According to Shakespeare, love is blind and those who are in love cannot see each other’s faults. This simple concept has two meanings – love can be blinding and can make people do amazing things for each other.
But to what extent are these women willing to go? Could it be mere infatuation? At what point does love cross into sinfulness? These are the troubling questions that occupy the minds of two vulnerable women, featured in timeless romance novels albeit with a touch of melancholy. Both Myrtle Wilson from The Great Gatsby and Curlers Wife from Of Mice and Men exhibit traits and behaviors throughout their respective stories, classifying them as individuals with Histrionic personality disorder.
The diagnosis of Histrionic personality disorder involves explaining the condition, which is defined by emotional instability and exaggerated behavior to gain attention (Blabs, Chi. 39). The exact cause remains unknown but experts speculate genetics and childhood experiences may play a role. Moreover, this disorder is more commonly found in women and tends to emerge during late adolescence or early adulthood.
This condition, like other personality disorders, can be easily missed and includes all the traits of extreme self-centeredness. According to the A.D.M. Medical Encyclopedia (Blabs, Chi. 39), individuals with this disorder often do well in social and professional situations. This makes it challenging to identify and handle. Therefore, a thorough list of symptoms and specific behaviors has been created for precise diagnosis and successful treatment.
Healthcare Providers diagnose Histrionic personality disorder through various psychological evaluations. These evaluations involve observing certain behaviors such as acting or appearing seductive, being easily influenced by others, being excessively preoccupied with one’s appearance, displaying dramatic or emotional tendencies, harboring an excessive sensitivity towards criticism or disapproval, maintaining exaggerated beliefs about the intimacy of relationships, attributing personal dissatisfaction or failures to external sources, demonstrating low tolerance for delay or frustration, exhibiting extreme self-centeredness, and displaying emotional volatility, which may create the perception of being shallow to others.
The diagnosis is made based on behavior, personal history, overall appearance, and psychological evaluation. If left untreated, the disorder can disrupt a person’s relationships, both socially and romantically (Blabs, Chi. 39). Individuals may struggle to confront and cope with losses or failures, as they are unable to accept their own faults. The more severe forms of the condition can lead to frequent job changes, driven by apathy and an inability to handle work-related frustrations.
Patients desire novelty and possessions, which can ultimately put them in dangerous situations (Bliss, Chi. 39). The most obvious and immediate consequence of this behavior is oppression, particularly evident in the characters of Myrtle and Curler’s Wife. Known as the “tart,” “purity,” or simply as “trouble,” Curler’s Wife is nameless in the novella, which is significant. She represents lust and targets the men on the ranch, dressing accordingly for the occasion.
Like Myrtle, she also uses her body to attract the opposite sex in order to manipulate and achieve her desires. During a conversation about the woman with Candy, Lennie, and George, Candy shares some local ranch gossip, stating “Well, I tell ya what – Curley says he’s keeping that hand soft for his wife” (Steinbeck, 14). This crude remark not only introduces a person in a derogatory manner but also reflects how little respect they have for Curley’s wife and her husband.
Furthermore, it demonstrates that she is solely recognized through her husband’s actions or linked to inappropriate things. She “swings” into the men’s rooms pretending to search for her spouse, which serves as a tactic for engaging with other men without her husband’s knowledge. These actions, indicating both a tendency for lustful behavior and willingness to place herself in precarious situations (such as flirting with other men despite her already inadequate husband), clearly highlight the presence of Histrionic personality disorder.
In the novella, the protagonist demonstrates a readiness to involve herself in risky circumstances, particularly one that leads to her own demise and Lien’s death. Despite being aware of being chased, she willingly isolates herself with another man. While Leonie tends to the injured puppy, Curlers Wife joins him and expresses her ambitions of pursuing an acting career. She reveals that an older woman impeded her dreams by deeming her too young.
This incident illustrates two signs of Histrionic personality disorder. Firstly, the woman consistently puts herself in dangerous situations and secondly, she habitually blames others for the failures in her life. Unfortunately, this would be her final moment as she seductively requests Leonie to stroke her silky hair. Unaware of Lien’s history with women and his tendency to touch excessively, he refuses to release her and ultimately snaps her neck with the intention of getting retribution from George. In addition, she expresses her loneliness by saying “I never get to talk to anybody. I get incredibly lonely” (Steinbeck, 43). Similar to her name, she lacks an identity, purpose, and friends.
The character of Curlers Wife is a nobody who has always dreamed of being a somebody. She is a woman desperate for attention and engages in lustful and sinful behavior to get what she wants. Despite her desperation, she is not allowed or capable of proper human contact. She willingly thrusts herself into risky situations without reason, making her an epitome of sinful behavior (Hagen, Chi. 10). In comparison, Myrtle Wilson from the novel The Great Gatsby exhibits similar traits. She also engages in sinful behavior by having an affair with the wealthy and imposing Tom Buchanan, abandoning her husband who is described as a hollow shell of a man.
Myrtle is fully aware of her actions and desires the attention of a man who can indulge her with the “gifts” she desires. She is completely captivated by possessing such an item for herself. The complete contrast to sophisticated Daisy, Myrtle confidently showcases her curves with tight-fitting clothes. Myrtle expresses, “I thought he knew something… But he was not worthy enough to even touch my shoe.” (Fitzgerald, 39). She shows little remorse for once being in love with her actual husband and callously betraying him.
Myrtle, like Curlers Wife when pursuing Leonie’s attention, tragically ends her life by physically jumping in front of Tom’s car, even though he was not even inside it at the time. She perceives herself as superior to the impoverished home she is supposedly trapped in due to an unwelcome marriage. Myrtle states, “He was dressed in a fancy suit and shiny shoes, and I couldn’t help but stare at him” (Fitzgerald, 40). Her excessive focus on material possessions undermines any attempt to prove otherwise.
She is only interested in Tom because she wants something from him, as evidenced by her calling him during his dinner with Daisy, hoping he would be caught (Assume, 17). With little to no regard for Tom as a person, except for his ability to fulfill her desire for a luxurious lifestyle and escape her own reality, Myrtle’s death ultimately confirms this outcome. Thus, when she dies, her blood “mingles” with the ash, symbolizing her failure to ever truly escape and the futility of her actions behind her husband’s back.
The character of Myrtle Wilson is presented as someone who consistently puts herself in risky situations and assigns blame to her husband for the robberies in her life. Her provocative behavior towards Tom demonstrates her willingness to manipulate others for personal gain. Throughout the novel, she exhibits extreme volatility and self-hatred without displaying any remorse. In both Myrtle and Tom, love never translates into genuine relationships. Instead, they exploit their loved ones to advance their own interests, seducing others without any sense of guilt.
Love, for them, functions as a weapon, serving as self-defense to maintain their fabricated sense of pride and avoid any potential complications that may result from their actions. Rather than feeling compelled to take proactive measures and exhibit creativity, they find solace in risky circumstances and self-centered thoughts and behaviors. Both Myrtle Wilson and Curler’s Wife suffer from Histrionic personality disorder, and their attempts to protect themselves only lead them astray and into a realm of increased intricacy. They remain unable to break free or enhance their situations; these women act as their greatest vulnerabilities, ultimately causing their own downfall.
They showed sinful actions and a seductive demeanor, displaying a lack of care for their loved ones and a lack of self-value. They failed to realize that to improve oneself, one must take action independently rather than exploiting others. This is when love becomes sinful, leading to harm or even death. Myrtle Wilson and Curlers Wife were unable to achieve their dreams because they held themselves back. This exemplifies Histrionic personality disorder, when a person behaves contrary to their own well-being, mistakenly believing they are improving themselves while actually worsening their situation.