety of seeking attention andcompanionship lead to her tragic downfall of her death. When Curley’s wife wasin the barn with Lennie she told him, “Well I ain’t told this to nobody before.Maybe I ought’n to. I don’t like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella…”(Steinbeck 89).
This is when Curley’s wife is telling Lennie that she doen’t like Curley andthat she could have had a much better life if she didn’t marry him. Curley’swife is saying this to Lennie because she wants him to feel sorry for her andgive her attention she wants. Curley’s wife does not know this, but Lennie hasa terrible past, “Lennie’s trouble with a girl in Weed; his unintentionalkilling of mice, then of the puppy”(Johnson). In Lennie’s past he tries to feela girls soft dress, but the girl takes it the wrong way and screams for help.Lennie panics and holds onto the dress because he did not know what to do.Lennie does this same action, but Curley’s wife let him touch her hair,”Curley’s wife gets Lennie to feel her soft hair. When he begins to muss it,she panics, and he accidentally breaks her neck”(Telgen).
Curely’s wiferealizes that Lennie likes to touch soft things so she lets him touch her hair,but that was a big mistake. Curley’s wife ends up losing her life because shedid not want Lennie to mess up her hair. Curley’s wife will never be able topersue her American Dream because her obsession with herself ultimately leadsto her death.
Curley’s wife shows that seeking attention brings theloss of all dreams and resulting in death. At the story’s close, Lennie brokeCurley’s wives neck trying to keep her silent while he was touching her softhair. Curley’s wife knows Lennie is supposed to stay away from her, but shethrives on his attention and wants his praise for her soft hair. The death ofCurley’s wife, in a way could have been a good thing, as she won’t ever have toworry about being alone ever again. In spite of her cruelty, perhaps Curley’swife is just self-obsessed, and unable to judge herself and her positionhonestly that the readers see at the beginning of “Of Mice and Men”.
Women whomay find themselves in a world where they are unknown and therefore unlovedfrom others.