John introduced us to a character called Curley’s wife, she plays a complex and misfit character as she got so many different sides to her, as sometimes the reader feels sympathetic and unsympathetic about her. John Steinbeck’s novel of Mice and Men is an example of how the reader’s perception of a character can change without the character actually changing.
Steinbeck uses many different techniques to present Curley’s wife such as colour imagery, appearance, metaphors and similes in the early stages of the novel. The effect of these techniques is that the reader creates a mental image of Curley’s wife even before she even enters the novel.
This perception is further emphasized by Curley’s Wife’s first appearance in the novel. Steinbeck uses light symbolically to show that she can be imposing when he writes, “The rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off.”
Steinbeck portrays her in a horrible manner; he shows her as unintelligent and unimportant figures. Curley’s wife is a prime example of how Steinbeck presents women; she is the most prominent woman in the book, so there are more citations about her. Primarily, she isn’t even given a name; she is just referred to as “Curley’s wife” and this shows that Steinbeck doesn’t really think that women are important, so they don’t deserve a name. Her dreams were shattered by marriage and her relatively young life cut short by her desire for human contact. Steinbeck has created a character for us to feel sympathetic towards.
The first mention of Curley’s wife was when Candy describes her to George in the bunk house. Candy gives us a strong impression that Curley’s wife is flirtatious and even promiscuous female before we even meet her. As he says that “she’s get the eye” which means instead of being faithful to her husband. She tends to look for other male ranchers. But Curley, her husband does not recognize her as a person but more like a sexual object, Candy said that “he’s keepin’ that hand soft for his wife” this shows us Curley uses he wife as a trophy, she is only treated as a possession of Curley and how no one else on the ranch wanted to get to know her but avoid her instead. In my opinion Curley doesn’t seem to have any respect for his wife at all, This is degrading to her as she is just there for his pleasure. She is just a wife who is a trophy to show off hence the saying ‘trophy wife’.
We first set eyes on Curley’s wife in the bunk house, when she pretends to be looking for Curley the impression of Curley’s wife being flirtatious is emphasized as she dresses inappropriately for a women married to the boss’s son “she had full, rouged lips and wide spaced eyes, her fingernails are red and her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages” which in my opinion red shows sign of danger besides from this, she both talk and acts playfully and flirtatiously in front of other ranchers “she said playfully”. Candy’s description of Curley’s wife seems accurate after her first appearance in the novel. In this situation George notices this and tries to avoid having conversation with her, using short answers like “Well he ain’t now.” This is because he thinks Curley’s wife is a “Jail bait” before getting to know Curley’s wife and the reason why she is this way.
Dreams are heavily involved in this book. Like many characters in the book, Curley’s wife also has a dream. She dreams of being a film star. She appears to be trying to get the men into trouble but her dreams and frustrations show that she is lonely like the other people on the ranch. She hated her upbringing, so when a guy told her she had the potential to be a movie star and he would be in touch, finally she found a way out. However, being a young naive girl like she was, she fell for his story and she never heard or even saw the guy again.
Only power is her sexual attraction, she craves for attention, by her appearance, when somebody looks at her she takes an advantage of this attention. However she tries her power with Lennie, she pretends to confide in Lennie to get more attention.
I think Steinbecks aim was to confuse us, as Curley’s Wife remains consistent throughout the text. We first think of her as a tart and a flirt who refuses to by her husband’s side. As we hear more of her own words we begin to feel a lot more sympathy for her.
Our negative feelings toward Curley’s Wife begin to change when she enters Crooks’, a Negro worker, residence where Crooks is talking to Lennie and Candy. Curley’s Wife enters asking for Curley. After icy responses from the men, she talks about her loneliness and desire to live her own life. She then begins to start verbally attacking the men and indicates her apathetic attitude towards Curly. After Crooks asks her to leave, she threatens him with lynching. As she leaves, Steinbeck metaphorically indicates the disruption and discomfort she causes using the event of horses stamping their feet. At this stage of the novel, we begin to feel sympathy for Curley’s Wife who, lonely “i get awful lonely” and bored, has ended up married to a man she doesn’t love